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The colors of light, like soft white and daylight, can change how we see an object or space, so it’s important to make the right choice.
The color of white light is classed as a color temperature and is measured in Kelvin (K). The lower the number, the warmer the light will appear; while a higher number will result in cooler light.
Most people are familiar with soft white light, which has a color temperature of around 2700K. This is the standard type of lightbulb that is used in homes and gives off a warm, yellowish light.
Soft White = 2700K to 3000K
Daylight, on the other hand, has a color temperature of around 5500K upwards. This type of light is much brighter and whiter than soft white light.
Daylight = 5500K to 6500K
So, what’s the difference between these two types of light, 2700K vs 5500K? And which one should you use in your home?
The two types are vastly different from one another, as seen in the test above where we installed each type in an identical wall light.
Soft white light is best used in areas where you want to create a warm and inviting atmosphere, such as living rooms and bedrooms. The lower color temperature of soft white light makes it appear softer and less harsh than daylight.
Soft white is typically used in:
Daylight light is best used in areas where you need brighter colored light, where the higher color temperature will make them appear crisper and clearer than soft white light.
Daylight white is typically used in:
Daylight light is so bright and intense that it’s often best avoided in living spaces. It can be harsh on the eyes and make it difficult to relax in an interior space as it can make colors look greyish blue.
However, some people do prefer the brighter light for task lighting in areas like the kitchen or bathroom, so it’s really up to personal preference.
The difference between the two can also be used to their mutual benefit when used together within the same room, creating a striking comparison that makes the soft light look warmer and the daylight look colder.
When you look at how to light a kitchen, you will learn that most kitchens benefit from using a soft white light, as it creates a warm and inviting atmosphere.
As we have seen this type of light is less harsh than daylight, so it enhances other warm colors within the kitchen like wood grains and earthy tones.
If you have a more contemporary kitchen, however, you may want to opt for a cool white light in the 4000K-5000K range but not anything any higher. This type of light is typically more flattering than daylight, which can be quite harsh and have a blueish tint.
I find the only exception and place to use daylight white light in a kitchen is to up light onto the ceiling from on top of wall cupboards, to reflect the daylight white into the kitchen as if real daylight is streaming into the room.
As a lighting consultant, I have seen that the colder colors of white work better with the colder colors of kitchen cabinetry, like white or black. However, too much cold light and a kitchen become too sterile and uncomfortable light to live in.
Daylight colored light may be tempting to use for that crisp clean feel for a white tiled room that daily needs to be bright, but white tiles and cabinetry under daylight will look a little grey and it’s not a comfortable light to relax in.
For bathrooms, a lot of people prefer the more relaxing colors of light that come from a soft white 3000K bulb. It feels more natural and inviting and studies have shown that warm and softer white light can help to reduce stress levels and promote relaxation.
In contrast, blue light has been found to have the opposite effect, making people feel more alert and anxious.
Daylight contains far more blue in the mix recipe for white light, so if you are looking for a lighting option that will help you to feel more relaxed and at ease, soft white is the way to go.
In a bedroom, you want to create a relaxing and inviting space. Soft white light is the best option.
Bedrooms work well with the even warmer whites of 2200K to 2700K, creating a more amber glow that feels cozy and comforting.
So although the description of daylight may evoke the feelings of a summer day, it’s mix of blue light to create the white will only create a greyish blue hue of light.
If you need a little more light for reading or other tasks, you can always add a floor lamp or table lamp with a daylight bulb to your bedroom. This will create a pool of fresh task lighting that can bring greater clarity to a page of your book but do not rely on it as the overall lighting choice.
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In terms of residential applications, soft white tones are usually the most popular because they work well everywhere.
There are plenty of fixtures that provide a 2700K or 3000K soft white light, such as:
It’s usually the more functional lighting product that offers a daylight color temperature, but did you know that a smart light bulbs can be tunable between a daylight or soft white light through an app? This opens up opportunities to change the feel of a room to suit your mood or the task at hand.
The following light bulbs are popular for their daylight color:
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