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Is it possible to paint (or otherwise colour) the silicone cover on a continuous LED strip? If so, are there specific paints to use?

I am running an LED strip along a wooden lamp I am making. The strip is a COB (Chip on Board), continous LED only 4mm wide and <2mm thick (as shown below). The LED strip will be run in a small channel/rebate so the top is flush with the surface of the wood.

The LED strip is a yellow colour that contrasts badly with the wood. When the light is off it will look ugly, so I'd like to hide it. I have experimented putting the LED strip behind a diffuser, however any diffuser that sufficiently hides the yellow colour of the strip also blocks too much light. So, my next thought is to try to colour the strip in some way, perhaps using an airbrush.

Here is an example of the LED strip set into a rebate in a piece of ash. This represents its position in the final piece.

4mm Continuous LED strip partially set into rebate in a piece of ash

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    If you provide a picture of the lamp, with the strip attached, we might find a better solution which does not involve painting. So, if possible, please EDIT the question and add the picture of the lamp. This might be an XY problem.
    – virolino
    Apr 5, 2023 at 11:50
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    Most paints are opaque and with sufficient coverage to change the color of the strip will also block most of the light. Consider also that almost nothing will adhere to silicone other than silicone. You might be able to mix a transparent silicone material with colorant, but you're back to reducing the light level in an undesired manner.
    – fred_dot_u
    Apr 5, 2023 at 13:37
  • Thanks @fred_dot_u. I have seen it's possible to mix silicon based paint, which I may try airbrushing on to it, though as you said it may just block too much light. Apr 6, 2023 at 14:10
  • I assume you have considered deepening the rebate? That will naturally influence the light's angle, but will keep the strip out of sight (mostly). This could also be combined with a diffuser or other kind of strip that's flush with the wood.
    – Joachim
    Apr 7, 2023 at 12:01
  • Alasdair, have you found an appropriate method yet? Did any of the input here help?
    – Joachim
    Apr 20, 2023 at 13:23

1 Answer 1

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You are contending with multiple issues--coating silicone and color/brightness.

As fred_dot_u mentioned in a comment, silicone is one of the few things that will stick to silicone. If the surface of the LED strips will be exposed to handling, you could tint clear silicone and apply it. You also might get tints designed for faux stained glass to "stick" in the sense that it doesn't bead up before it dries and doesn't fall off as long as it isn't disturbed. But you would need to protect it with something clear and semi-rigid, like plastic or glass, because it would rub off if handled.

So that aspect is doable, although a colored diffuser might be a better solution (even if it isn't a good one, it might still be better, and more practical, than trying to color the LED surface).

There are two problems with color. Assuming the wood is some form of brown, you get to brown from yellow by mixing it with black. So putting something like a smoke-colored (gray) diffuser over the yellow LEDs should get you closer to something wood-color. It doesn't take much black, so the diffuser may not need to be very dark. But as you found, you will lose some of the light in the process. How much light you lose depends on how much tint there is; how much you need to modify the yellow to a color you like.

The second problem with color is that the colors are complementary depending on whether the LED is on or off. When it is off, you're dealing with subtractive color, and both the wood and LEDs are illuminated by broad spectrum light. So colors can absorb the part of the spectrum you don't want and leave a color you like.

When the LEDs are on, you're dealing with additive color. You can't start with yellow light and add other colors to it to make brown. You can only remove components of the yellow light. This color codes page gives some typical RGB combinations for wood browns. The LED yellow light is a combination of red and green in nearly equal amounts. You could filter out some of the green to get the red-green balance closer to what's in brown. But brown requires some blue light that is missing.

The gray filter that corrects for subtractive color just makes the yellow not as bright when the LED is on. Any color correction you make for when the LED is on will do unwanted things to the color when the LED is off.

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  • Thanks for this I've edited with a picture of the LED set into a piece of Ash that I'm testing with. It's only really the colour of the strip when its off that's an issue. I have seen it's possible to airbrush silicon paint so I may try that, and I can put a clear cover over to prevent it rubbing off. Apr 6, 2023 at 14:09
  • @AlasdairRoss, consider tinting the backside of a clear cover instead of the LED. You weren't happy with previous efforts using a diffuser. If you apply the tinting to the LED and don't get it perfect the first time, you're stuck with it because silicone won't come off. With a diffuser, you can play with it until you get it the way you want, including discarding it and starting over.
    – Dolly
    Apr 6, 2023 at 15:07
  • Thanks for this. Tinting the diffuser would be a better idea than colouring the strip itself. After some experimenting the LED strip was not bright enough to put behind a diffuser which would be opaque enough to block the yellow colour. Instead I've opted for a brighter strip and will use a diffuser strip. Apr 23, 2023 at 15:25
  • @AlasdairRoss, another option is to not go for an opaque cover that hides the LED strip, but one with just enough gray tint to make the LED strip look brownish, which might be less garish and go better against the wood.
    – Dolly
    Apr 23, 2023 at 18:46

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