Can’t get your paint colour quite right? It could be your CRI
When it comes to paint colours, NOTHING affects our perception more than light – either natural or artificial. So, when a paint colour isn’t looking like it should, the FIRST thing you should consider is your light source!
Benjamin Moore Collingwood
Wait, I take that back. The first thing you should ACTUALLY consider is that maybe you didn’t pick the right colour to start with. HOWEVER, for the sake of brevity (which you know I’m SO good at), we’re focusing on the light that’s shining on your walls (I have hundreds of blog posts covering the other issue).
There are two types of light:
1. NATURAL LIGHT
Natural light refers to the exposure of your room. The effect the exposure has on your paint colour can vary depending on how big your windows are, whether you have dual exposures, a patio overhang or landscaping blocking a window.
Sherwin Williams Incredible White
If you want to learn more about how each exposure affects paint colours, you can read all about them HERE.
2. ARTIFICIAL LIGHT
Artificial light is the light shining on your walls from interior sources such as ceiling fixtures, lamps, pendant lights and otherwise. All of these involve terms like KELVINS, LUMENS and WATTAGE, however, there’s one VERY important term that’s often missed…
CRI stands for COLOUR RENDERING INDEX and refers to how TRUE a paint colour looks based on the light given by the bulb.
If this is a new term for you, stay with me – this is good stuff…
Sherwin Williams Gossamer Veil
Just as LRV runs on a scale from 0-100, so does CRI. A bulb with a CRI of 100 will show a paint colour in its most clear, true form. Ermmm, true based on WHAT?
As it relates to CRI, ‘true’ means how good and clear a paint colour will look based on a comparison with natural sunlight or an incandescent bulb.
AN INCANDESCENT BULB – ARE WE GOING BACKWARDS IN TIME, WHERE’S MARTY MCFLY?
Believe it or not, an incandescent 2700K bulb, which is inefficient and has a short life-span, actually has a CRI of 100. As the Kelvins go up, that decreases slightly, but still leaves a CRI of 95+.
BTW, if you’re not sure about this whole ‘Kelvins’ thing, you’ll find a link to a great blog post near the end.
But how does the CRI of a bulb actually AFFECT paint colours?
We know that the higher the CRI of a bulb is, the better it will do its job as it relates to paint colours. But what is BAD, GOOD, BETTER and BEST?
LIGHT BULBS WITH CRI’S BELOW 80
First off, anything below 80 is BAD. If you buy cheap bulbs, it’s like buying cheap wine – you risk bad results.
When a bulb has this low of a CRI, it can make paint colours look washed-out, dull or they can even pick up entirely different undertones.
LIGHT BULBS WITH CRI’S BETWEEN 80 & 90
If you go to your local hardware store, this is the range you’ll usually find. Most light brands START at 80, and while that’s an ‘okay’ place to start, you can do SO MUCH BETTER. If you ask me, 80 is borderline, 85 is a WAY better starting point, but 90 is the way to go. However, for bulbs with higher CRI’s (more than 90), you often have to visit a speciality lighting store.
LIGHT BULBS WITH CRI’S OF 90+
With a CRI of more than 90, your paint colour will be shown at its best, but keep in mind, for the average home/room, 90 is REALLY GOOD. If you’re super anal about how your paint colour looks, you may want to purchase bulbs that have a CRI of 95+. Now, this doesn’t account for Kelvins (temperature of your bulbs) or LUMENS (output), but it will give you the CLEAREST, most genuine representation of your paint colour.
And not only that, but a high CRI also helps to see subtle variations in paint colours such as shades, tints and tones.
As an Online Paint Colour Consultant, do I worry about CRI?
Generally speaking, no. When paint colours that SHOULD WORK, don’t, that’s when we’ll have a discussion about Kelvins and CRI.
MY BEST ADVICE is to always wear clean underwear, drink half-decent wine, and be aware of CRI in knowing that you shouldn’t buy a bulb with a CRI beneath 80 (you know what, let’s say 85). HOWEVER, you should pay a lot of attention to the TEMPERATURE (Kelvins) of your bulbs (link below). Combine that with your paint colour preferences and the right LRV and your walls could look gorgeous!