Introduction: Make Your Own Colored LEDs

Picture of Make Your Own Colored LEDs

There are many instructables about how to make 'Throwies'.
For this to have a nice effect you need loads of different color LEDs.

I found it a bit frustrating to find colored LEDs. And when I found them they were more expensive then a normal white LED.

Thats why I thought there had to be an easier and cheaper way. Though thinking about it for a long while the answer was more simple then I thought.

Follow these simple steps to create your own colored LEDs!

Step 1: Materials & Tools

Picture of Materials & Tools

All you need for this is:

- White LEDs
- Sand paper (fine, between 200 and 400)
- Color markers

Once you've got these things you're ready to start!

I bought 100x 5mm LED white on eBay for only $7 (including shipping).
So that's only $0,07 for each LED. You won't get colored LEDs this bright for that price!

Step 2: Diffusing a LED

Picture of Diffusing a LED

You can use any size of LED you'd like. In this instructable I used 5mm LEDs. But you can do it with a 3mm or 10mm LED as well.

The LEDs I had are 'water clear'.
To make the effect of the color work good we need to make the LEDs 'diffused'.

1. We need fine sandpaper to get the diffused effect we want. The best sandpaper to use is some between 200 and 400. The one I used was 240.

Sand the whole LED till you get the diffused LED effect. You can see the difference of a 'water clear' and 'diffused' LED on the photos below.

2. Clean the LED so all the LED 'dust' is removed from it.

I've also attached a battery and made a photo so you can clearly see what the difference is and what cool effect we'll get.

Step 3: Coloring the LEDs

Picture of Coloring the LEDs

Now we've prepared the LEDs for coloring.

1. Get a color marker and color the whole LED.

Be sure that you cover the whole LED with the marker so there won't shine any white light through anymore.

2. Wait till the LED dries up with the color.
If you want to be sure that it will glow nicely in your desired color, give it another coating. This will guarantee you it will glow great without any white color shining through.

Let your LEDs dry up good so you wont get colored fingers when picking up the LEDs :)

Step 4: Finished Result

Picture of Finished Result

Now just hook your LED on a battery and see if you did a good job (see photos).

Once you light it up and you see there is still some white shining through, just color some more over those white spots.

Colored LEDs are more expensive then white LEDs and harder to find. So now you can easily create your own colored LEDs in any color you like!


s10484 (author)2017-03-19

Im intersted

Looks more like science

s10484 (author)2017-03-19


Thats colorful

Everyone would be interested in that

Color leds

Just like my DREAMS

s10484 (author)2017-03-19

Wow bright

Thatts amaizing

bright and shiny

Do you like being shiny?

SaD KiNGzz (author)2016-11-29


ShannonM5 (author)2014-12-19

Instead of using sandpaper for diffusing try white suncatcher paint sold in many stores it creates a diffuse look without the risk of breaking the housing of the bulb.

djk777 (author)ShannonM52016-08-18

tried this, does not work at all. whatever color you use, it doesn't make the led look different, the colors are too transparent.

djk777 (author)djk7772016-08-18

I sooo wish it did work!

Gaoh (author)2010-09-29

nice Instructables!
especially the diffused LED.
and i thought LED lighting can't be different (until now that is).

one question.. using sand paper on LED, will it reduces its quality?
cause i keep having mine get burned or its brightness reduced after a few days on normal condition.

thanks, sorry for bad english.

jbates1970 (author)Gaoh2014-06-14

I don't think that sanding the led will harm the it, unless you sand it so much that it breaks the acrylic housing. If your are having issues with the led's burning up or becoming dim, you might be applying too much power to the led. (if you are using a power supply that is too large for the led you need to use a resistor to keep from over powering it.) You may already know that or are already do this. It just sounds to me like that might be the problem you were having. Maybe not. Just a thought. Hope it helps.

JeffB104 (author)jbates19702016-01-17

Current is drawn by LEDS to cross a gap. The current won't climb higher than it can achieve in the materials provided. It is the voltage that will affect current draw. Lower volts mean more amps, and too low means no arc. A voltage regulator and a rectifier are all that most LED "drivers" contain.

If the LEDS are dim, it's because you are having voltage drop from length of run or excess LEDS, or the power supply is too small.

Adding a resistor to the circuit will surely increase the total amperage.

JohnC11 (author)jbates19702014-10-03

Too much power, verify that your power source is true and actually putting out the proper voltage. My guess is either the LED you have is not rated for the power it is receiving. ALso not all LEDs the same they might look the same but can be very different.... ie 1v, 3v, 5v, 10v, 12v, - 24v. I deal with 12v and 24v leds . the picture is me holding my TRUE - 200 watt LED light. presently not available in usa because shipping is very high for me so I only make this for europe and asia regards. or

anarky2k (author)Gaoh2010-10-16

I dont think the sand paper affects the led....
try using resistors always!!!.....normaly i use 220 ohm on each led, no matter the number of leds....maybe u already knew that but still

Gaoh (author)anarky2k2010-10-17

not really understand about resistors actually, since i'm a beginner in LED stuff.
and that's a big help, thank you.

anarky2k (author)Gaoh2010-10-26

when u use a resistor on a LED....u basically just protect ur LED from burning out or draining your battery too quickly......of course not all resistors are the same, u have to choose ur resistor acording to the type of LED your using, and the volts and amps ur source gives out

Gaoh (author)anarky2k2010-10-27

wow, i didn't know those little thing could make big difference to LED.
in that case, i'll work on my upcoming projects with resistors.
thanks again.

AnneN12 (author)2015-10-20

I am looking for a way to dim or diffuse and maybe color a bit my new led dualbrite security floodlights. They are so very much brighter at half strength than my old halogen fixtures at full power. And so very stark white.

JeffB104 (author)AnneN122016-01-17

remember that these commercially available bulbs are not suitable for fully enclosed fixtures because they can catch fire. Coating the bulb would trap extra heat, so be careful about it.
You might do better to make a vented lens to put in front.

JeffB104 (author)2016-01-17

Any coating, such as paint and marker ink, on the LED lens is going to trap heat.
Keep that in mind, because heat is the enemy of electronics like this.

When I was in electronics class in high school we were taught to use a heat sink on the leads of an LED in order to prevent heat from reaching the ends of the cathode and anode; while soldering. That kind of heat ruins it fast (260-400 degrees F)
The normal heat it produces will wear it out over it's lifetime. Trapping any extra heat, raising the internal temperature, will shorten the life exponentially.

bhvm (author)2013-09-01

Great article! any ideas to turn cool white (regular ) into warm white? I hate cool bluish leds and I have tons of them! just coat with yellow marker?

DJNASHA (author)2012-11-13


kennethwhiz (author)2011-09-23

Another way to color and diffuse the light would be a glass frosting spray paint. Most leds, unless you buy the diffused, send most of the light up through the top, but by spraying on a glass frosting paint, it sends the light in different directions. I don't know if they make colored paint of that kind, but i know the frosting paint with make your clear leds diffused! :-)

fpavlović (author)2011-08-26

RGB (Red Green Blue) is the way we see, these 3 colors combined give white color.
Green is 39% of white,
Red is 36% of white,
Blue is 25% of white.
That is why the green color seems the brightest.

zegond (author)2011-02-21

lol nice job pal! u made me really laugh by this simple but great trick!

technoguy94 (author)2010-04-06

Interesting, though normal colored LEDs produce a little better colored light.

Mavamaarten (author)technoguy942010-04-10

True, but I used this to create blue LED's.
These are very hard to find here...  (for some reason, I don't know why :P)

jwoo2023 (author)Mavamaarten2010-12-11

blue are the most expensive and hard to find

Jedrokivich (author)jwoo20232011-02-15

Green seems the brightest though because the eye is naturally more sensitive to green light.

Mot878 (author)2010-09-08

how do i get it to light up?

xXSaber96Xx (author)Mot8782010-12-17

You take the LED's and put the long stick on top and the shorter one on the bottom, (some even work vise versa) on a watch battery and they'll light up

qazwsx755 (author)2010-07-12

Awesome Instructable. I think I will make a purple one because my friend wants me to change the power light on his gamecube to purple and I don't have any purple leds. Go to if you want to see how you change the power light on your gamecube.

junits15 (author)qazwsx7552010-07-24

if the gcn light, it still orange it wont work, you need to get a 3mm white 1 first

qazwsx755 (author)junits152010-07-25

I'm going to replace the orange led with a white led colored purple. By the way it doesn't have to be a 3mm led it can be 5mm.

junits15 (author)qazwsx7552010-07-27

from my experience a 5mm doesn't allow the case to close all they way, when i did it it left a small crack under the conroller port panel

qazwsx755 (author)junits152010-07-27

You need to make room for the led by using a drill and a 3/16" drill bit and drilling down about 1/8" into the dimple located on the translucent peice of plastic.

ninjanody (author)2010-07-12

i will use sandpaper from now on to diffuse my leds... thanks mate...

techturtle2 (author)2010-07-06

I was gunna do this but when I was at my radioshack they didnt have a single white led! but i did get a package of 20 leds(6 red 6 yellow 6 green 2 amber) for $1.99!!!!!! What a steal!!! but the price on li ion cr2032s is $11.39 for 3! I made a mega mutant throwie w/ 12 leds on it!

nadav (author)2010-06-22

I think that sanding the led not only diffuses the leds but, allows the markers to stay on better.

Marsanni (author)2010-05-10

Great idea. i like this. I've tried it a few times, and you can make patterns on the LED with different colored markers and they look uber.

MACKattacksnipe (author)2010-04-10

Good Idea except White Leds are not cheap it better to just by the colored to begin with

Redgerr (author)2010-03-11

i was quite supprised at how bright it was after sanding. pretty sweet.

micobanff (author)2010-03-02

Hey! Thanks a lot! I just bought a bunch of 10mm red LEDs for a project, but was disappointed when I realized they were clear casing and not red! They looked terrible in my prototype (an LED matrix) but this well help A LOT!

bideogame (author)2010-02-27

very nice =)

codongolev (author)2010-02-27

for mass production, most markers have a little tube filled with some sort of material inside. it's like cotton or something: it doesn't really matter. but what you could do for ease of coloring is take the marker apart and then just jam the led into the felt/cotton stuff and twist it. that would take, like, five times faster and give you a better result. 

wocket (author)2010-02-23

great idea! you could use multiple colours as well, bands, dots, stripes :) I'll have to try it.

williamrhart (author)2010-02-21

Simple but effective! Great Job.  Congrats.

lorijt (author)2010-02-10

Just a thought but this little ibble would let you have any color like purple or orange depending on what color markers you have. Also I would suggest using indelible markers.  

bomberman3 (author)lorijt2010-02-10

Inedible? But what if I get hungry?......

frollard (author)2010-02-02

Good ible to use what you have on hand:  but really coloured leds were out first; white is a new 'more expensive' iteration that is really a blue led that has a phosphor coating which converts some to various wavelengths in order to make what looks like visible white.

Simple red, green, and blue leds can be had easily for a dime a piece:
Green 5mm 100 pack 9 bucks shipping includes 100 resistors
Assorted 5mm 100 pack same deal
Orange ...8.50
Infrared 7
Red  8.50
White ...7 dollars same deal, slightly cheaper

How much are those markers and hours of your time worth sanding and colouring individual leds at 2 cents difference each...I'm sure I could find cheaper; but its just ironic to create one colour, fluoresc to multiple colours in the spectrum, then filter out the unwanted colours to get just one colour :D

motadacruz (author)frollard2010-02-03

Thanks for the compliment.

I have to point some things to your story.
The white ones I bought on eBay where the cheapest for it's kind. The brightness of the White LEDs are 20.000 mcd (100x for $7). Some of the colors you've linked are only 4000mcd. That's a big difference.
Of course when I colored them there was a slightly decrease of mcd, but still way over 4000.

Also you can not take the price of the markers into the total price of making a colored LED.
It's not like I color 10 LEDs and throw the markers away :)
I can probably color thousends of LEDs with a marker and still use it for tons of other stuff.
The ones I used are almost 10years old and still work great.

Anyway, just see this instructable as an easy way to make some colored LEDs when you don't have any around. :)

frollard (author)motadacruz2010-02-03

Precisely - This is an EXCELLENT example of what to do when you need to modify something, and I commend you for that!

As for brightness, the human eye after a certain threshold can't tell the difference in brightness - its a logarithmic sensitivity relationship...A lot of the numbers are perceived brightness - and a white led putting out 20 apparent wavelengths will appear brighter, naturally :D  I would go so far as to say that 4cd red would look at bright as 20cd white, because they are comparing apples and oranges.

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