Why the CRI – Color Rendering Index – Is Important For You

Technical Explanation: The CRI is a unit that measures the ability of a light source to reproduce the colors of objects faithfully in comparison with an ideal source of light, or natural sources such as sunlight. The CRI is a determined value ​​from 0 to 100, with 100 being the value “perfect” or daylight.

Real World Explanation: The CRI determines how you and your surroundings appear to you and the other people in your environment.


Looking at this photo, would you rather look like 50 or 100? Of course 100 is much more preferable. In our world of lights and lighting, the closest thing to the perfect value has traditionally been the good old incandescent light bulb. Now that regular incandescent light bulbs are impossible to find in most retail stores we are forced to find reasonable alternatives for our homes and offices. The alternatives to incandescent light bulbs have been compact fluorescent, CFL’s. CFL’s are now quickly being replaced with LED’s. All of these new light bulbs are not equal however. Some have high CRI values while others do not.

For example: I went to a new location of a coffee shop that I go to every now and then. The new location is being lit with LED track heads without much natural daylight. The old location is lit with regular fluorescent commercial style fixtures with lots of natural daylight. There is an employee who transferred from the old location to the new and it is astounding how differently that person looks under the LED illumination. The only reasonable explanation is that the CRI of the LED’s is really low. Skin tones, eyes, clothing…everything  looks washed out.

Do not let that happen to you. You want to look good all the time. If you use low CRI light bulbs in your bathroom or dressing room, your make-up and clothing will look different outside in the daylight that it did when you got dressed and applied your make-up in your house. That is because of the poor color rendering of those light bulbs. All light bulbs now have labels that tell you the CRI. Best of all, good ones are not much more expensive than bad ones and using the good ones will enhance your appearance.

The Underwriter’s Laboratory app, LightSmart, has some really good information and examples of CRI and other useful lighting information. The American Lighting Association is another good resource to check out for lighting information. Please visit fogglighting.com for more useful information and please like us on Facebook.