Becoming an Expert in Color Rendering

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From CRI to TM-30 and More

Who knew that a bowl of apples could change color so intensely? Look at your bowl of apples under natural daylight and then compare it to looking at it under artificial light. Suddenly, your apples look a bit different! But why? This is due to the color quality of the lighting you used. 

When it comes to lighting, color quality plays a crucial role for applications, be it retail stores where you shop for the perfect outfit or museums that display stunning art pieces, spaces depend on lighting that makes colors pop best.

But how exactly do we measure how color appears under different light sources? This is where we begin with the CRI.

Starting off with the Color Rendering Index (CRI) 

What is the CRI? Otherwise known as the Color Rendering Index, CRI is a measurement of how colors look under different light sources when compared to natural daylight. The image below from Westinghouse Lighting visualizes our apple bowl example, showing how a different range of CRI can drastically change how the same item looks–see how a CRI 100 looks more vibrant than the CRI 70? The end goal of CRI is essentially to find the lighting that will best illuminate any space.

CRI, while the most well-known form of measurement for color quality and lighting, is not without its challenges. These are the three main limitations we have recognized:

  1. CRI categorizes white light only in terms of its temperature, warm vs cool. Today, that is not enough for evaluating lighting in a space.
  2. Lighting has evolved since the CRI’s development. LED lighting is completely new when it comes to utilizing this form of measurement. 
  3. The CRI is based on eight pastel colors but, in real life, we have more than hundreds of fully saturated colors. 

If the CRI is such a determining factor when looking at color quality and lighting, these limitations tell a different story. So where do we go now? 

The Next Step with TM-30

Developed in 2015 by the Illumination Engineering Society (IES), TM-30-15 (or TM-30) is a more advanced and comprehensive alternative to the CRI. Compared to the CRI’s eight color samples, TM-30 has updated that number to 99…an impressive upgrade! 

But is not the only advancement, TM-30 offers three new metrics to develop a more accurate picture: color fidelity, gamut, and vector graphic. 

Choosing What is Right for You

Now with a better understanding of the CRI and TM-30, the final question in today’s blog is: how do I choose the right lighting partner regarding color quality? 

An important point to always remember is that not everyone can offer the same color quality, you must look at different options that best fit the space you are lighting. For example, Nova Flex LED allows customization with the RGBW 60, the color-changing LED strip light series that can be used to create a unique look for any environment. Even Ketra recognizes the importance of color quality in lighting, hosting an Evening of Beauty + Light where guests were given a backstage pass to experience the power of light in transforming beauty looks.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for next month’s blog post!

About Western Lighting and Energy Controls

Western Lighting and Energy Controls is one of the leading Lighting, Controls, and Energy Management manufacturers’ representative agency in Southern California.

In business for over two decades, Western Lighting and Energy Controls offers an unparalleled level of service and support through dedicated teams. These teams work to ensure that project requirements and unique business needs are delivered on time and within budget. With its uniquely proactive approach, Western can serve customers in a way that achieves maximum growth and success. Western Lighting and Energy Controls has been an employee-owned company through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) Trust since 2019. To learn more about Western Lighting and Energy Controls, visit

For more information, contact us here at Western Lighting and Energy Controls

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