Natural light lightbulbs, for dummies
August 14, 2016 8:52 PM   Subscribe

Can I buy "natural light" lightbulbs instead of a fancy task lamp for nighttime craftwork? If so, which ones?

I picked up crocheting as a hobby 6 months ago and continue to be obsessed with it. I usually work for multiple hours at night in my living room, and the lighting is terrible. I moved a standing ceiling-pointed lamp to my couch corner, which helped a bit, but colors (especially darker yarn colors) are still yellow-tinged and dim.

Before I go out and buy an ugly $200 specialized task lamp, can I achieve a similar effect by replacing my lightbulb with a "natural light" bulb? If so, which bulb do I need/want? For example, one website has a gigantic list of "full-spectrum" LED bulbs and CFL bulbs of varying wattage-equivalents, and I have no idea how to parse it.
posted by serelliya to Shopping (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You want an Ott-Lite compact fluorescent bulb. Ott-Lite specifically markets to crafters like you and focuses on color accuracy.
posted by kindall at 9:10 PM on August 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yup. I just checked and mine is an Ottlite. I have this one. You can direct the light and it's on a flexible neck. Great lighting though it does skew a little blue in terms of photographs (I occasionally take photos on it when I've run out of daylight and can't wait to post something.) ETA I use mine to paint and draw and sew.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:21 PM on August 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I should add, Ott-Lite make bulbs for regular light fixtures, which is what I was actually suggesting. They are pricey for a bulb but cheaper than a new fixture.
posted by kindall at 9:32 PM on August 14, 2016

An incandescent bulb will do this well. An LED light will not.
posted by zippy at 2:10 AM on August 15, 2016

LED bulbs can work just fine. I'm not sure whether what you're looking for is good color rendering, a sun-like color temperature, or both, but you can achieve your goals with any of the three major bulb technologies.

Color rendering index (CRI) is a measure of how smooth a spectrum the bulb produces, how good a job it does of generating color evenly at all frequencies so that things lit by the bulb look as they ought to. The nitty-gritty of it gets a little complex, but basically for demanding applications like crafting you want a CRI in the 90s. Incandescent bulbs (including halogen bulbs) will have a CRI of 100 by default.

Light temperature is measured in Kelvin. Higher temperatures will produce bluer light, closer to the light of the sun. Indoor light is generally very warm (halogens typically produce light down around 2700K) but for task lighting people often prefer a cooler light temperature. Lightbulbs generally go up to about 5500K (higher for specialist applications like photography) and the higher the number, the more outdoor-like the light will appear.

You can get halogens, CFLs, and LED bulbs that have your desired characteristics. For a task light where you want a lot of light close to an object I'd go CFL or LED mostly because the heat from a halogen bulb is so much more intense that it might get annoying. But as long as you pay attention to the CRI and color temp ratings (and shun any bulbs that don't publish one or the other number—lack of a listed CRI indicates that the bulb probably has garbage color rendering) you should do just fine.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:39 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

A little more on CRI here. Note that neither higher CRI nor higher colour temperature should be very much correlated with bulb cost. Bulbs marketed as "full spectrum" might be priced higher than those which happen to have a high CRI and sun-like colour temperature - but that is just marketing. Until quite recently LED fittings with a higher number of lumens (ie brightness) would cost significantly more or not actually be available. These days you can easily find lamps that will deliver the 1,600 lumens that would be provided by a 100watt incandescent - or more - without paying a big premium. If you are trying to illuminate a surface area of about 1 square metre to the 750 lux that detailed work task lighting would merit - then you will need 750 lumens of brightness (or vary via this calculator)

Some LED tasks lights now allow you to switch between a number of colour temps and brightnesses for different occasions: more blue for task work and more red for reading or relaxation. There is some evidence that more sun-like lighting temperatures can disrupt sleeping patterns - so the idea would be to avoid them for a few hours before planning sleep.
posted by rongorongo at 4:52 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

You might experiment temporarily with several lights and some good bounce, find large sheets of off white, like poster board and move elements around, take the shade off a regular lamp and use a poster board on a chair to bounce the light at a wall. Then when there's good visibility replicate that with more normal fixtures.

Lots of good info in the previous posts but a single great bulb may not be sufficient and you may want to try a variety of different bulbs in different positions to get a good balance. Too bright will end up being tiring so you may want to crochet for a while on each setup.
posted by sammyo at 8:32 AM on August 15, 2016

Hello fellow crocheter! Especially for night working, some kind of task lamp is what you need. A new bulb in an uplight isn't going to do you much good because it is a flood light, not a directed one.

Realistically, as long as you have already matched your colors in daylight, you don't need a daylight bulb. You just need better directed light. Even Ott lights are not perfect for daylight anyway, though they really are great for crafting. (We have both real and knock-off Ott Lights, both are good)

What you need is a lamp with a flexible neck, so that you can point it where you need it. Floor based are better for positioning over your hands. The benefit of not using an Ott Light is that you can choose whatever color and brightness of bulb you want. Ott Lights are damn bright and only use Ott bulbs, and are expensive. I like being able to use something that is not an artifical sun when hooking at 2 am, so I usea cheap lamp that looks like a super tall desk lamp, usually with a bulb that isn't very bright. If you aren't ready to shell out for an Ott light, it is a good option.
posted by monopas at 12:00 PM on August 15, 2016

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