What is the Color Rendering Index, or CRI, of a light bulb?

By shakir_williams

strawberries with high and low CRI

What is the Color Rendering Index, or CRI, of a light bulb?

When choosing the perfect lighting for your building or business, there are a few things to consider. In this blog we will be discussing one of those factors: CRI, also known as color rendering index. Unlike color temperature, CRI is a measurement of how a well a light bulb will show an item’s true color. What Is Color Temperature?

CRI rating of roses

If your goal is to illuminate a particular area of a building so that all colors appear as they would in natural light, then you want to look for a light bulb with a high CRI.  No one wants to purchase a product that looks washed out and dull. So, if you’re interested in lighting your retail store, you should consider lights with a high CRI.

CRI rating of colored pencils

But how do you decide what LED light bulb you need?

Choosing the right CRI

LED light bulbs with a color rendering index (CRI) of 50 or less, will generate a washed out looking color. Light bulbs with a 70 or less CRI rating will show a dull color. And bulbs with an 80+ CRI will be much more vibrant to the eye. For the best color rendering, use light bulbs with a CRI rating of 90+. These are great for accent lighting purposes.

CRI measure

CRI rating of apples

Choosing the right type of lighting for a commercial space

When choosing a light bulb for your commercial space, whether residential, industrial, retail, or hospitality, you should consider the purpose and function of the lighting you desire. There are four areas to consider:

You may also like: Commercial Lighting Application

Task-Oriented Lighting

 step two  Task oriented lighting for workspaces and exam rooms

It is suggested that when creating a lighting plan for a space, you should consider task lighting first. These are the areas that need to be well light for high productivity. These are areas like entrances, near cash registers, warehouse work spaces, office spaces, etc. These areas need to be brighter and tend to need light bulbs with higher lumens. For maximum lighting function, consider light bulbs around 3500-5000 K.


Ask yourself what areas do I want to illuminate and emphasize?

Ex. Entrance, checkout area, customer service desk, workspaces, hallways, stairwells, hospital rooms, etc.

Accent Lighting

accent lighting before and after led lighting in office space

It is important to construct a layout of the lighting design. Accent lighting is great for highlighting certain areas of a space.

Ask yourself what areas do I want to emphasize?

orange checkHigher CRI’s make color look more vibrant and attractive.

accent lighting for jewelry display case

orange checkDisplays should be illuminated to draw customers. The higher the CRI, the better the products will display under the light.

inside retail store display lighting

orange checkSeasonal items should be highlighted with light bulbs with a high CRI to attract customers.

display window lighting

Decorative Lighting

This is the fun part! Once you have designed the layout of your commercial space now it’s time to think about the look of your light fixtures! What are you trying to convey with your decorative lamps?

orange checkPlacing wall sconces by the front entrance can make a statement

wall sconces at retail store front entrance

orange checkDecorative light fixtures should be placed by displays to catch the eye of the onlooker.

track lighting inside retail store

orange checkFront entrances should have bright lights, with a high CRI that invite people in.

bright lighting inside retail store

orange checkChandeliers, and other large decorative light fixture should be placed high on the walls to draw the eye, and provide bright area lighting.

accent lighting for shoe display case

Shop for all Chandelier Bulbs

General Lighting

general lighting inside grocery store

This type of lighting serves the purpose of creating the ambience of the space. You want the area to be lit up enough so that the occupants feel safe and comfortable. Decide on the type of general lighting fixture you want

orange checkPanel lighting and LED troffers are great for grocery stores, offices, and retail stores.

modern wall sconce light fixture  panel lighting inside grocery store

orange checkTrack lighting, recessed lights, and LED downllights are great for fashion retail stores, and high-end boutiques.

workspace lighting  track lighting inside retail store

orange checkWall sconces are great for entrances

step threewalls sconces for decorative light fixtures

Still need help choosing the right LED light bulb? Check out: How do I know which LED bulb I need?


Choosing the right light bulb can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be.

Shop all LED Lighting


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What space are you lighting for? Did you find that a particular CRI worked better than another?

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