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What is CRI? Learn a Top Secret of Lighting Designers

Have you ever wondered why your products looks so fresh at the store and doesn’t look the same when you bring it home? Or at the apparel stores, the colors look so vivid yet they may look completely different outside of the store! What is the magic behind it? The answer is CRI—Color Rendering Index—which allows the human eye to see how well color shades are revealed.

You might be surprised, but not all lights are made equal, and some light renders are better than others. In the lighting business, CRI is one of the most crucial characteristics for various applications: retail stores, luxury boutiques with jewelry and clothes, or any business that simply wants their products to look outstanding, therefore earning more profitable sales.

How exactly does it work and how does Whole Foods Market make their produce look so attractive? Every lighting fixture has different parameters and all these parameters should be considered when you are looking to do a lighting project for your commercial space.

What is CRI and why does it matter?

In the other universe of the science world, daylight is used by researches as the benchmark to compare electrical lights. Trying to create artificial lighting that would have the same quality and vivid colors as natural light, researchers in the beginning of the 20th century studied the colorimetric effect of the illuminants on reference objects. As a result, in 1931 the International Commission on Illumination adopted the first official system of colorimetry, which is based on the trichromatic nature of the human visual system. CRI is based upon this system of colorimetry.

CRI is a measure of how accurately a light source illuminates the object's true color compared to natural light.

CRI is based on a scale from 0 to 100 specifying how good a light product renders colors. It is very beneficial to prepare lighting specifications and predict how accurately the visual output of lighting will be. The higher the CRI, the better the color rendering appearance. In other words, it helps human eyes see brilliant, visually attractive colors due to artificial lighting. A CRI of 85 to 90 is considered good at color rendering, and over 90 is excellent at color rendering; but still, this number varies a lot depending on the application.

Choosing the right CRI for your application

You’ve spent time and money on designing your commercial space, but how to decide which lighting to take? Maybe you just need to simply have light in your space (for example warehouses or parking garages), and color quality isn’t important.

CRI >90

Even though a CRI of more than 90 is considered an excellent CRI, not everyone really needs it. Think about how important vivid colors really are in your space: Is your client's impression or purchasing behavior going to be influenced by color? Are you willing to invest in the right color saturation and visual appeal? If the answer to both these questions is yes, we highly recommend considering a CRI higher than 90. Perfect applications include: high-end restaurants and hotels, boutiques, hospitals, textile factories, printing facilities, paint shops, retail stores, residences, and photography studios.

CRI >80

A CRI higher than 80 is considered very good true colors illumination. A decision to have CRI a bit lower than 90 might be considered if you have a tight budget or simply because your space doesn’t require excellent color rendering, for example, an office space.

CRI >70

A CRI higher than 70 does not accurately represent colors and would be perfect for spaces where color doesn’t play any role, like a parking garage or warehouse.

Note that you can’t judge a light source's CRI by simply looking at the color of the light. It will only become evident when you shine the light onto a variety of objects that have a different color. Always do a test install of the products you are considering.

Benefits of High CRI

Let’s talk about why you actually need to invest in CRI. Benefits of high color rendering include:

  • More vivid and vibrant colors with higher saturation

  • Textures stand out

  • Finishes shine and have depth

Because of CRI, your products or space looks more attractive to the consumer's eyes. As seen in the pictures below, most of the famous, top lighting designers use CRI as a secret weapon to bring more sales for retail stores, hotels, and high-end restaurants.

Additionally, there is a new color performance index called CQS or Color Quality Scale. The main difference between it and CRI is that it has a broader spectrum of colors on which color rendering is tested on.

Looking for the perfect lighting for your commercial space? CodeLumen has more than sixteen years of experience in the lighting business, and we would be happy to help with your project. We believe that light should be measured in the emotions it evokes, not only how many lumens it delivers or the CRI.

If you want to have professional lighting with the best outcome for your business, please contact us at

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