LED Color Temperature Differences Explained
We get asked to explain the differences between 5K and 6K LED lighting nearly every day. The answer is fairly simple when you understand the basics of how the color of light is characterized. For the sake of keeping the topic to LED lighting, only the colors that are typically used in LED lighting will be discussed.
Should I pick 5K or 6K for my vehicle?
Color temperature is primarily a STYLE choice but the human eye does perceive a whiter light as being brighter (5K in this case). The image below (click to view) shows a side by side comparison of 5K and 6K LED's. The choice is ultimately up to you as a customer and depends on what you're trying to achieve with the lighting on your vehicle. The higher number DOES NOT mean that 6K LED bulbs are brighter.
What are the main differences between the color temperatures of light?
Take a look at the Planckian locus graph below (click to view). The main area to pay attention to is the black curved line inside of the colored area. As you can see on the graph, 3000, 4000, and 6000 numbers are all shown. This range contains the most commonly available colors of LED lighting for headlights, parking lights, and fog lights.
Can I get a perfect match to my HID or existing LED bulbs?
It's impossible to get an EXACT match of color temperature of bulbs. This is because of variations in the manufacturing of HID and LED products. An example of a slight variation is our V3 Triton system which uses a Philips Rebel LED chip and our Platinum series of bulbs which use a different proprietary LED chip from another manufacturer. Although they are very CLOSE in color, they are not a perfect match. Most people do not notice this difference in typical applications because vehicles rarely have bulbs right next to each other.
Another thing to remember is that other LED vendors rate their LED's as 5K or 6K as well. We have found that many other companies 6K bulbs are actually more of an 8K color which tends to be blue/purple. The only way to make sure that you get the closest match is to buy all of your LED products from the same company.
3000K = YELLOW
As seen on the graph, 3000 kelvin lighting is typically a YELLOW color. This color of lighting is most commonly found in fog lights in order to have a distinct color difference when compared to the headlights. It also helps increase visibility of a vehicle when viewed by other drivers.
3600K = AVG. STOCK HALOGEN/INCANDESCENT
As seen on the graph, 3600 kelvin lighting is the average color of stock halogen/incandescent bulbs. It's more white than 3000K but it still has an ORANGE/YELLOW tint. Many of our customers are trying to upgrade from this color of bulbs as they feel that it makes their vehicle look more dated than it is.
4300K = AVG. STOCK HID
As seen on the graph, 4300 kelvin lighting is the color of most stock HID systems. It's far more white than 3600K but it still has a very slight YELLOW tint. While more modern than 3600K, some customers still find that the 4300K isn't cool or blue enough.
5000K = PURE WHITE
As seen on the graph, 5000 kelvin lighting is the most WHITE color of all available. People who choose this color are usually trying to get a modern look without looking too aftermarket. This is the closest color temperature we offer that matches most factory HID systems.
6000K = WHITE WITH SLIGHT TINT OF BLUE
As seen on the graph, 6000 kelvin lighting falls between white and BLUE side of the graph. People who choose this color are usually trying to get an even more modern or futuristic style with the color. Even though the difference is slight when they are viewed side by side the color of 5K and 6K LED bulbs are obviously different.
What's the easiest way to remember which color is which?
Now that you understand how color temperature looks on the graph the best thing to do is to remember that the lower the number the more YELLOW or ORANGE the light appears. The higher the number the more BLUE or PURPLE the light appears.
Color temperature graph courtesy of Wikipedia.