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.
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:
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).
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.
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!