The small LED lights sold at Evan Designs are surprisingly bright. Even our mini LEDs, the smallest being the Z light measuring just .65 mm acrost, puts out a lot of light. Many customers love how bright our lights are, but for some LED projects, a dimmer micro LED may be preferred. In this article we will discuss in detail the five ways to dim your hobby LED lights to make them the perfect fit for model projects.
Five Ways to Dim Battery LED Lights:
- Choosing a smaller LED lights
- Creating a wider light spread
- Painting tiny LED lights
- Dimming LEDs using Evan Design’s remote control dimmer
- Running lights on a lower voltage
1. Choosing a smaller LED lights
The first thing to consider when choosing model lighting is the size of LEDs. Our brightest LED hobby lights are our Mega LEDs, and our 5mm LEDs. These, due to their large size, will produce the most light. If you are looking for less light, you may want to consider choosing a smaller size of LED such as the 3mm, 1.8mm, Chip, Nano, Pico or Z. With each smaller size of LED, the miniature LEDs put out a little less light. See figure A to compare brightness based on sizes of our LED lights.
Bulb top to bottom warm white:
- 1.8 mm
- 3 mm
Chip top to bottom warm white:
2. Creating a wider light spread
The second thing to consider when trying to dim your hobby lights is creating a wider light spread. If the light is less directed in a “spot light effect” certain areas may appear less bright. At Evan Designs we sell both bulb style and chip style small LED lights. The bulb style includes our 5mm, 3mm and 1.8mm battery operated LEDs, and these “wide angle” lights have an average light spread of 35 degrees. These produce a spot light effect with a directed light stream. To create a wider spread, you can lightly sand the rounded top of the miniature lights for models without hurting the LED. After sanding the light spread will be 80 degrees or more. Alternatively, our surface mount Z, Pico, Nano, Chip and Mega hobby lights have a wide light spread due to their flat shape, and will light a whole room instead of just a focused area.
3. Painting tiny LED lights
Painting your small battery operated lights can also be an easy way to dim hobby LED lights. Acrylic or enamel paint can be applied to micro LED lights for models without damaging the light. To start, apply a thin coat, let it dry and test your model light for brightness. If you are not satisfied with the dimming effect, repeat adding a second coat, letting it dry and testing. At Evan Designs, we found that acrylic paint takes down brightness by 50% and enamel paint cuts brightness by 10-20%. See Figure B for an example of the brightness of a painted light vs a non painted light. Additionally, to cut down on side light on our bulb style lights, we recommend using a piece of shrink tube and sliding it over the base of the light. Do not heat the shrink tube and only use a piece just large enough to cover the sides of the bulb.
Left: 1.8 mm Cool White un-painted Right:1.8 mm Cool White painted
4. Dimming LEDs using Evan Design’s remote control dimmer
Another great option for dimming your micro lights is dimming using our remote control dimmer. At Evan Designs we offer a remote control kit that turns LEDs on and off, and features 4 brightness settings, from very dim to very bright. This is a great way to temporarily dim your lights and change the brightness as you see fit. The kit comes with a handheld controller and a receiver wiring harness that connects to Evan Design’s mini LEDs. You can hook up to 30 of most of our LEDs (with our Mega LEDs the maximum is 29) to a receiver harness. If you want to control more LEDs, you can get additional harnesses and use the same controller. See Figure C for a photo of our remote control LED dimmer.
5. Running lights on a lower voltage
The final way to dim your bright LED lights is using voltage. If you run your battery operated LED lights on a lower battery voltage, you will end up with less current going to your lights, and as a result a dimmer light. For example a 5-12 volt light run on a 3 volt battery will appear dimmer that it would on a 9 volt battery. It is important to note that while you can run a higher voltage light on a lower voltage battery the reverse is not true. If you run a 3 volt micro LED light on a 9 volt battery, the light will not be brighter it will simply burn out and no longer be usable.