The performance characteristics of white light sources based on a multiple-LED approach, in particular dichromatic and trichromatic sources are analyzed in detail. Figures of merit such as the luminous efficacy, color temperature, and color rendering capabilities are provided for a wide range of primary emission wavelengths. Spectral power density functions of LEDs are assumed to be thermally and inhomogeneously broadened to a full width at half maximum of several kT , in agreement with experimental results. A gaussian line shape is assumed for each of the emission bands. It is shown that multi-LED white light sources have the potential for luminous efficacies greater than 400 lm/W (dichromatic source) and color rendering indices of greater than 90 (trichromatic source). Contour maps for the color rendering indices and luminous efficacies versus three wavelengths are given.© (2004) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.