When we talk about trade show lighting, we often have to get more specific about the types of light than people do in regular life. This is a subject that lighting technicians are familiar with but in which many of the rest of us could use a primer.
There are three broad categories of lighting, whatever the application: warm; cool; daylight. They’re measured in degrees Kelvin (K). The spread goes from 1,000K to 10,000K. Counter-intuitively, warm light has the lowest Kelvin temperature and daylight (the “coolest”) has the highest.
Each has its uses in trade show lighting. Below is a quick, high-level introduction to when to use which.
Warm Light (2,000K – 3,000K)
For overall, nonspecific booth illumination, warm light is often the best bet. Just think of the dim lights at a romantic restaurant–they create a cozy atmosphere without making you have to squint, but you wouldn’t want to need much detail in your perception.
Red is about the warmest and softest option available for trade show lighting. As the color cools off (and gains more degrees Kelvin), yellow will make its way in, changing red to orange. Towards the end of this category, around 3,000K, the orange will turn to yellow and the yellow will brighten to a whitish color.
Cool Light (3,000K – 4,500K)
Cooler trade show lighting is better for highlighting specific items. It’s also good for lighting up a workspace so you can see everything you’re doing. Thus, the kitchen in that romantic restaurant will have light that’s more like this.
You can create a sense of depth in your lighting by mixing warm lights with cool. That is, you can direct people’s attention to specific spots by illuminating them with brighter, whiter, cooler light.
Daylight (4,500K – 6,500K)
This area of the spectrum is referred to as daylight because it’s the closest to the way sunshine appears to us at noon on a cloudless day. This light is bright white, perhaps with a hint of blue. It’s crisp, casting stark shadows and showing plenty of detail. This will be your most specifically focused trade show lighting, bringing out the nuances of whatever you want people to notice the most.
Trade Show Lighting Options
In addition to the broad categories of lighting listed above, the placement, type, and quality of lights can also dramatically affect the curated space. Luckily for you, we have plenty of options to choose from!
Some possibilities include:
- Arm Lights which deliver high quality, wall washing illumination or spot lighting to desired areas.
- Recessed Lights, ideal for illuminating cases, cabinets, work stations, and undersides of headers.
- Fluorescent Lights which are sleek, linkable, and provide a high quality light output.
- Track Lighting which is versatile, functional and reliable.
- And LED Lights which are durable, energy efficient, and come in a wide range of colors.
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The Three Tiers of Trade Show Lighting
Of course, there is much more to say about trade show lighting than the scope of this article allows (what about green light?). But for those of us who just want to be able to do our non-lighting jobs and need to be able to communicate in basic ways about the light around us, these three broad categories suffice as an introduction.
Maybe now, when you walk around your next trade show and look at other companies’ booths, you’ll be able to say to yourself, “They should have used warmer light here and cooler there.” Have fun thinking about how you can improve your trade show lighting!