Picture of The Definitive Guide to LED Accent Lighting
This guide goes over some info and techniques for using LED strips as accent lighting.  LED strips are relatively cheap, the RGB strips can make any color, and they're small and easy to hide.  They also run off 12v which makes them easy to install in cars or boats as well.

We will cover picking out lights, controlling, powering, and different techniques for hanging them. 
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Step 1: Ordering your LEDs

Picture of Ordering your LEDs
If you search for RGB LED strips you'll see there are a TON of options.  Luckily there's a very specific thing you want; just search for 5050 RGB 5M 300.  Here's a breakdown of the individual parts:
5050 - This is the type of LED.  This is a standard part, it's big and bright but still runs cool.  It's common to see 3528's in LED strips, avoid these, they're a lot smaller and dimmer.  To go bigger than 5050 you're going to get a lot more expensive and a lot hotter.
RGB - Red Green Blue.  This means it's a tri color strip.   By mixing the different colors tri-color strips can do any color in the rainbow.
5M - 5 meters.  This is the longest length I've found.  You can use it pretty fast, go any shorter and you'll pay extra.
300 - The count of LEDs. The most common setups are a 5M strip with 150 LEDs or 5M with 300 LEDs.  I recommend the 300 count ones because the price difference isn't that much and they're a lot brighter.  

If you don't want to search around this set should get you started, it comes with a power supply and controller.

So, to recap:
Search Amazon or eBay for 5050 RGB 5M 300 and pick one.  I've never ordered from the same place twice (I always forget) but I haven't had any issues with any of them.  All of them have been about the same.  The only thing I would recommend is if you're doing a large room, order all the LEDs at once because the whites can be slightly off.  In my living room one set of strips has a warm, pinkish white and the other set is a light cool blue and it drives me crazy because I'm picky about those things.  Order your LEDs all at once and they'll all match.

Other options:
For large areas like a porch it might make more financial sense to order a single color.  White is a good for general lighting.  Red and blue are very dull, don't count on them to provide more than an accent lighting.

I like the waterproof LEDs simply because it makes the strands easier to work with.  They have a nice weight and flex more easily, plus the coating helps prevent shorts when mounting the strips with staples or other metal fasteners.  The weight can be a problem if you're hanging them off the bottom of something and you want to rely on the built in tape, but other than that I don't see any downside to the waterproof strips.  
NikolasM2 months ago

Thanks for the tips! specially the one about giving some space between what you want to illuminate and the led strip ;)

ledboy5092 months ago

I bought the LED 5050 lights, but I can't get it to work inside my car, I ran 2 wires from the battery to inside the car, when I turn it on , it works for 2 min then u can smell a burning smell from the receiver part, I think the amp is the problem ? Anyone have a solution ?

BuckFWild5 months ago

I bought a set of RGB 5050 Light Strips and cannot get the person I bought them from to answer my question. I bought these specifically to go above the windows in my bus/camper. The RGB controller box has a "pole" input (that the power supply that plugs into the wall goes in- DUH- where are wall plug ins in a bus??) and the out puts are 1 for the wireless controller and 1 that has 4 "pins" to plug into the light strip. I BEG someone PLEASE tell me how to wire this up to my 12 V electrical system in the bus. I received NO-NONE-ZERO instructions or explanations for installation with the kit. If I even had a pin out diagram for the 4 pin plug I might be able to figure it out, but...HELP!!!

You can use 12V from the bus directly into the LED driver - As long as you have the right plug for it. You don't have to actually plug it into the wall, because that would be a transformation from 230V to 12V, but you already have 12V.

WadeP12 months ago

Where do you hide the damn controllers? Let's say you wanted to make a "professional" look by putting the LED's as primary lighting all around a living room atop crown molding that is 12" down from the ceiling - where do you hide the "power" and "brains" of the unit? Burying them in the wall I think would be illegal (against code) and having them floating about seems like an eye sore. Ideas? Suggestions?

MariusG1 WadeP12 months ago

You can drill in a box in the wall that is for preinstallation, and hide the driver there.

Like this one:

But you'll still have the problem of getting power I guess, call an electrician.

Hi guys!! YES I have some electrical experience. I have trying to run 6 lengths of the 5050 300 RGB LEDs. I have 12 volt repeaters running between the 16' ribbons so they do not dim. The problem I am having is the "RED" LED, it seems that the "blue" LED is getting some voltage causing the ribbon to look "pink" and not "red". I have a 12 volt "DMX" that controls the color of all the ribbons at the very beginning.

Can anyone help!?? Thanks!!

izzyanut11 months ago

This is a brilliant guide! Cheers

nazguler1 year ago
if I buy one of these kits, can I cut the part I don't need (the one I saw was 16.6 FT long, I only need like half) can I use the rest? What would I need to use the rest?
Thank you for the information.. Nice Instructable.
izzyanut nazguler11 months ago

You can usually shorten the LED Strip to any length that you choose, you may have to solder the cables directly to the strip. Some strips will have compatible plug in blocks that allow you to cut them to a specific length and then plug the strip into a block.

Good write up and a few new ideas for the "list"... Thanks
leofiga2 years ago
good instructable.
Thanks for this guide! I want to have LEDS for a long time already, and this guide will help me to find the right ones.