HomeThe Best Paint ColoursPaint and Colour How to'sLIGHT BULBS: How a Bulb’s CRI Affects Paint Colours

LIGHT BULBS: How a Bulb’s CRI Affects Paint Colours

Posted on March 3, 2021 by KylieMawdsley
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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 with Sherwin Williams Peppercorn feature wall in primary bathroom, Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online diy ideas (1)

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:


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, how CRI affects paint colours and light bulbs. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, client photo

Sherwin Williams Incredible White

If you want to learn more about how each exposure affects paint colours, you can read all about them HERE.


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…

Staircase with best warm gray greige paint colour, Sherwin Williams Gossamer Veil. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint consultant. DIY DESIGN AND DECOR

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. 


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. 

Paint colours and how affected by the CRI kelvins of light bulbs. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, diy advice

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?

Benjamin Moore Caldwell Green cabinets. Washer and dryer and quartz, farmhouse sink. White Dove walls Kylie M Interiors Edesign, client photo. DIY UPDATE IDEAS


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.


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.


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.

Ideas to update oak wood kitchen cabinets with countertop, subway tile, painted island, Kylie M Interiors Edesign, paint color advice blogge

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.

Online Paint Colour Packages and E-Books

CRI Summary 

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!


How Light Bulbs Affect Paint Colours – KELVINS


The Right Height to Hang Light Fixtures

Why You Shouldn’t Paint Your Room the Same Colour as Your Friend’s

Chat soon,

Kylie M Interiors, decorating blog, e-design, online colour consulting expert. signature

The best paint colors for your room. Benjamin and Sherwin. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint colour consulting. Home Decorating and diy ideas blogger.market


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  1. Very interesting!! I never knew about CRI. I learned from you about Kelvins and how the paint color can change depending on the number (I’m a 2700 girl myself!).

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      Isn’t it CRAZY? Imagine what else we don’t know! And three cheers for 2700K! And I love your name, that’s my daughter’s name too ;).

  2. Thank you and your wine!
    I had no idea about LRV, CRI, Kelvin and that’s just the beginning. What a relief (maybe not that dramatic) that it’s not my fault that we were dissatisfied with the last wall color choice. Now I have hope that when making decisions for our new house, I can make better color choices using your guidelines and information.

    Thank you again

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      Isn’t it so crazy? You look at a colour and wonder why in the HECK it looks so bad – it’s not necessarily the colour, it might be the lights! I’m so glad you found this helpful ;).

  3. Wow the timing for finding this article is excellent! I was getting ready to pull the trigger on some unique bulbs for my kitchen lights! They require unusual shape and base and I’ve only been focused on lumens and color temperature—- now I need to confirm CRI. Such a helpful article!

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  4. Pingback: How Light Bulb Temperatures Affect Paint Colours: KELVINS - Kylie M Interiors

  5. OMG, I love You!! Thank You so much for explaining this to me. I just painted my kitchen Benkamine more Alabaster and the cabinets Onyx. I was so worried about the lighting effects now I can get the right bulbs for my new fixtures. I will send you a photo when I have completed the kitchen. Best regards Jodi

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