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Diffuse LED Strip: Warmer, Softened LED Lighting

LED light strips are typical decorative/lighting fixtures in many homes because they are bright, durable, and consume little power. However, the brightness from these light fixtures can harm the eyes and not spread out evenly. But you can diffuse LED strip to distribute the light and correct these problems. There are several ways to diffuse LEDs, and we have covered all these details in this article. Take a look!

Why Do People Diffuse LEDs and Strip Lights?

The primary reason for diffusing light is to soften the brightness. Some people are sensitive to light coming from any direction. Therefore, bright light fixtures can harm their eyes, cause headaches, or create other discomforts. Diffusing can conceal the LEDs but allow light to spread out harmoniously.

An LED strip

An LED strip

Besides that, diffusing light enhances the aesthetics and sets the mood for the room. Also, it works with other decorative features, such as flowers and shadow clocks, creating beautiful ambient light or softer glows on specific areas.

An LED strip light diffuser

An LED strip light diffuser

Diffusers also:

  • Simplify cleaning/maintenance
  • Protect the source of light (LEDs)
  • Reduce reflection on surfaces

How to Diffuse LED Light?

You can use the following tips to diffuse LEDs.

Turn the Light Down

Replacing the light source with lower wattage bulbs can reduce the light intensity from the fixture. Also, installing shades and lenses made of materials like frosted glass or plastics (perspex) can reduce glare and soften the light.

Use a Diffuser

Aluminum extrusions with frosted lenses are cheap and simple ways of diffusing light. They create a line or curve of softer light that you can gaze upon without harming your eyes.

Diffused ceiling lights

Diffused ceiling lights

Use a Different Color Temperature

The Kelvin scale gives ratings for color temperature. Higher white color temperature ratings of about 4000K have more blue wavelengths that appear "cooler" and more intense.

Cooler white color temperature

Cooler white color temperature

However, warmer whites like 2600K are less intense because they have more orange, red, and yellow tones. Therefore, they give a more relaxing feel, making them ideal for lounges.

Warmer white color temperature

Warmer white color temperature

Dim the Lighting

Instead of replacing high-wattage bulbs with the low-wattage variety, you can use a dimmer switch to create a dimmable power supply. In addition to reducing the light intensity, these switches help eliminate light hot spots.

A dimmer switch alongside regular on/off switches

A dimmer switch alongside regular on/off switches

Replace Clear Lenses

Replacing the clear glass lens in recessed LED lights with a frosted lens will diffuse the light, making it softer for your eyes.

Replace Clear Bulbs

An alternative to replacing the clear lenses is to replace the clear bulbs or tubes with frosted versions.

How to Diffuse LED Light Strips?

The following are the two methods to diffuse LED light strips.

Diffusing by Using Barriers

As the name suggests, this method involves using covers around the light strips to get an even spread of light. Some of the diffusion materials suitable for this task are:

  • Fabrics: Old and thin cotton or knitted cloth pieces can create softer light from your light strips. They are affordable, easy to use, and durable.
  • Aluminum Channel Extrusions: Looking for a professional LED strip light diffuser? An aluminum LED channel is the best option. There are multiple variations in the market, including flat and curved ones. You only need to look for compatible aluminum extrusion housings.

Lights in a mason glass jar

  • Paper: Paper is an affordable solution that acts like frosted glass.
  • Glass: Glass comes in different shapes, colors, and sizes. Therefore, you have multiple options to choose from if using this barrier.
  • Opaque Materials: Plastics, acrylics, and other opaque materials are easily accessible light diffusers for LED strips.
  • Adhesives: Like glass, glue and thermoplastics come in different colors that you can use to create a better, softer glow.

Diffusing by Using Buffers

Also known as double diffusion, using buffers involves adding a second barrier between the existing one and the LED strip. If you think the first barrier is inadequate, add a second layer of diffusion to soften the glow.

Fun DIY Ways to Diffuse LED Light Strips

Try the following DIY ideas to diffuse LED light strips.

Shadow Box

This project is simple and requires the following items.

  • LED strips
  • Plain paper (any color)
  • Tape
  • Clean box

Cover all the box's sides using plain paper, but leave one open. After that, insert the LED lights in the box, arranging them however you like. Once done, cut out a design of your choice on the colored plain paper. Complete the project by sticking the paper in place on the remaining open section to seal the box.

Glass

Some mason glass jars have interesting internal textures that give excellent diffusion effects. You can enhance this effect by filling them with translucent beads or lining the interior with paper to spread the light lines.

Lights in a mason glass jar

Lights in a mason glass jar

Try painting the internal layer and creating cutouts on the paper lining before inserting the source of light inside. This project is perfect for Halloween.

LED Underlighting

Backlighting, underlighting, or ceiling lights designed to focus light on a specific object are technically not diffused lights. However, the light bouncing off the object creates a soft ambient illumination that is soothing to the eyes.

LED backlighting. Light-reflecting from the wall and countertop creates cozy lighting.

LED backlighting. Light-reflecting from the wall and countertop creates cozy lighting.

Ping Pong Balls

You can slice ping pong balls in half or cut a hole just big enough to fit the LEDs inside. Glowing ping pong balls can create multiple design items in your home or costumes for different evening or night events.

3D Printed LED Diffusers

If you have a 3D printer, you can create any 3D object with a translucent surface that can fit the LEDs.

A 3D printer at work

A 3D printer at work

How to Choose an LED Diffuser for Light Strips?

Consider the following factors before buying a diffuser.

Style

There are three diffuser cover styles.

  • Clear: A clear diffuser cover style only protects the LED light fixture but gives no diffusion. Therefore, you should avoid it unless you want to enhance the finished look of a custom fixture.
  • Frosted: This diffuser spreads the light output more evenly while eliminating most of the hot spots.
  • Milk: A milk/opal diffuser eliminates all the diode hot spots and reflections on highly reflective surfaces. It provides a uniform and consistent output, making it perfect for most residential and commercial applications.

LED diffusing acrylic sheets

The LED diffusing acrylic sheets

LED Strip Type

LED chips pack more LEDs into a tiny space, usually with a phosphorous coating. Therefore, they produce uniform light without hot spots, and you might not need a diffuser for them. Alternatively, you can use the clear or frosted style for protection or enhance their diffusion.

COB (Chip on Board) LEDs

COB (Chip on Board) LEDs

However, the traditional LED strip spreads light from the source in a straight line, which creates visible spots. Therefore, you should use the milk or frosted style with this strip type.

Shape

If using an aluminum LED strip channel, they come in multiple shape options. These include square, round, recessed, corner/angled, and flush. There's also the housing's shaper, which can be V-shaped for corners or U-shaped for surface mounting.

Best LED Diffusers

There are several LED diffusers in the market, but the ones that stand out are the following.

StarlandLed Aluminum Channel V-Shape (10-Pack)

This corner-mount LED diffuser features a brushed silver aluminum V-shaped housing that holds the LEDs, protects them, and dissipates the heat they produce. A milky white polycarbonate diffuser covers the LEDs in the housing, spreading the light more evenly in the outer area.

The pack contains ten 1-meter-long aluminum channels, end caps, and all the required mounting equipment. Each can accommodate strips up to 10.5mm wide, and you can cut them to fit shorter areas.

Hunhun U-Shape (20-Pack)

Like StarlandLed's extrusion, the Hunhun aluminum LED strip channel measures 1-meter long, but you get 20 pieces in each pack. This quantity makes the product suitable for large-scale projects. The product features a U-shape design for surface mounting, and the housing can accommodate wider 12mm LED strips.

An anodized exterior coating on the housing maximizes durability, while the high-quality milky-white diffuser will not turn yellow for two years.

LED strip diffuser cover

LED strip diffuser cover

The Main Difference between Diffused LED and Clear LED

Diffused LEDs contain an internal diffuser. Therefore, they emit soft light on all sides. On the other hand, clear LEDs channel the light outward in one direction, making them visible from far away. Also, they have a longer lifespan than the diffused type, meaning they are more economical.

Another difference is in the color temperature. Diffused LEDs have a lower (warmer) color temperature, while their clear counterparts have a higher or "cooler" temperature.

Summary

In conclusion, diffusing LED strips positively impacts the lighting quality by softening the brightness. There are several diffusion techniques, and you can try the DIY projects or buy ready-made light strip diffusers. If you have any questions or comments about these barriers, drop a message, and we'll be in touch.