Understanding the Color Rendering Index(CRI): What It Is and Why It Matters

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Color accuracy in lighting is critical to creating a visually comfortable and accurate environment. The Color Rendering Index (CRI), a key measure of color accuracy, rates light sources on a scale of 0-100. It is important in applications such as home lighting, commercial lighting, etc., where accurate color reproduction is critical. Understanding the CRI, its rating scale, and how it affects visual perception is critical to making informed decisions about lighting choices. This article provides a comprehensive understanding of CRI and its importance in creating visually accurate and comfortable environments.


What is the Color Rendering Index (CRI)?


The Color Rendering Index (CRI) is a metric used to evaluate how accurately a light source renders color compared to a reference light source.

The CRI rating scale ranges from 0-100, with 100 representing perfect color rendering, as seen in natural daylight or incandescent lighting. A high CRI value indicates that the colors of objects illuminated by the light source appear more natural and vibrant, whereas a low CRI value means that the colors may appear distorted or washed out.

A CRI rating of 80 or above is generally considered good for indoor lighting, whereas a rating of 90 or above is excellent. A rating of 70 or below may result in colors appearing dull or unnatural. However, it is essential to note that CRI values do not necessarily guarantee that a particular light source will render colors accurately across the entire visible spectrum. Therefore, additional metrics, such as the spectral power distribution (SPD) and the color quality scale (CQS), are sometimes used to provide a more comprehensive evaluation of a light source’s color rendering capabilities.

How CRI is measured

Measuring cri

The CIE has established a standard method for measuring the CRI of a light source. This involves comparing the color rendering of a test source to a perfect source with a CRI of 100, also known as a black body radiator. The process includes using ten main reference samples to calculate the general color rendering index. The light source chosen for the test will depend on the color temperature of the light being measured, and these sources are categorized numerically according to the ColorChecker chart established by the CIE in 1999, starting with TCS01 and ending with TCS10. The closer the test source matches the perfect source, the higher the CRI value.

Different types of artificial lighting fall within specific ranges of the CRI ratings. Natural sunlight and traditional incandescent lighting have a CRI of 100, the highest rating possible.

Why does CRI matter?

Poor color accuracy in lighting can lead to inaccurate visual perception of colors and objects. This can be problematic in settings where color is important, such as art galleries or hospitals, where accurate color interpretation is critical for health assessments. Lighting with a low CRI rating can negatively affect your vision and your ability to set the right tone for your environment.

The importance of CRI varies depending on the application of the lighting.

Home lighting


Color accuracy is essential to create a comfortable and pleasant environment, hence the need for a high CRI.

Commercial lighting

Classroom lighting

A high CRI is required in a retail space to accurately display goods and create an atmosphere that attracts customers.

Landscape lighting
Lacelesty outdoor landscape lighting

High CRIs are important to show off the natural colors of plants and trees.


Factors that affect CRI

Color Rendering Index (CRI) is affected by various factors that can influence how accurately a light source renders colors. Here are some of the most important factors that can impact CRI:

Types of light sources:

Different light sources have varying inherent capabilities to render colors accurately. For example, traditional incandescent lamps and natural sunlight have a CRI of 100, which means they are the most accurate in rendering colors. In contrast, low-pressure sodium lamps have an effective CRI close to zero, which means they render colors very poorly.

Color temperature:

Color temperature refers to the warmth or coolness of a light source, measured in Kelvins. As the color temperature of a light source increases, its CRI typically decreases. For instance, high color temperature LED lighting often has lower CRI ratings compared to lower color temperature LED lighting.

Other factors:

Other factors can also impact CRI, such as the age of a light source. As a light source ages, its spectral output can change, which can cause its CRI to decrease over time. Similarly, the presence of color filters or diffusers can also affect CRI, as these components can alter the spectral output of a light source.

Understanding the factors that can affect CRI is important for choosing the right lighting solution for a specific application, as well as for ensuring that the lighting remains effective over time.


Generally accepted CRIs for various applications:

Project Type Application Example Display Index Range
Residential Living room, bedroom 80-90
Commercial Office, retail store 80-90
Hospitality Restaurant, hotel lobby 80-90
Healthcare Hospital room, medical examination room 90-100
Education Classroom, library 80-90
Industrial Manufacturing, warehouse 70-80
Outdoor Landscape lighting 70-90

How to choose lighting with good CRI

  • Check the CRI rating on the label or packaging and aim for a CRI of 90 or above.
  • Consider the type of light source, LED lamps can have high CRI ratings, but make sure it is above 90.
  • Choose a lamp with a color temperature of 2700K to 3000K for indoor lighting and 5000K or above for accurate color perception in tasks such as photography.
  • Balance CRI with other factors, such as energy efficiency and cost. Consider specific lighting needs and budget constraints.



Lacelesty lighting China manufacturer

In conclusion, understanding the color rendering index (CRI) is critical to achieving accurate and high-quality lighting in a wide range of applications. By measuring the ability of a light source to accurately reproduce color, CRI helps ensure that colors appear natural and true to life.

Lacelesty Lighting is one of the leading manufacturers of LED lighting, we have a precise understanding of the color rendering index and its combination with wattage, lumens and brightness, whether you are lighting your home, commercial or landscape, contact our team Expert guidance is available to help you achieve optimal CRI results.

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