Color Temperature and Interior Lighting

Color temperature scale for interior lighting

The color you choose in your interior design will impact the overall ambience and lighting. Understanding the correlation between color temperature and interior lighting will help you achieve the look you want for your kitchen, bath, study or bedrooms. People who wish to lower their electricity consumption can also utilize these principles before opting for wall color choices especially when considering energy efficient interior lighting choices. More importantly, one can achieve all this, without compromising on one’s love for natural daylight etc.

Beautiful colors and interior lighting can be effectively introduced in an environment by using the right electric illumination and proper choice of paint colors.  It is important to note that interior lighting can appear different to different eyes. This is evident from the fact that, in the past, people would describe lights and colors in any ways they wanted. Today however, science has made it possible for us to use precise terms, mainly through the definition of color temperature.

What is Color Temperature and Interior Lighting

To explain color temperature, let us take the example of white light, since white is a neutral color with a mixture of other colors. If you take white color and add a higher proportion of red to it, the overall impact would be warmer whereas, a higher proportion of blue in it would make it appear cooler.  Color temperature should not be confused with the temperature we measure using a thermometer. However, it is one of the most scientific and accurate ways of defining colors. Each color and its subsequent temperature will impart a very different look to your home or office and can make a great deal of difference in illuminating different aspects of a given space.

Interior lighting is a building tool used by interior designers to create a working and living environment. Light can create many illusions: for a law abiding citizen, light is necessary to feel safe and secure. Conversely, for a thief, light will create insecurity.

Blackbody Radiator

We simply cannot discuss the correlation between color temperature and interior lighting without explaining the term ‘Blackbody radiator’. Without getting too technical, let us understand this term:

Every object absorbs and emits light waves. A blackbody is a theoretical object that would absorb all radiation or light incident upon it. When people use the terms “warm or cool” to describe different colors, they would be referring to the Kelvin temperature the blackbody radiator would be heated to in order to emit that color. Thus, a light source of 4100Kelvin (4100K) would have a bluish or ‘cooler’ appearance and considered ideal for office setups. Likewise, for illuminating darker or earthier aspects such as wood, leather etc, lower color temperatures (2700K) are recommended. For bathrooms and kitchens having white color on the walls, color temperatures of 4100K to 6500K or other higher can help make the space  appear whiter than yellow.


  • Interior lighting sources of violet/blue end of the color spectrum are the cooler colors while those on the red/orange/yellow side are warmer.
  • Understanding the correlation between color temperature and interior lighting is important to create a complimenting rather than clashing effect in the overall interior design. The paint you choose for your walls will also appear different depending on the temperature of color used.
  • When deciding upon wall paint colors or the colors of wall paper etc, one must also think about the interior lighting used in the design. For higher color temperatures, white color interior lighting would seem rather stark or cold. But, for a kitchen, this is the effect you’d want to achieve to make the space look cleaner and more efficient. If you desire a cozier space in the bedrooms, TV rooms or dens, then higher color temperatures can be used for these living areas.

There are absolutely no rules when it comes to applying interior lighting and the subsequent color temperatures; it is really a subjective choice. But one must definitely consider these principles when upgrading one’s interior lighting or doing a renovation.