Introduction: How to Diffuse an LED

Picture of How to Diffuse an LED

If you just got a bunch of cool LED's and you want to diffuse them (for various reasons) this is the instructable for you! Lots of LED's only come in those "waterclear" lens, not diffused. Diffusing makes the LED appear dimmer, but gives a wider viewing angle of the light. I recently bought color changing LEDs that only came in a non-diffused lens, that's when I made this instructable.

Step 1: Supplies

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The LED (duh)
fine sandpaper (I used 400 grit and ist worked great, but i haven't tested other sandpapers)
about 5 minutes of your life per LED

Step 2: Grasp the LED

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grab the LED by the beginning of the terminals and base of the LED

Step 3: Rub It on the Sand Paper

Picture of Rub It on the Sand Paper

pretty self explanatory, keep on sanding everything until everything looks opaque or covered in a white dust.

Step 4: Rinse It

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rinse the LED under water for a couple of seconds and dry with a towel.

Step 5: You're Done!

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see the difference!


joseben (author)2017-10-18

THE BEST way is to spray the LEDs with a light coat of Matt/Flat ( not glossy) white spray paint.TIME EFFECTIVE. Sanding each and every led is a tough and time-consuming job. The Leads could also get damaged due to mishandling While sanding.BEST thing to do is to line up all the LEDs and cover up the leads with something and spray a light coat of White paint

ArturBalthazar (author)2017-08-14

wow, so simple yet so effective! Thank you so much, exactly what I was looking for.

JackRedstonia. (author)2017-06-02

Sand some RGBs :) The results are amazing.

blakehx (author)2014-12-13

I do this to most of mine! My way is faster though, I just squeeze the leads together on each LED and make a big pile of them! Then I stick them in my power drill 1 at a time! I use a fine grit sanding sponge and if u get it really wet you don't even have to clean them off!

alexbeardsley (author)2014-10-14

Amazing! This totally worked like a charm.

emiletic (author)2013-09-15

How does this affect the lumen output?

dakotajohn (author)2012-11-20

Awesome, yet as simple as it gets!! I've been racking my brain for the last 2 days and this was in front of me all the time!!

jtjones73 (author)2012-07-18

I would suggest that if you have a large LED display, instead of sanding each LED why not put a couple of pieces of brightness enhancement (prism) film from a dead LCD monitor? Those are the thin white plastic sheets in front of the thick glass/plastic plate. It diffuses the light very nicely, plus it hides the LED's from being seen when the device is not on. If you have no clue what I am talking about, go to youtube and check out the engineer guy's video on lcd monitors.

panatale1 (author)2012-06-13

This worked pretty well for me. I have a whole bunch of slow fade RGB LEDs that I needed to diffuse for the Eternal Flame project on makeprojects, and I just went at my LED with a fine grit sanding sponge. Turned out great

MackeFeet (author)2012-06-01

Great Ible thanks I'm making a few led light bars in parrellel for my very first led project and needed a way to diffuse.. I didn't know 400 grit would work though.. So thanks! I thought I needed like 1000 grit paper but nevermind! PS if anyone wants to know how to make the led bar I will be posting an Ible on it after my first one is a success.. But anyway thanks a lot! :)

no_light (author)2012-05-03

280 grit worked awesome

Mudrak4 (author)2012-03-02

I am trying to diffuse 512 LEDs for an 8x8x8 LED cube, and im having trouble. Sandpaper works, but isnt fast enough, and im afraid that frost paint will wear off. Any suggestions?

gauzz (author)2012-01-31

I'm looking for a non-destructive ways to diffuse a led, any ideas? I don't have frosted spray paint.

gauzz (author)gauzz2012-02-01

Hey. I found a nice way, simply use white glue :)

msilva15 (author)2011-11-16

I tried sanding and that works, but then I poked around in my dremel accessories and found a abrasive wheel that does the job much more quickly and easily. Don't know what grit my wheel is, but it looks like this:

eddiea6987 (author)2011-09-05

this just made my day a lot easier i was trying to pass the light through paper in order to diffuse it but this much more practical thanks!

anrross (author)2011-03-08

This is a good tutorial but has anyone thought about clear frosted spray paint? It has the same effect while being able to cover as many leds as are needed in the same amount of time that it takes to do one. Just a thought. I had to do this for a project before i stumbled upon this tutorial and it worked great for me.

TECH GEEK (author)2010-12-21

I tried using 220 grit sandpaper & I ended up exposing the metal that was incased in the clear plasitic / also I ended up making the LED into a cone shap instead of the original 5mm dome top shape. of coarse I was defusing an RGB Led...

USE 400+ GRIT!!!!!

Rorymi6 (author)2010-03-24

Just used this with 100 grit worked great

deeppu (author)2010-02-02

good communition

motadacruz (author)2010-01-28

I've been looking for Diffused LEDs a long while now... but it looks like I can make them myself :)
Great instrutable!! Thanks allot!
Btw, I only had 240 sand paper here, worked fine aswell.

motadacruz (author)motadacruz2010-01-28

Here is a photo I just took. Works great!
They are both the same 'white' LEDs. The diffused one is even whiter then the original.

motadacruz (author)motadacruz2010-01-28

Patrick Pending (author)2007-10-10

Sh*t! I was trying to defuse an LED and it blew up in my face! It's a good job I was wearing goggles otherwise I might have lost an eye;-) Cheers, Pat. Pending

A very cool way to make a joke!

gamer (author)Patrick Pending2007-10-11

how did that happen?

Patrick Pending (author)gamer2007-10-12

how did that happen?

It was when I cut the red wire with the white stripe, I think I should have cut the white wire with the red stripe!


Pat. Pending

Tommyhzy (author)Patrick Pending2009-03-19

Oh, I get it! You meant "How to DEFUSE an LED" LOL! Finally, after 2 years, I got it!

wolf555hound (author)Tommyhzy2009-03-22

wow, i didnt get it at all. Thanks for clearing it up! I thought i was never gonna understand it. (After reading it over, i want to clearify, this is NOT sarcasm.)

jongscx (author)Patrick Pending2007-11-11

HA HA HA... I was already on the train of thought of "how to keep LED from exploding" but even then, it took me a while to get that you were saying the same thing...

I once hooked one straight to a car battery. Blowed up good. Blowed up real good!

Tchnclfl (author)2009-12-28

Thanks!  I had some clear RGB LEDs, and when you powered more than one color, you could clearly see them separately.

God only knows why anyone would want a clear RGB LED, but anyways, this helped a lot :)!

burzvingion (author)2007-10-10

Nice job, they look a lot better than I expected. Although, it seems to me like an awful lot of work for something that costs about 2 cents. Maybe I'm just lazy.

thoraxe (author)burzvingion2009-05-26

led's are getting expensive now almost a dollar for one if your lucky

codongolev (author)thoraxe2009-12-13


Crimson-Deity (author)2009-07-19

I ran out and tested it! It works! :D Brilliant Instructable! Very usefull! Thanks!

Da_Fudge (author)2008-03-08

A few quick questions, does diffusing a LED take a bit of brightness away? also, when you say diffuse, does that mean to make the light spread more evenly, or does it just change it from a waterclear enclosure to a sort of foggy. I need to spread light evenly, so If it isn't diffusing, what is it called? Thanks.

gnanda (author)Da_Fudge2008-06-02

Hello. I need to light a jug and the jug's handle with LEDs inside. I do not want any hotspots. I need an evenly distributed light. What is the best way of doing this? Does diffusing LEDs diminish the brightness? Thanks!

Tommyhzy (author)gnanda2009-03-17

Try covering the whole jug with diffused LEDs. ALL OVER IT. You won't get any hotspots that way. Otherwise, just place all the LEDs in a bundle and wrap with Matte finished tape. There, it's diffused!

Da_Fudge (author)gnanda2008-06-03

umm, well I'll have a look. it should be fairly easy. What is the diameter of the jug's handle? the base? Answer the questions and i'l draw you a circuit diagram. Cheers

gnanda (author)Da_Fudge2008-06-04

Hi Thanks for getting back to me. Attached is an image with some dimensions. I can always change them accordingly. Will I be able to get it bright with out any hotspots? Are there certain types of LEDs you recommend? Best Wishes.

Da_Fudge (author)gnanda2008-06-05

should be able to. you didn't attach them. P.M me with the details.

chrisgsirhc (author)Da_Fudge2009-02-07

What did you guys end up using?

mweston (author)2009-01-10

I find that spinning an LED in steel wool does the trick just as well, but this is a handy instructable none the less!

Derin (author)2009-01-10

You could also countersink the top(carefully).

eliastorre (author)2008-11-26

Haha, once I used sulphuric acid to try wore the led and make it diffuse, just to let u guys know: It doesn't work. That epoxy is helluva a hard material. BTW, the diffuse leds uses an special plastic with particles suspended in the inside, reflecting the light from the inside, thus making it even more viewable from any angle. Nice done!!!

jonathan95123 (author)2008-06-11

WOW... just what i need because i just bought a 8000mcd blue LED with only a 16degree viewing angle. thanks man, just saved me

guille123 (author)2008-02-16

very very good Instructable, good on 3mm led too, I buy a computer case and the super bright led in my eye, I can't sleep, but with this Instructable, I can sleep

treekids (author)2008-01-14

What I like to do is grind down the curved end till it's flat. Then it's easy to attach to a flat surface (glass, plastic) with a clear adhesive (shoe goop, rubber cement) and it creates a bit of diffusion while you're at it. Good instructable, by the way

John Smith (author)2007-10-10

Good instructable. Just so you know, its DIFFUSE.

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