Technical Lighting Help

Backlighting (Countertops, Wall Panels, Posters, etc.)

As with so many other types of lighting, including backlighting in a design has become far easier with LED. Just a few years ago, achieving decent backlighting required a lot of prep work and post-installation concessions needed for lamp replacement. Today, with LED on the market, backlighting can be achieved in a number of ways.

LED Tape

To arrive at a decent backlit surface, a frame is required. The object to be backlit is placed on the frame. LED Tape is then placed around the perimeter, aimed into the void of the frame. While the whole object is illuminated, the perimeter is brighter where the LED diodes are located. The middle, or point farthest from the light are a bit darker. Performance also varies with different materials. It isn’t always perfect, but far better and easier than what could be achieved in the past.

LED Panels

An inevitable byproduct of LED Tape is panels. Multiple rows of LED “dots” installed on a square or rectangular substrate deliver a consistent, even pool of light. “Stand-offs” positioned on the panel separate the object from the light. This is a definitive improvement. The surface illumination is free of dark areas. Because of the specific panel dimensions, there is still a possibility of inconsistency unless the countertop and panels are the exact same size. To solve that issue, some companies offer custom panels, but the advantages of inexpensive LED are then lost in customization fees.

LED Sheets

LED Sheets are now on the market. If you have not seen them, imagine LED Tape, placed side-by-side, row by row. The individual diode emits less light, but there are much, much more of them. In addition, the sheets of LED can be cut in almost any number of ways and connected to adjoining sheets for a consistent glow under almost any translucent material. If a countertop, for example, has a waterfall edge, the panels can even be bent to continue down the side. This is a very flexible option that now makes backlighting a very simple feat.


Is this the ultimate solution for backlighting surfaces or objects? For now. With solid state lighting, I have learned to eliminate absolutes. In the future, I think OLED panels will become the go-to answer for backlighting, but today, those panels are still too expensive, in limited sizes and therefore less available. Will laser advancements change my mind next week? What if we could safely illuminate the countertop with germicidal ultraviolet, thereby removing all the accumulated cooking germs each night? Coming soon. For now, take a look at the “cuttable” LED sheets. It is turning out to be the best bet, at least until the next cool invention arrives!

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