Bright Ideas

Selecting color temperature in under cabinet lighting

Posted by Tanya Barr on Jan 13, 2016 2:12:47 PM


When tasked with creating a warm, inviting, and comforting space in your home, lighting designers talk about the importance of using light layers to deliver the right ‘feel’ for the room. Light layers consist of ambient lighting, task lighting, accent lighting, and decorative lighting:
  • Ambient lighting is the most basic light layer and refers to the available light in a space. Most fixtures can offer some level of ambient light. 
  • Task lighting refers to lighting used for key tasks like reading, cooking and food preparation. It acts as a supplement to ambient light.
  • Accent lighting refers to the lighting used to highlight decorative pieces including artwork. Lighting designers recommend that accent lighting should be about three times the level of the ambient illumination.
  • Decorative lighting refers to stylish fixtures that are at the center of your design layout such as the chandelier

Under cabinet lighting is the perfect multi-use solution for your kitchen which provides ambient, task and even accent lighting. In our three-part blog series, we’ll review three essential lighting performance indicators – color temperature, color rendering index and lumen output.  With a better understanding of these metrics, you can create the layering effect that works best for your kitchen.    

Color temperature

Professional lighting designer and author, Randall Whitehead, recently interviewed and referenced that “homeowners would greatly benefit from understanding the various colors of light”.  The statement Randall was trying to convey was that many kitchens are now using fixtures from multiple light sources that are emitting different light colors.  Blending color temperatures from multiple sources makes the process more complicated in comparison with just using the one traditional incandescent light source.

Color temperature is the metric that defines the color of light and is measured in ‘degrees Kelvin’ (K). As the color temperature changes, the color of light changes along the spectrum of visible light as shown in the diagram below.  The lower temperatures are closer in range to the red zone, while higher temperatures present on the scale are in the blue zone. 


When searching for under cabinet lighting that’s right for you, make sure to look for the color temperature on the packaging.  Under cabinet LED lights typically have a temperature range from 2700K – 5000K.  If you want a look that is closer to traditional incandescent light bulbs, you’ll want to select a color temperature close to 2700K.  If you are trying to create a whiter, daylight effect, choose a color temperature close to 5000K.

A large consideration in your choice of color temperature for LED under cabinet lighting is the materials used in your kitchen such as the countertops, backsplash and appliances. The color temperature of the light fixture affects how these materials will appear. Enhance that warm stone countertop by using a lower temperature (2700K – 3500K). Alternatively, white or gray countertops are best showcased when using cooler temperatures (3500K – 4500K).  Looking for more flexibility with your light layers?  Consider using dimmable LED under cabinet lights such as RDA’s under cabinet light fixtures.


Paint with light!

Get creative and take control of that kitchen space to make it your own.  Think of your kitchen as being a blank canvas and color temperatures of your under cabinet lighting acting as the paint on your palette.  Don’t just paint your walls, be bold using color temperatures to paint your kitchen with light.




Continue to follow the RDA Blog by filling out the form below.  In our next post, we will uncover another key metric in under cabinet lighting performance –the color rendering index (CRI).  We’d love feedback or suggestions for future topics to cover.  Simply submit a comment through the form below.

Are you considering under cabinet LED lights for your kitchen?  Download our Buyer guide on ‘LED under cabinet lighting for your kitchen’

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Topics: Under cabinet lighting