The Basic Knowledge of Color-temperature

The color temperature of a light source is the temperature of an ideal black-body radiator that radiates light of a color comparable to that of the light source. Color temperature is a characteristic of visible light that has important applications in lighting, photography, videography, publishing, manufacturing, astrophysics, horticulture, and other fields.

In practice, color temperature is meaningful only for light sources that do in fact correspond somewhat closely to the radiation of some black body, i.e., light in a range going from red to orange to yellow to white to blueish white; it does not make sense to speak of the color temperature of, e.g., a green or a purple light. Color temperature is conventionally expressed in kelvins, using the symbol K, a unit of measure for absolute temperature.

Color temperatures over 5000 K are called “cool colors” (bluish), while lower color temperatures (2700–3000 K) are called “warm colors” (yellowish). “Warm” in this context is an analogy to radiated heat flux of traditional incandescent lighting rather than temperature. The spectral peak of warm-coloured light is closer to infrared, and most natural warm-coloured light sources emit significant infrared radiation. The fact that “warm” lighting in this sense actually has a “cooler” color temperature often leads to confusion.

 Temperature Source
1700 K Match flame, low pressure sodium lamps (LPS/SOX)
1850 K Candle flame, sunset/sunrise
2400 K Standard incandescent lamps
2550 K Soft white incandescent lamps
2700 K “Soft white” compact fluorescent and LED lamps
3000 K Warm white compact fluorescent and LED lamps
3200 K Studio lamps, photofloods, etc.
3350 K Studio “CP” light
5000 K Horizon daylight
5000 K Tubular fluorescent lamps or cool white / daylight compact fluorescent lamps (CFL)
5500 – 6000 K Vertical daylight, electronic flash
6200 K Xenon short-arc lamp
6500 K Daylight, overcast
6500 – 9500 K LCD or CRT screen
15,000 – 27,000 K Clear blue poleward sky
These temperatures are merely characteristic; there may be considerable variation

The Sun

The Sun closely approximates a black-body radiator. The effective temperature, defined by the total radiative power per square unit, is about 5780 K.[4] The color temperature of sunlight above the atmosphere is about 5900 K.

As the Sun crosses the sky, it may appear to be red, orange, yellow or white, depending on its position. The changing color of the Sun over the course of the day is mainly a result of the scattering of light and is not due to changes in black-body radiation. The blue color of the sky is caused by Rayleigh scattering of the sunlight by the atmosphere, which tends to scatter blue light more than red light.

Some early morning and evening light (golden hours) has a lower color temperature due to increased low-wavelength light scattering by the Tyndall effect.

Daylight has a spectrum similar to that of a black body with a correlated color temperature of 6500 K (D65 viewing standard) or 5500 K (daylight-balanced photographic film standard).


For colors based on black-body theory, blue occurs at higher temperatures, whereas red occurs at lower temperatures. This is the opposite of the cultural associations attributed to colors, in which “red” is “hot”, and “blue” is “cold”.


Color temperature comparison of common electric lamps

Color temperature comparison of common electric lamps

For lighting building interiors, it is often important to take into account the color temperature of illumination. A warmer (i.e., a lower color temperature) light is often used in public areas to promote relaxation, while a cooler (higher color temperature) light is used to enhance concentration, for example in schools and offices.

CCT dimming for LED technology is regarded as a difficult task, since binning, age and temperature drift effects of LEDs change the actual color value output. Here feedback loop systems are used, for example with color sensors, to actively monitor and control the color output of multiple color mixing LEDs.

Post time: Aug-16-2019
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