Here at Evan Designs, we offer an immense variety of the brightest LED lights, power sources, and lighting accessories. With all of these choices, it can be overwhelming knowing where to get started, and what hobby LED to buy. In this article we will explain the different miniature LEDs and power supply options we carry, to help you choose the best lighting system for your hobby projects. There are 6 main things to consider when choosing LED lights for models:
To make your project look its best you need lights that are not too dim or bright. If too dim, viewers will not see some of the details in your project, while lights that are too bright will detract from the look you are trying to achieve. Often you will want the lighting levels evenly distributed across your project, however with many projects you will want the lighting to provide emphasis to unique elements in your project. If you are modeling a stage you will likely want one or more spotlights that focus on your actors. If you have a dollhouse you may want your lights brighter in the kitchen.
Larger areas you will want more light. This is accomplished by a larger LED(s) and/or more lights. If you are unsure of how many LEDs to add to a large room we suggest you can hold one or more lit LEDs and move them into the room to see how they look.
Bulb Style LEDs
The two main styles of small LEDs lights sold here at Evan Designs are the bulb style and the chip style LED. Both are very bright, so you don't have to worry about sacrificing brightness no matter what style you choose. As seen in the photo at the top of this page, the bulb style mini LED resembles a light bulb and has a silicone “bulb” covering the micro LED’s working components. The bulb gives off a more directional “spotlight effect” which is great for the headlights of cars or trains, ship spotlights, or anywhere you need directional light. The bulb is also convenient for inserting into the headlights of cars where just the tip of the LED bulb can be seen, looking like a real headlight. Another example of where you want the bulb to be seen is with our water tower flasher, pictured above. Finally, if you do choose the bulb style mini LED light but want a wider light spread, it is possible to sand the tip of the bulb flat. All the bulb style LEDs we offer have a clear epoxy lens. We find this preferable to LEDs where the lenses are diffused with color. With a clear lens the true color is emitted by the metal of the diode as opposed to that of the tint in the lens. If you wish to see the color of the light when the LED is not lit you can paint the LED with a small amount of acrylic paint using the same color as the LED.
Chip Style LEDs
Chip style tiny LEDs offer a wide light spread, as opposed to the directional light of the mini bulb LEDs. Additionally, because some of our Chip LEDs are extremely small and flat, they are great for small places or places where you want to hide the light. Hobby projects where chip LED lights are a great choice include, lighting the inside of buildings, models and dioramas, figurines, ships, airplanes, and practically anything you can imagine, you can light. To see both styles in use, visit our gallery page at EvanDesigns.com for hundreds of customer creations, https://evandesigns.com/pages/evan-designs-led-gallery
Now that you’ve chosen an LED model light style, it is time to choose the correct size of battery operated LED light for your project. For a full guide to the dimensions of all Evan Designs mini LED lights, please visit https://evandesigns.com/pages/information-about-led-sizes. For now, we will just go over the basics of the micro LED sizes offered at Evan Designs. If you are unsure what size to use, an easy solution is to measure the opening or space you’d like to place your mini LED in and then match this measurement to our hobby LED sizing guide. If you find an LED fits very loosely in a hole, or you want to fit a Chip Style LED in a round hole use some puddy or our holding wax to file the void and hold the LED securely
In order from smallest to largest, these are the chip style LEDs offered at Evan Designs: Z, Pico, Nano, Chip, Deka, and MEGA. For the bulb style we offer; 1.8mm, 3mm and 5mm LED lights.
- Chip, Nano, Pico and Z LEDs are great for use in action figures, small model cars, planes, and sci-fi creations such as space ships.
- 1.8mm hobby LED lights are used in 1:160 and 1:144 scale models. These bulbs are excellent for models where there is not much space to fit a bulb.
- 3mm micro LEDs are great for locomotive headlights, warning beacon lights, train running lights and ditch lights,1:18 and 1:43 die cast modifications, most RC uses, as well as diorama street lighting. In terms of brightness, there isn't much difference between 3mm and 5mm mini LEDs.
- 5mm and Mega are the largest size hobby LEDs we offer. We suggest using them for building lighting, passenger car lighting, or larger scale train running lights.
Now that you have narrowed down what size and style of small LED you need for your hobby project it is time to choose the voltage of your bright LED lights. At Evan Designs, we offer 3 voltage options: 3 volt DC, 5-12 volt DC and Universal 7-19 volt AC/DC/DCC. Both the 3 volt and the 5-12 volt options are great for any hobby project that you plan to run off of battery power, or off of an Evan Design wall adapter. You can use your own Adapter if it indicates that it is “Fast Switching” or “Regulated”. The voltage will depend on what power supply you choose to use, but we will discuss more on that in the next section. Our Bridge Rectified Universal LEDs 7-19 volt AC/DC/DCC are specifically designed to run on any track power, or other non-Regulated power supplies so are a great choice if you are lighting model trains.
Finally, you need to choose a power supply for your mini LED lights. The power supply you will pick depends on your mini LED voltage, the area you have to hide your power supply, and how many small LEDs you want to power for how long. While LEDs are energy efficient, all batteries will have a finite lifetime when running mini LED lights. If you want to run LED model lights continuously, or a large amount of micro LEDs for a long time, our wall adapter is an excellent choice. It can supply continuous power to your mini lights and will not have to be replaced like lithium batteries.
We tested all of our battery power supplies' lifespan when connected to 10 Evan Designs 3mm cool white LEDs. The results of these tests can be seen in the chart below.
For our 3 volt small LEDs you can use a small coin cell battery holder, a coin cell holder, a AA battery holder, a AAA battery holder, or an Evan Designs 3 volt adaptor. Both the small and regular coin cell holders are an excellent choice for small areas where you want the power source to be hidden. A coin cell CR2032 battery can run up to 10 of our brightest LEDs at a time.
Both the 3 volt AA and AAA battery packs we offer are a great choice when you want to power a larger number of lights for longer. A set of AA batteries can run up to 75 3 volt mini LEDs at maximum brightness. The AAA pack is slightly smaller and thus good for tight spaces. We also offer the inline AAA pack that places the AAA batteries in a line so they can be easily hidden in your hobby projects. Both AAA battery holders can power up to 50 mini LEDs at a time. Finally, for 3 volt LEDs, you can use Evan Design’s 3 volt wall adaptor. The 1 amp can run 1-50 LEDs and the 2 amp can run 1-100 tiny LEDs.
For 5-12 volt micro LEDs we have two options of power supplies, the 9 volt battery, and the 12 volt wall adapter. The 9 volt battery holder with switch can run up to 50 LEDs of the brightest for 4.5 hours before the battery has to be replaced. Again with the 12 volt adaptor; the 1 amp will run 1-50 LEDs and the 2 amp will run 1-100 LEDs. With the wall adaptors, as long as you have power in your house, your lights will run.
7-19 Volt Universal LEDs
Evan Designs universal hobby LED lights are designed to run on all types of train transformers and track power supplies. Simply connect these LEDs to your track power source and you have light!
Placing Your Order
We hope after reading this article you feel confident to choose the right LED lights for your hobby project.
As you can see here at Evan Designs we offer many different LED types and power supply combinations. We always encourage our customers to contact us with any questions, so if you're still unsure of what LED to buy, please email us at email@example.com Comment below your favorite voltage to use in your hobby projects, and be sure to check out our other articles on topics such as What is Voltage? and Five Ways to Dim your LEDs.