Introduction: LED Dressing Lights

My new apartment bedroom has some solid woodwork with a dressing mirror fitted into it. But the lighting around the mirror was insufficient. The room is lit by the window and an LED bulb, both of them opposite to the mirror. If you stand in front of the mirror, the reflection is dark due to the light from these sources.

I decided to place a dedicated lighting for the mirror to make it usable. I tried placing a CFL lamp over the mirror but the top down illumination resulted in deep shadows. An ideal light source for it would be a diffused lighting around the mirror that is uniformly bright for the entire length. Fluorescent tubes are a good option but there isn't enough space for them since the mirror is fitted on a door that swings outside, leaving just about an inch of gap. Besides, placing such big lights on the sides would look clumsy. I had some LED strip lights left over from one of my earlier projects and decided to put it to use.

This instructable describes the steps and materials required for lighting a dressing mirror using LED strips. I have also shared a few things i learned while setting this up.

Note: A basic level of electronics knowledge would be required. Please be safe and cautious.

Step 1: Materials Required

1. 12 Volt LED strip with adhesive backing - the kind that could be cut into sections and used ( a double tape can be used if it doesn't have an adhesive back).

2. 12 Volt Power adapter

3. Wires, cutter and stripper

4. Glue gun /Transparent tape

5. Basic soldering equipment (soldering iron, lead and flux)

6. Multimeter

7. Scissors

8. Insulation tape / sleeve / heat shrink tubing

Step 2: More on the LED Strip

The LED strip is a flexible PCB that is made up of multiple units of SMD LEDs and resistor connected sequentially. These subsections can be cut to the required length and used.The LED strip I used came as a continuous 5 meter long strip with adhesive backing. Each subsection had three 5050 SMD LEDs and a 120 Ohm resistor wired in series. The adhesive backing had a protective layer over it which could be peeled off to stick the LED strip. It works just like putting on a band-aid.

Note: The strip usually has cut marks indicating the places where it can be cut. Always cut along this mark to produce strips of required length. My strip had cut marks every 5 cm. This meant that I can use the strip in lengths in the multiple of 5 cm. Each subsection also has solder points on either side which can be used if needed.

Step 3: Planning and Calculations

LED placement:

Placement of the LED along the mirror plays a major part in the outcome of the project. I initally placed strips in two rows along the side edges of the mirror directly facing the person, but the light was a bit harsh and got your eyes.

The 5050 SMD LEDs have a beam angle of 120 degrees. Placing the LEDs on the side walls of the wooden cupboard such that the face of the person is within this beam angle would be a good alternative. I experimented with placing the strip along the sides at various distances from the face and the mirror finally settling down the middle of wooden side wall.

This allowed the light from the LED to both directly fall on the face and also get reflected off the mirror and then fall on the face. This produced a much softer illumination.

Driving LEDs:

I cut out a single 5 cm long subsection and gave 12 Volts supply to it and connected an ammeter in series to measure the current consumed by the LEDs. One subsection consumed 19.2 mA of current. I had to calculate the current required by the entire length so that I could use a power adapter of appropriate capacity.

Total length of strip: 115*2=230cm
230 cm of LED strip consists of 230/6 = 46 subsections
46 subsections would consume 46*19.2 = 883.2 mA or 0.88 A

The closest standard power supply available for this current rating is 1A. Fortunately, I had a 1 A 12 Volt switching power adapter already ( lucky again ;) ) so I went ahead and used it.

Note: Never use a power source which is not capable of meeting the loads requirement. If the adapter of a lower power rating was used, it would be working beyond its capacity and would eventually be destroyed. Most switch mode power supplies are efficient at 80 - 90% of its rated current capacity.

Step 4: Doing It

The LED strips were pretty easy to apply. I started from the top and applied the strip by peeling off the protective backing as I progressed down. Applying the strip from bottom to top would be more difficult. If the protective backing is first removed fully, the strip would be more difficult to handle.

After pasting the strips, I soldered the wires to connect the left and right strips in parallel and used hot glue to fix the wires to the wood surface. Transparent tape would also be a good alternative, but I found that the glue could be removed from the wood without much effort and does not damage the wood finish. Also the glue worked better with corners and was less visible.

Taking the wire out and connecting it to the adapter was the tricky part. The wire would be visible and had to be ‘routed’ such that it is less visible. I once again used hot glue to stick the wire into the corners and tuck them away as much as possible.

As seen in the images, I had a mains plug point and a calendar nearby. I cut off the end pin of the adapter, soldered the wires directly, insulated them with sleeves and tucked everything behind the calendar. It was less of an eye sore, but the wires were still visible ( To add to the misery, i used dark blue ones :( )

Step 5: Using It

Lighting from the setup is quite bright and produces good illumination. The face is lit with a soft light.

I left it on for a while to see how it worked. The adapter was hot to touch (not unbearable) when i switched it off after a couple of hours. As the adapter was constantly working close to 90% capacity, this heating is normal. The LED strips themselves were mildly warm to touch.

Since the light will only be used intermittently, am hoping this would have a long life.

Step 6: Improvements

Though this project turned out satisfactory, there is always a room for a few improvements.

  1. The light comes from the two sides and this does provide good illumination to the face, but the top portion of the person's head is mildly lit. Adding some LED strips to the top would be a good idea. Since I am already using the adaptor to almost 90%, I would not do this without changing to a more capable adapter.
  2. When looking directly into the LEDs, they are quite bright and harsh. Using aluminum channels with diffuser would be a good idea to diffuse the light.
  3. I would love to add an on/off switch with a hanging rope in the dressing table which could be pulled to ON/OFF the LEDs. I stopped myself as I was concerned with power being wasted by leaving the adapter always connected to the mains. Am planning to run DC battery power in my home and I would be adding this switch after connecting the setup to the battery bank.
  4. I should have used brown colored wires to blend along with the wood color. Blue and Violet color wires are jarring against the wood.

Please provide your inputs and suggestions to improve upon this.

If i have not been clear somewhere and you're stuck just leave a comment...


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