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Why Colour Rendering Index Matter? 80 CRI vs 90 CRI vs 95 CRI

Why Colour Rendering Index Matter? 80 CRI vs 90 CRI vs 95 CRI

One of the things you should check while buying LED bulbs is colour rendering index (CRI). It measures how colours look under a light source when compared to natural daylight.

But the problem with CRI is that it is not immediately visible like colour temperature. In that case, how can you tell what is a good CRI and the difference between various CRI levels?

We’ll lay out all the details for you.

CRI – An Introduction

CRI is measured on the scale 0 – 100. The higher the score, the better the CRI.  A CRI rating of 80 is considered acceptable, but you should aim to do better. As much as possible, opt for LED bulbs with a 90 CRI or higher, as these bulbs boast a very high level of colour accuracy. All the same, which CRI level is good enough largely depends on how you will use the light source and your sensitivity.  

80 CRI – Acceptable (But not the Best) Colour Quality

As far as LED bulbs are concerned, this is the baseline CRI level. The colour quality, while certainly not the best that you can get, is perfectly acceptable.

With LED bulbs having a CRI score of 80, the most obvious colours effortlessly stand out, and the colour quality is sufficient for everyday tasks. The majority of local hardware stores sell LED bulbs having a CRI value of 80. That, however, doesn’t mean you should settle for them.

Why? Glad you asked.

Here are some reasons:

  • These bulbs don’t produce the most balanced light. As a result, prolonged exposure to them may cause eye strain and/or headaches
  • Nuanced colours, particularly those with a deep red component, often appear unnatural
  • LED bulbs with a CRI value of 90 or above are pretty affordable, so there’s no reason why you should settle for something less-than-perfect

In residential settings, LED bulbs with a CRI value of 80 are most commonly deployed in areas where your family spends the minimum amount of time. Examples include storage closets, garages, and hallways. That said, those who like to spend hours working on DIY projects in the garages or those with a walk-in closet would be better off using 90 CRI rather than 80 CRI. Otherwise, you may find differentiating colours a tad difficult.

Installing 80 CRI in kitchen areas is a complete no-no. That’s because you need accurate colour judgement for cooking. The last thing you would want is to serve guests meat that’s not fully cooked!  

Accurate lighting is also crucial in bathrooms, especially when you are applying makeup. You should also avoid using 80 CRI under-cabinet lighting.

The long and short of this is that 80 CRI is an acceptable colour rendering level, but you may be better off using 90 CRI instead. And if you must use 80 CRI, use them only for the least demanding tasks.

90 CRI -Decent Colour Quality

There’s a noticeable difference between the light quality produced by an LED bulb with a CRI rating of 90 and one having a CRI value of 80. If you switch from CRI 80 to 90, you’ll notice a considerable boost in colour quality and clarity. For this very reason, 90 CRI make for a great option for areas where your family spend their most time, such as living rooms, dining area, and bedrooms.

Under the light of a 90 CRI LED, most objects, such as wood furniture, skin tones, meats, and fresh produce, appear normal. You’re not going to notice anything strange or of-putting.

90 CRI LEDs are perfect for residential installations. Most people will find them adequate for their requirements. Unless you are very sensitive, you’re not likely to see much improvement beyond 90 CRI.

95 CRI – Professional/Excellent Colour Quality

95 CRI provides great colour quality and allows visual artists and others who rely on perfect colour perception to comfortably distinguish minute differences in colour tone or hue in their productions.

For a regular Joe, however, using 95 CRI is not likely to prove advantageous. That’s because the average person, in all probability, will not be able to make out the difference between a 95 CRI and a 90 CRI.


As much as possible, use 90 CRI for residential applications, especially in areas where you spend a lot of time. LED bulbs with a CRI rating of 90 emit a balanced light and objects appear normal under it. CRI 95, on the other hand, may be useful to those whose work requires highly accurate colour perception, such as visual artists. CRI 80, while sufficient for everyday tasks, is not the best choice for your home.

At Liquidleds, we mostly sell CRI 90 LED bulbs. So if you are looking for LED bulbs that provide high-quality and most-balanced light, look no further. Many of our bulbs are being used in high-end commercial applications (like restaurants, retail shops, cinemas and 5-star hotels), as well as residential applications.