What Effects Do Fluorescent Lights Have on Color?


Light is made up of the seven colors of the rainbow. Each color exists within a specific frequency range. An object is red because it cannot absorb the red part of light. Fluorescent lights don’t always emit the full spectrum of white light (all colors). Though the eyes cannot see the minute differences in light frequencies of the light, they can detect the change in the color of objects.


  • Fluorescent bulbs don’t produce pure white light. The light has a slight green tinge to it. When the light shines more green energy onto an object, it’s similar to mixing more green paint into a blue paint. Blue will start leaning more toward a turquoise color. A fluorescent bulb, if shining equal amounts of the full light spectrum, will show colors for what they are. If the bulb is weak in emitting one color, then that color on objects will appear faded.


  • Bleeding happens when the light from the bulb is not emitting equal amounts of the spectrum. When a few colors are overpowering the rest of the colors in the light, colors will look as if they are blending into other colors (bleeding). The sharpness of the colors will blend into each other at the edge of each color. For example, red beside yellow will tend to look slightly orange. For those not looking directly at the object, it will look fuzzy.


  • Flickering fluorescent bulbs cause a problem with the eyes because they cannot keep up with the changes. Pulses of different strengths of light will reflect different levels of light into the eyes -- sometimes more green or more red or blue, for example. This changes the color of the object for a millisecond. The eyes cannot recognize the true color because of the quick and slight changes in color, which are continually changing shades.


  • The human eye cannot easily detect the actual light, but it sees objects and colors. As the fluorescent bulb ages, the energy in the light is reduced. This reduction in light energy means a reduction of light that is reflected back into the eyes. Objects under this type of lighting will look washed out The amount of fading depends on the energy output of the bulb and will only get worse as the bulb loses more energy.

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  • Photo Credit Felipe Dupouy/Lifesize/Getty Images
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