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Color Theory

What is Color Temperature?

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Color temperature is the tendency for people to perceive colors as cold, cool, warm or hot to the touch. This appears to be an inherent aspect of color perception that transcends culture. As such, it is likely related to the dominant colors in nature as follows.
Sun & Fire
Sun & Fire
Sun & Fire
Water & Sky
Water & Vegetation
Colors not listed above such as purple, pink, brown, white and black do not have a strong association with temperature.

Science & Technology

Color temperature has a completely different meaning in the context of science, technology and engineering. This is the practice of measuring the color of light produced by a near-white light source such as the sun or a light bulb in terms of the temperature that a black body needs to reach to emit the same color. This is on a scale from red to blue that is measured in kelvin. For example, sunlight is 5900 kelvins, this is near pure white with a slight orange tinge. Color temperature is important to the design of lighting, display technologies, instruments and cameras. It is also relevant to science and industries such as agriculture.
Confusingly, the scientific measurement of color temperature has colors at the opposite end of how they are perceived by people with blue being the hottest and red being the coolest. For example, light bulbs that produce a bluish light are often marketed as "cool" and those that produce orangish light are marketed as "warm."


The scientific concept of color temperature only applies to variations of white light. For example, a blue LED that produced pure blue light wouldn't be modeled with color temperature.
Overview: Color Temperature
Definition (1)
The tendency for people to perceive certain colors as cool or warm to the touch.
Definition (2)
The scientific practice of measuring the color of near-white light in terms of the temperature a black body needs to reach to emit that color.
Related Concepts

Color Theory

This is the complete list of articles we have written about color theory.
Analogous Color
Color Combinations
Color Depth
Color Harmony
Color is Real
Color Perception
Color Purity
Color Saturation
Color Scheme
Color Space
Color Symbolism
Color Temperature
Complementary Colors
Corporate Colors
Heat Map
Impossible Colors
Monochromatic Color
Primary Colors
Rainbow Colors
Spectral Color
Tints And Shades
Visible Spectrum
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