Three essential things to know about backlighting

Published on:
August 30, 2021

Don't start a backlighting project before knowing these three things

We've completed thousands of amazing backlighting projects over the years and have dealt with virtually every scenario one could imagine. This story highlights a few essential points you should know when considering your very own backlighting project.

1. Select a forward-facing material first.

You've seen the incredible backlit countertops and architectural features and you'd like to start your very own project (check out our inspiration gallery). So now that you have an idea of what you'd like to accomplish, where do you start?

Get started by selecting the forward-facing material you wish to backlight. This is a critical first step and will determine a variety of factors that will affect the rest of your project. There are many natural and fabricated semi-transparent options available for backlighting in today's world. These include natural and fabricated stone, glass (stained, tempered, faceted, art), engineered composites and more.

Many of our customers head to their local stone showroom to explore natural options like onyx quartzite. Just tell the showroom staff about your project and that you'd like to find a semi-transparent material to backlight. They can point you in the right direction and potentially even demonstrate a piece's light transmission characteristics.

Test lighting an slab of honey onyx with a full Auragami Flexible LED Light Sheet sample

Each slab will respond differently to light. A good idea is to wheel the slab out into the daylight and look at it against the sun. We also offer a variety of portable samples that you can bring to the stone showroom to see how light affects the material you are considering.

Don't purchase a forward-facing material without testing it first! This material may shift the color of your light source and that will determine what color temperature you should use for a backlighting product. For example, a warm colored stone works better with a cool white color temperature. Some materials have very transparent features and this could cause undesirable LED dotting or hotspots. In that case, you will need to account for a level of diffusion between your light source and forward-facing material.

2. What is diffusion and is it necessary?

Diffusion helps spread out the light evenly across your backlit feature. Uniform surface brightness is essential to a successful backlighting project. Without the correct amount of diffusion, you could be left with ugly hotspots or even a direct view of LEDs if your material is very transparent in parts.

Some materials may not need any diffusion while some may need a substantial amount. The only way to determine this is to test light your material. Without us being on-site, we would just be guessing as to your diffusion needs.

The level of diffusion will be determined by the forward-facing material you have selected. Diffusion must be accounted for in the planning stage because it may require additional installation depth to pull it off successfully. Adding a diffuser as an afterthought will most likely delay your project and cause your contractors to have to rework the installation.

We look at diffusion in the following three ways:

A. Inherent Diffusion

This is the diffusion a forward-facing material offers. The level of diffusion can range from 100% transparent to 100% opaque – even in the same piece!

B. Optical Diffusion

This is a layer of material that sits between the light engine and forward-facing material. Forward-facing materials that are very transparent will require this additional layer. This is typically accomplished with a sheet of frosted acrylic between the light source and forward-facing material.

C. Spatial Diffusion

Distance can also help diffuse light. The greater the gap between the light engine and forward-facing material, the more consistently diffused the light will be.

3. Where you get your backlighting products from matters.

Backlighting projects offer many unique challenges. The lighting product is just one part of the overall installation and backlighting sandwich. These projects often involve multiple trades (electrician, carpenter, stone fabricator). Once finished, it can be difficult to get to lighting products. It can be costly and messy if the lights need maintenance.

This is why you really should spend time finding the best backlighting products available. You will want an energy-efficient product that can be trusted to operate reliably for many years, or until you're ready to remodel!

The team you work with is just as important as having a reliable lighting product. We are one of the very few companies that specialize in backlighting. Many lighting companies offer "backlighting" products but don't have a clue about what it takes to complete a backlighting project. These companies often disappear after the sale, not caring if you have the information or tools to succeed. In contrast, our team is dedicated to the mission of guiding our customers from concept to completion. We will help ensure that you are aware of everything necessary to be successful.

We will answer all of your questions. We will send you samples. We will coordinate instructions with your electrician or contractor. We will set up a video call to demo our products or to walk you through a system setup. We want to see your project turn out as amazing as you dreamed it would. That's why we go to such extraordinary lengths to ensure your project is thoughtfully planned and precisely executed.

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