Bright Ideas

Choosing color temperature of under cabinet lights for your kitchen

Posted by Kamna Mirchandani on Aug 28, 2014 10:05 AM

Lighting designers often talk about the importance of using lighting layers of ambient, task, accent and decorative lighting in your kitchen to create an inviting ambience.

  • Ambient lighting refers to the available light in the environment.
  • Task lighting refers to lighting used for key tasks like cooking.
  • Accent lighting refers to the lighting used to highlight beautiful objects such as artwork.
  • Decorative lighting refers to alluring fixtures that are at the center of your lighting layout such as the chandelier.
Under cabinet lights in the kitchen can be used for task lighting as well as ambient lighting. In this blog series, we’ll discuss three essential lighting performance metrics – color temperature, color rendering index and lumen output. With a better understanding of these metrics, you will be better equipped to create the right layering effect for your kitchen. In part one, we discuss color temperature, in part two, we will discuss color rendering index and in part three we will discuss lumen output.

Part 1 - Color temperature

In a recent interview, professional lighting designer and author, Randall Whitehead said that homeowners would greatly benefit from understanding the various colors of light. The point Randall was trying to make was that many kitchens now use fixtures from multiple light sources emitting different light colors. This makes blending color temperatures from these different sources more complicated than it used to be with just the one traditional incandescent light source.

The color of light is represented by a metric called color temperature. Color temperature 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 general rule of thumb is that lower temperatures are closer to the red color while higher temperatures are closer to the blue color.


When choosing under cabinet lights, make sure you look for the color temperature on the packaging. Under cabinet LED lights generally range from 2700K – 5000K temperatures. If you’re looking to create a look that is close to the traditional incandescent light bulbs, pick a color temperature close to 2700K. If you’re looking to create a whiter, daylight effect pick a color temperature close to 5000K.

The most important factor in your choice of color temperature for LED under cabinet lighting is the materials used in your kitchen.  The color temperature of the light fixture affects how these materials will appear. Warm stone countertops are enhanced by lower temperatures (2700K – 3500K) while white or gray countertops look better in cooler temperatures (3500K – 4500K). Some LED under cabinet lights such as RAB Design’s under cabinet light fixtures also offer the dimming option which adds more flexibility to lighting layers in the kitchen.

Paint with light!

The kitchen is your canvas and color temperatures are the shades in your palette. Go ahead, paint with light and transform your kitchen into that warm, special gathering spot in your home.


In our next post, we will discuss the next important aspect of lighting performance –color rendering index (CRI).

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 LED