LED Lighting: Backlighting Basics

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Lighting is an effective way to change the mood in a room. While dimmers and programmable lighting seem to be gaining popularity, one underused way to light a home interior is with LED backlighting.

Backlighting is what it sounds like: lighting that illuminates objects from behind. When you light from behind– a mirror, bed, artwork or TV—the object looks like it’s glowing. It’s lighting for big drama and a cool feeling. Backlighting is also a sneaky way to create modern mood lighting without having to spend a ton of money, or time, to make it happen.

A TV featuring backlighting with tape lighting from Lamps Plus.
Backlighting a TV with tape lighting can be a fun way to add a modern feel to your media room.

If you are new to backlighting, there are a few basics you’ll want to know about before filling up your shopping cart.

1. Which objects to backlight?

Selective backlighting involves planning. Backlighting doesn’t mean that you have to outline everything in the room. It can look a little ‘Star Trek’ if you outline every picture, shelf, etc., in a room. And it can get a little visually frenetic. Your eyes will be in lighting overload and it will look more like a kid’s party place at the local bouncy-party place than your slick living room. Instead, focus on the TV or the mantel or that treasured wall art you created with your family.

A mirror with backlighting.
Backlighting a mirror can be a perfect way to have a stylish night light in the bathroom.

Designer Tip: Backlighting a mirror creates drama in the bath and it also can serve up a mood changer for evening baths. And, even serve as a stylish way to light it as a night light.

2. What kind of light?

So, most of us immediately jump to LED tape lights as the ideal way to ‘outline’ an object, it doesn’t mean that they are the only product you can use. Try it out and see if you like the look because LED tape lights offer the most consistent glow along the entire length.

An LED rope light from Lamps Plus.
This indoor-outdoor LED rope light uses just 8 watts of power and can be connected to create longer lengths.

3. How bright is the light?

Like anything in home design, it always settles on what you love. If you want a super-modern bright space-ship feel for your bedroom, you’ll want to have a cool light that’s super bright.

Brightness is measured in lumens. The higher the lumens, the brighter the light. If you want your LED backlighting to be comparable to a 60-watt incandescent, go for an 800 lumen light.

One of the best features of backlighting is that if you use lighting that’s battery operated or plug-ins, it will be easy to experiment and change the mood depending on the season and the reason.

In any space you want to make sure you cover the lighting basics: ambient, task and accent.

Which of these LED backlighting techniques can you use in your home?