Before we get into the comparisons and uses of cool white vs neutral white, let’s quickly review the unit of measurement for a white light color.
White light is classified by a color temperature scale, measured in degrees of kelvin (K).
The Kelvin scale ranges from 1000K to 10,000K, with the lower kelvin numbers resulting in amber to yellowish light while the higher the Kelvin rating, the whiter the light color.
When choosing your lighting you will see helpful descriptions to accompany the degree of kelvin, such as ‘warm white’, ‘neutral white’ or ‘cool white’. These labels however can refer to a range of kelvin and not a specific value only.
The color temperature of light can change how we see an object or room. For this reason, it’s essential to establish the optimal light color temperature and Kelvin number when starting a residential or commercial project.
Neutral White is typically between 3600K and 5000K and is a pure natural white color.
4000K lies in the neutral white range and is the next common choice for a cooler light after the warm whites of 3000K.
Cool White is typically between 5000K and 6500K and towards 6500K is classified as a daylight white color. Cool whites contain more blue in the white light mix, making them cooler in hue than neutral whites.
The main difference between cool white and neutral white is the amount of blue light emitted by each. Cool whites will have a cooler, crisper look than neutral whites when illuminated with LED lighting.
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The neutral whites are when the color temperatures start to enter the cooler tones of white without looking blueish. If you’re wanting to add a more modern look to your kitchen, this is perfect for you. However, if your goal is to create a more intimate feel, then avoid this color as it will be be harsh.
Some benefits come with being neutral. Colors are reproduced evenly and well when using neutral white, making it the best option for displaying merchandise, artwork and photography. These clean whites are most popular in art galleries and museums for their crisp white clarity.
Neutral whites are:
The cool whites are perfect for lighting up a space with an abundance of natural light or for those wishing to give their rooms a really bright, modern finish. They can help make a room feel larger due to the brightness, making them ideal for commercial use or in contemporary settings.
Cool whites tend to work less well with warm toned fabrics and surfaces, like brickwork and earthy colors. The blueish tints of the cool white make natural yellows and reds appear washed out. While cool whites can be used to great effect in areas with neutral or cool colors, they are less useful in residential applications.
Cool whites are:
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Brightness is judged by how many lumens a light emits. Only the amount of light matters for quantifiable brightness.
However, the appearance of brightness your eyes perceive is influenced by the color temperature.
Even though both neutral whites and cool whites emit a bright light, the cool whites will appear slightly brighter because their appearance is colder as it contains more blue light.
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