Can You Paint LED Light Bulbs?

Are you hosting a themed party and needing inspiration to cheaply transform your home into a spooky witch’s lair?

Or are you a keen photographer thinking about how you can give your next photoshoot a creative edge?

In either case, modifying your lighting is a great place to start.

LEDs are safe and easy to paint as long as it’s done correctly. Use heat resistant glass paint and avoid flammable substances such as oil paint or nail varnish. For a diffused effect, sand the bulb before applying the paint.

While colored LEDs have gradually become more accessible, there’s still a notable price difference between white LEDs and their colored counterparts.

So I don’t blame you for researching how to take matters into your own hands.

If you search online, you’ll be presented with all sorts of contradicting answers – yes? No? Maybe? Only with certain types of paint? In this article, I’m going to settle the debate once and for all.

Keep reading for a handy guide on how to paint LEDs, including the type of paint you should use and its effect on light output.

Is It Safe To Paint LED Light Bulbs?

The most common cause for concern in this area is safety. Just how safe is it to paint an LED bulb?

When applied to a light bulb, paint acts as a coat of insulation. That is, it makes it difficult for heat to escape.

Why is this a problem? The surface of a bulb typically serves as a heat dissipation device – excess heat is released through the glass. So adding a layer of paint causes heat to build up inside the bulb.

With conventional bulbs, such as incandescents and fluorescents, this can be extremely dangerous. If they get too hot, the inside filament will snap, and the bulb will blow. At the extreme end of the scale, the glass itself may even shatter or explode.

However, with LEDs, it’s not that big of a deal. LEDs still produce heat, but nowhere near as much as conventional bulbs.

Nevertheless, please bear in mind that heat is the enemy of LEDs. By painting your bulbs and allowing excess heat to build up, your LEDs will gradually dim. This is called lumen degradation.

So to put it simply: yes, it is safe to paint LEDs, but it will shorten their lifespan.

Even if the paint you apply causes your LEDs to reach an extreme temperature, there is no safety hazard since most LEDs are connected to a transformer that regulates the supply of electricity.

Can You Help Me Please?

The claimed lifespan of LED lights varies, but usually falls anywhere between 15-25,000 hours. I have decided to understand whether it’s true or not, and you can help me with this.

I have created a completely anonymous survey to understand the real lifespan of LED lights in the daily environment. The whole questionnaire has only 7 straightforward questions and won’t take more than a few minutes of your time.

Click below to contribute. Thanks.

What’s more, most modern diodes are surrounded by shatterproof epoxy resin, rather than fragile glass.

If you’re apprehensive, always air on the side of safety when it comes to electricals. Remember to unplug your LEDs before you begin painting and ensure that the paint is fully dry before you plug them back in.

Can You Paint LED Bulbs With Acrylic Paint?

Now that you know it’s safe to paint LEDs, you’re probably wondering what kind of paint you’ll need. What about standard acrylic paint that you can purchase from a craft store? Will that work?

Here’s where it gets tricky. Acrylic paint is water-based. While it is safe to use acrylic on LED bulbs, the paint is likely to evaporate, burn, or change color when exposed to heat.

This is fine if you’re looking for a temporary modification, but not the best if you’re looking for a long-lasting solution.

Frustratingly, oil-based paints aren’t suitable for painting LEDs either. This is because oil is extremely flammable, so they constitute a safety hazard when the bulb is allowed to reach high temperatures.

What’s the alternative?

The secret is to choose a heat-resistant glass paint. Much like acrylics, these paints are water-based. However, the addition of heat-resistant chemicals means the paint won’t degrade or change color when exposed to heat.

The only downside is that paint will negatively impact lumen output. Depending on the opacity of your paint, painted bulbs will be dimmer than non-painted bulbs. If your paint is extremely opaque, the light may not be usable.

Ready to paint your LEDs? Follow this step-by-step guide to guarantee that your DIY project goes smoothly:

Step one: Decide if you want your lights to appear diffused. If yes, use fine sandpaper to lightly sand over the entire LED bulb. If no, skip to step 2.

Step two: Clean the bulb with a paper towel and rubbing alcohol to ensure there is no dust or grease on the surface.

Step three: For an opaque look, prepare your bulb with paint primer. This will help the paint to adhere to the bulb.

Step four: Apply the paint to your LED bulb. Use thin layers and make sure you cover the entire bulb so no white light can shine through.

Step five: Allow each layer to dry thoroughly before plugging your LEDs in to see if you’re happy with the result. Apply more layers of paint if necessary.

Can You Use Sharpie Markers?

If you don’t already own heat-resistant glass paints, you may find yourself forking out anything between $10 and $30 on Amazon.

Is there a cheaper, more accessible option?

Instead of paint, you can color your LED bulbs with Sharpie permanent markers or highlighters. This method means you can customize your bulbs using utensils you already own, no additional purchases necessary.

Sharpies are available in over 40 unique colors, so there’s definitely something for everyone. You could even use a combination of colors to create interesting shapes and patterns on your bulb. That’s certainly one way to make your lighting stand out!

The benefit of using Sharpies instead of paint is that they can easily be wiped off with a paper towel and some rubbing alcohol. So if you change your mind and want your old bulb back, it’s no big deal.

But bear in mind that permanent doesn’t mean forever. Being subjected to heat will cause Sharpies to fade gradually over time.

Will Painting LED Bulbs In Yellow Make The Light Look Warmer?

I’ve discussed themed parties and photoshoots, but what if you want a more permanent solution?

When LEDs first became popular around 20 years ago, most people hadn’t heard of correlated color temperature (CCT).

The result?

Lots of people bought LEDs without paying attention to their CCT and subsequently disliked the cool, blue-toned light they emit.

With that in mind, can you make cool LEDs look warmer by painting them yellow?

The answer: yes!

The trickiest part of this is finding the correct color of yellow. The color of paint you choose is not necessarily the color that the light will emit.

If your lights are extremely cool, a pale yellow will merely neutralize your lights so that they emit a balanced white. If you want warm, yellow glow, you’ll need a deeper shade of yellow or perhaps orange.

Final Words

So there you have it, if colored LEDs aren’t accessible to you or you’re looking for a creative way to spruce up the lights in your home, heat-resistant glass paint is a great solution.

I think you’ll be surprised how much your home can be transformed by this simple DIY hack.

Have you tried painting LED bulbs in the past? What kind of paint did you use?

Leave a comment, I would love to know how they turned out!

16 thoughts on “Can You Paint LED Light Bulbs?”

  1. Exactly my problem! I changed the lights in my place with LED bulbs and I’m very happy with them and all but I seriously dislike the white cool color they all have even though I made sure to buy the “warm colored” ones. Even more important than that is that there is a resident here struggling with depression and the doc told them warmer lights help more so I just have to do something about it even if it meant going back to normal light bulbs. I’m looking to see what options I have and honestly I’m totally lost when people say glass paint can be used. I have used glass paint before on actual windows and in summer as soon as they heat up they melt and become gummy and runny! I don’t even want to know what will happen if I use those on LED bulbs even though I always check the bulbs and even after 12 hours of being on nonstop they’re still cold. Just like you mentioned the shade is also hard to choose since I’m looking for a yellow shade similar to normal old light bulbs. Can we use just about any markers on LED light bulbs? Like those yellow highlighters? Or the markers kids use to draw? Or maybe even just colored pencils? Can we use nail polish or will those also melt down?

    Reply
    • Hi M,

      Thanks for stopping by. In that case I would probably forward you to my other post, about making your lights look warmer. In other case, as I said in the article, you can use a marker, I would avoid using highlighter, because it will wipe off, it doesn’t stick to glass very well from my experience. I haven’t tried pencils, but think that they need more rough surface so that the color can adhere onto something, which glass doesn’t necessarily provide.

      Let me know about nail polisher if you try haha, that’s a good one.

      Eugen

      Reply
      • Thank you very much for your helpful article and fast reply! Since LED lights are just finding their place in the global market I’m sure many many more like myself would look for articles like this. Thank you for the link too, I read it. The LED light bulbs I got have plastic bulbs that look matte or frosted and are not completely glossy. I tried regular colored pencils and it either didn’t show on them or if I tried to put more force into it there were tiny bits of residue left which I assume would be problematic in the long run. They were easily removable though. I asked several friends who use nail polish often and they let me know that the colored nail polish, if used alone, would often act the same as glass paints and would start to melt even in the heat of summer outdoors at times and the nail polish that are branded are more likely to slowly crack and fall off from the bulb over time especially since the bulbs are round. I’m a bit wary of trying to use different colored markers to see if they’d work since many of them might not be removable and these lights weren’t particularly cheap and could still be used for a long time elsewhere as they are. Eventually I think I’d give up and just buy a less brighter LED light that was manufactured in yellow by default (the plastic bulb itself is yellow on them) but still the difference will be vast since the ones I got first are around 20 Watts, easily found in stores and still more reasonably priced and the brightest yellow ones I’d be able to find and buy would be around 12 Watts and still a challenge to find and I would be in complete dark about what exactly I should expect since I never had any experiences with LED light bulbs before this and much less with the colored ones, I just recently managed to grasp the equivalent of their Lumens and Watts in relation to other older kinds of light bulbs.

        Anyways, sorry for my long comments and thank you very much for your help.

        Reply
        • Thanks for sharing your experience with nail polish :). Based on your comments I think there might be a solution for you. I would probably have a look at Philips bulbs called Philips Warm Glow. They do change the color temperature as you need and many people loved them, I do plan to get them soon for my bedroom so I can share my thoughts later, but have a look in a meantime.

          Cheers

          Reply
  2. This was super informative! I’m about to make a spooky outdoor lighting set up for Halloween and this article was just what I needed to make sure I don’t screw anything up. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Jenny,

      Thank you very much 🙂 I am glad you have found the content interesting. Good luck with decorations, and feel free to send some pictures to me via email if you want.

      Eugen

      Reply
  3. Hi there , I hate the bright LED christmas tree lights and am trying to reduce the brightness to make it more cozy and more like incandescent lights (which we dont get in my country) . What can i do to reduce the sharp , bright glare of the LED lights? Can i spray each bulb with a frosted paint? or maybe sandpaper the surface to diffuse the light? … Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • Hi Esther,

      I wouldn’t recommend spraying the strip lights, because the paint can get into circuit and damage the light itself. I have covered it in my other post. So what you can do is to either get a CTO filter, but I assume that you have got way too long of the strip to cover with CTO filter. So maybe you can try the marker, or simply get the strip light where you can adjust the brightness or change colors.

      Hope this helps
      Eugen

      Reply
  4. Happy Holidays all!
    We bought strings of replaceable C9 LED lights for our house for Christmas this year. They are “warm white”, but very bright, much more that we expected or intended. Before spending $40+ for some ‘yellow’ or ‘gold’ bulbs to try and see if they are more to our liking, I was wondering if there were some alternatives and landed here. Good info. I’m wondering if I could try a heat resistant paint but water it down a little so as to lessen it’s coverage of the bulbs.

    Reply
    • Hi JP,

      Happy holidays to you too. This information refers more to the classic bulbs rather than LED strips. The reason for this is that they are more inclined to get damaged by painting as the paint stuff can get into the circuits. I have the whole article about it, so check it out.

      Eugen

      Reply
  5. Dear Eugen:

    I have a lawn with large Oak trees that shade the ground and prevent the growth of grass.
    I tried stringing clear LED lights over a part of the lawn and was impressed with the degree of growth of the grass as compared to adjacent areas.
    The yard is a mess at this time and I would like to string Blue LED lights across the lawn. Unfortunately, Blue Bulbs are quite expensive. Would painting a bulb blue enhance its plant growth potential??

    Mike

    Reply
    • Hi Mike,

      In fact, I have written the article about LEDs and their use as the grow lights, so have a read here. Of course the blue bulbs will be better because they will emit much more light. The problem with painting is that you will lose a % of emitted light, but the blue light will be the same type as you would get from blue bulb.

      Eugen

      Reply

Leave a Comment