Colored LED lights make great decor for setting the mood in any indoor or outdoor space. You can choose any vibe you want – romantic, spooky, relaxing, etc.
But colored LED lights are somewhat more expensive than white LED lights. So if spending on readily colored LED light bulbs is not an option for you, you might be considering crafting your way out.
Painting seems like a viable option, especially if you already have white light bulbs and paint. And the best thing about DIY painted LED lights is that you can customize them with desired colors and even patterns.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, can LED lights be painted? Yes, LED lights can be painted, provided you do it with the right type of paint, which is heat-resistant, non-flammable, and adheres to glass. You will also have to consider the opacity of your paint if you want the light to shine through.
Does it sound like something you want to try? Then read on to get more insight on the best paints for LED lights. There’s also a step-by-step guide on how to paint LED light bulbs for the best results!
Is Painting LED Lights Safe?
You are probably painting LED lights for a themed party, revamping your child’s room, accenting a TV console, or just taking a break from bright white light. And when it comes to trying new things in our homes, safety always comes first.
We did mention that you can paint LED lights. But is it safe to paint LED lights? Yes, it is safe to paint LED lights. You might have come across a contrary opinion, so let’s address that.
The argument is that painting bulbs leads to heat building up inside the bulb. Indeed, anything applied to the surface that blocks the light or insulates the bulb alters how it dissipates heat.
Light bulbs are made clear or translucent to release excess heat and prevent overheating. Applying a layer of paint on top of the surface of the light bulb creates a barrier and interferes with this self-cooling system.
Excess heat built up from the trapped light caused by the insulation from the paint can make bulbs crack, explode, or blow up. But not LED lights. Luckily, LED lights are built differently.
First, LED light bulbs do not produce as much heat as ordinary light bulbs. In addition to the low heat output, they are also fitted with a transformer that regulates the amount of voltage and lowers it when the heat is in excess.
To top it off, the modern diodes are lined with shatterproof epoxy resin. So yes, painting LED lights is safe.
While safety is guaranteed, the lifespan of your LED light will, unfortunately, be shortened. Heat built-up will certainly cause lumen degradation that deteriorates the bulb. You’ll notice the light getting dimmer and dimmer with time.
What Kind Of Paint Should You Use On LED Lights?
The best kind of paint to use on LED lights is heat-resistant glass paint. High heat may melt, evaporate, brown, or burn certain types of paint.
However, heat-resistant paint contains unique ingredients that preserve the paint’s integrity even within proximity to high heat.
That said, LED lights do not produce as much heat as incandescent lights. So you can get away with acrylic paint, which is heat-resistant up to 300°F. However, acrylics likely won’t be transparent enough.
You also want to choose glass paints since LED light bulbs are made of glass. Glass is a typically tricky surface to adhere paint to due to its slickness and lack of grit.
Therefore, you’ll have an easier time with paints specifically designed for glass painting like the Lumiere, Vitrea by Pebeo, Rust-Oleum, or Krylon brand of glass paints.
It will also be best if the paint is not opaque. When the paint is opaque and covers the bulb completely, it will not emit any light, and you will not achieve the desired effect. It is better to check the coverage of the paint and opt for translucent or semi-opaque paint.
Lacquer-based paints contain less solid pigment and are not quite opaque.
Don’t have paint that satisfies these criteria? You can use a sharpie or any other permanent marker, though glass paint markers are the best option.
These are really accessible alternatives to traditional paint, and they come in a wide range of gorgeous colors. Furthermore, it is easier and less messy to draw the bulb with a marker than with paint.
A marker-painted bulb is also easier to clean if you want to reverse the LED light bulbs to their original state after the party or if you hate the outcome. The color wipes off with acetone.
Lastly, you may also use the dishwasher-safe version of mod podge or Elmer’s glue mixed with food coloring. It is not paint, but works just as great.
Paints To Avoid When Painting LED Lights
Having covered the best paint to use on LED lights, it is also important to mention what type of paint to avoid when painting LED lights.
The first one is oil paints. Oil paints take a long time to dry, which makes the handling of your LED lights difficult. But that’s rarely the primary concern.
The biggest issue with oil paint is that it is highly flammable even when dry. When painted on LED light bulbs, it becomes a potential fire hazard in your home.
Another type of paint that is not the best for LED lights is enamel-based paint. Enamel-based paint is frequently oil-based. It also contains a high solid pigment content and is very opaque. It will dim the light too much, if not block it out completely.
You’ve also probably thought of using nail polish, haven’t you? Nail polish or nail varnish is a flammable material. In addition, it is not heat-resistant and easily flakes and falls off the bulb with the introduction to heat.
Also, nail polish tends to be too thick and somewhat opaque. Other additives in nail polish, such as glitter, are an absolute no when painting LED lights.
Can You Paint White LED Lights To Make White Light Warmer?
Yes, you can paint white LED lights to make them warmer. You have to experiment with the colors yellow, peach, and orange to find which result works for you.
How To Paint LED Lights Step-By-Step
Before beginning to paint LED light, ensure you have the following things:
- Heat resistant and transparent glass paint, or markers
- LED light bulbs or lamps that are no more than 40 watts and clear
- Tacky putty, clay, painter’s tape, or any clamping mechanism to secure bulbs while painting and drying
How to do it:
- Unscrew the LED light bulb from the socket if in one. Ensure it is turned off and completely cool. Never paint a bulb directly from the socket or while hot.
- Using 200-400 grit sandpaper, lightly sand the surface of the bulb. This action helps to produce a more diffused ray of light. You can skip this part if that is not the effect you are going for.
- Remove dirt and dust from the surface of the bulb using a paper towel. Follow this up with rubbing alcohol and a lint-free piece of cloth or cotton wool. Dab the cloth in the alcohol and carefully wipe down the glass part to remove any traces of smear and debris. Ensure you do not leave any fibers on the glass.
- Secure the LED light bulb on a table or other surface using tacky putty, clay, or another clamping mechanism that keeps it firm enough and appropriately positioned to paint.
- If spray-painting, seal off the handle and the seam where glass and handle meet to prevent paint particles from entering the circuit.
- If it is a strip of LED lights, lay it down straightened on a drop cloth or newspapers. Use painter’s tape to secure it down.
- You can mask the areas that you will not be painting. Since strips are very heat sensitive, we suggest painting only the tips.
- Apply a primer to help the paints adhere better to the glass, then apply paint in a very thin or light coat. Some people prefer dipping the light bulb into a bowl of color instead for even coverage. You can use one solid color or mix colors in strips or create patterns if you wish, freehand or using a stencil.
- Allow the LED lights to fully dry; this takes at least 6 hours before you can plug them in. If you notice any white light peeking through, or you need the light to be much dimmer, you can paint the missed spots or add another coat of paint.
LED lights can be painted, and it is absolutely safe to do so. You only have to use the right paint for the job. Heat-resistant glass paint is the best paint for painting LED lights. Most importantly, follow the correct technique and handle the lights delicately and with great care. Happy painting and enjoy the ambiance!
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