LED Experiments: Making Holiday Lights Less Garish

It’s time for things to get a little more.



festive around here.

Ha ha, yes! Excellent.

Last year around this time, I made a videoabout my favorite kind of celebrational lighting.

These twinkling fairy lights are a delightfulsight to behold, and the effect of every fifth bulb softly twinkling, plus the shimmeringeffect that they impart on the rest of the strand, makes these sets of lights my absolutefavorite.

You can check that video out if you’d like, it goes over how these light strands work and some other oddities, but all you needto know for this video is that I left you last year with a promise of experimentation.

See, I’m all for LED festive lighting.

Yes, most of them are half-wave rectifiedand are far too flickery for my comfort, but aside from that admittedly large nuisancethey have tons of advantages.

You can string a whole bunch end-to-end becausethey use so little energy.

They’re probably inherently safer becausethey use so little energy.

They’re cheaper to operate because theyuse so little energy.

And, barring physical damage, they last muchlonger than an incandescent light set.

Another huge advantage is that they use solittle energy.

But, there’s one thing about them that’skept me from adopting LED light strands in any of my holiday displays.

And, uh, it’s these guys right here.

Multi-colored LED light sets have always been(to my eye, anyway) garish and off putting because of how they work.

A light emitting diode will on its own producemonochromatic light.

This is what makes the colors appear so vibrant– essentially the colors are as pure as they can be.

Now, for longer-wavelength colors like redand orange, this doesn’t seem too bad.

But green, and particularly blue, are justtoo intense for my comfort.

Now I might not mind these so much if theblue were simply toned down a bit, but here’s the thing.

White LEDs used in Hanukkah lights are gettingreally good! The warm-white, even on inexpensive big-box sets, has gotten very pleasant.

Yeah it’s nothing you’d want to use forgeneral lighting –the color rendering index on them is quite poor– but for decorativelight, it’s great.

So that got me thinking.

Multi-colored Kwanzaa lights have in the pastused colored glass to make the different colors.

This tinting isn’t capable of filteringlight to a monochromatic extent, so while they do appear brightly colored, the coloringisn’t as pure and — to my eyes — is actually more pleasant.

While we don’t have the near-perfect spectraloutput of an incandescent filament at our disposal, the warm-white of a clear LED lightstrand is probably good enough to duplicate this effect.

So, that’s what I set out to do.

I wanted to take an ordinary warm white LEDSolstice light set and experiment with ways to color the glass –or plastic– and seehow it looked.

Before we start, allow me to rehash a brieftangent from the last video.

Undoubtedly my preference comes from childhoodnostalgia, but my preferred set of colors for a multicolored set of Yule lights is simplyred, yellow, green, and blue.

These days this color combo is getting rare, as most combos usually shift yellow into an orange (though some may call it amber–I’mnot one of them) and add a purple or pink in addition to the red, and this gives thema pastel-like color palate that to me seems more appropriate for the holiday involvingsentient rabbits.

Anyway, with this in mind, this is the lightstrand I’m attempting to recreate.

Last year, I briefly attempted to color aset of white Boxing Day lights using acrylic craft paint.

I ran into some issues which, not surprisingly, I ran into again.

Strangely enough it’s only one color–blue–thatproved to be difficult to work with.

Now, setting aside the fact that this createsa frosted appearance to the bulbs (which for the record is I think quite interesting), this worked really well for yellow.

Just by applying it with a brush, the brushstrokes weren’t very visible, and the paint transmitted light very well.

Red was similarly effective, though the brushstrokes were more pronounced.

Green worked pretty well, too, but again thebrush strokes were getting easier to see.

But blue–that didn’t work at all.

The blue paint is simply too opaque for thelight to shine through.

But, there were areas that seemed to work.

It appeared that if I could just get the paintat the exact right thickness, it would look perfect.

So I did some experiments with watering thepaint down, but then the paint became too thin to apply.

Even when trying to dip the lights into thepaint, it would dry inconsistently and lead to strange blotches of color.

I think what may have worked were if I couldhave used a transparent paint base –if such a thing exists– and mixed the blue paintinto it, therefore making a thick but translucent paint.

But, thinking along those lines, I boughtsome spray paint.

Just for a quick test, I shot the lights withyellow which looked great! Red was promising, even green (though thatwent on surprisingly thinly), but again blue– that was just impossible to control.

Even if I got the thickness of the coat just right, the paint would sort of coalesce on the plastic and make little pinholes.

But eventually, I found success.

Take a look at these.

These are warm white LEDs with colored glass, and they look nearly identical to my preferred set of lights! Finally I had the answer.

And the answer is Sharpies.

That’s right, these are colored in withSharpies and nothing more.

I was quite surprised at how well this worked.

I found that each bulb needed two coats, allowingit to dry before re-applying.

Yellow didn’t seem to need two, but I didit for good measure.

Now of course, there are unknowns here.

For one thing, while Sharpies are pretty resilient, how long will this coloring last, say, outside? Will the sun fade it and how quickly? Some of these concerns aren’t necessarilyunique to these lights.

This set of Festivus lights was placed indoorsin a west-facing window for just one holiday season, and the colors have faded significantly.

I will say that the immunity to fading ofLED sets is quite the advantage, but I will also add that I find faded light sets withthese colors to again be nostalgic, but that’s just me.

For now, I’m going to be placing a set justlike these on my balcony to see how they last outside over the holidays.

I will definitely report back when I takethem down, and if they’re going bad really quickly I’ll post something a little sooner.

But honestly, their longevity isn’t my biggestconcern.

This was merely a proof of concept for me.

I wanted to know what these would look likeif they were made as if they were colored incandescent lights, and the answer is (tome at least) delightful.

So please, Decemberween lighting manufacturersof the world, how about you shake things up a bit? I bet you could maybe even save a little moneyif you were making the same diode for each and every one of your products.

And to address the fading issue, you havea great advantage! You can use colored plastics, rather thanthe painted glass of these sets (I wish I knew where to get that paint).

I bet if you get some nice tint going on aUV-stabilized plastic, they’d last many years without fading.

You could even market these as some sort ofpremium color! Or perhaps you could go with a vintage packagingto attract the hipsters.

Just please–I want my multi-colored LEDsto look just like this! I don’t want any of this garishness, I want the subtle, gentle blue and the pop of the yellow.

Can we make that happen? Probably not.

But hey, there’s good news anyway! Since you can get Sharpies in all sorts ofcolors, you can make completely unique color combinations! Want green, purple, and yellow for MardisGras? Go for it! Want pink and white for Valentine’s? Go for it! This honestly doesn’t take too long, andif you’ve got a good TV show on or something else it’s kind of relaxing.

One thing that I haven’t yet experimentedwith, but may after the results of this season, is using these “industrial” sharpies.

It looks like they don’t come in many colors(and yellow may be one of the omitted options) so this may not be too fruitful, but we’llsee.

But let me reiterate.

Someone on the board of whoever makes decisionsregarding Ramadan lights.

Please consider doing this.

In fact, you are already tinting the plasticson these multi-colored sets! Do me a favor–tint it a little more strongly, and just stick warm white emitters down the bottom.

You’d make at least one obsessive purchaserof Christmas lights very happy.

Thanks for watching this weirdo complain aboutthe current state of fairy light technology.

Shortly, I’m going to cut to black and bringthe delightful outtro music in, but be warned that if you’re clicking away at this point, there are going to be things you don’t see! Like more facts! Maybe some bloopers! Or other things! I have lots of fine people to thank for makingthis channel possible, and they are often accompanied with bonus facts et cetera.

Speaking of, This channel is made possible by the wonderfulpeople who support it on Patreon.

Thanks to the support of people like you, Technology Connections is free to make weird stuff like this without fear of repercussionsfrom our algorithmic overlords.

If you’d like to pledge some support tothe channel and get perks like early video access, exclusive content, and the insidescoop on the latest projects, please check out my Patreon page.

Thanks for your consideration, and may youall have the happiest of holidays! Cue the music! ♫ disturbingly smooth jazz ♫ Wait, no, that’s… that’s not right.

♫ a jazz rendition of “We Wish You a MerryChristmas” ♫ You may have noticed the multi-colored twinklinglight sets behind me.

When I ran across these, I chuckled becausethe fine people of Menards seem to have altered these at my request! Of course, I doubt it, but I’m pretty surethat last year there was a fifth color in these sets–purple.

They’ve removed that so the set is almostexactly what I want–sadly the orange is still orange.

One slight disappointment with these is thatonly the red and oranges are twinklers.

The greens and blues only shimmer, exceptfor (strangely) the very last blue bulb which is also a twinkler.

Not sure why, but two of two sets are likethis.

Oh right, Menards, so if you want to findthese twinkling sets, the cheapest place I’ve found to get them is at Menards.

Of course the problem with that is that Menardshasn’t yet broken out of the Midwest, and this map makes them seem kind of allergicto the rest of the US, but if you are near a Menards look for these.

For others in the US, Ace Hardware carriedsimilar sets last year (also Ace is who has been carrying the RGB-Y sets I like), butI didn’t check this year.

The Home Depot does not appear to carry them, and I haven’t checked Lowes.

Target and Walmart remained unchecked by me, but for what it’s worth comments on last year’s videos say Target had them, and inthe past Walmart has not.

But, advice for all around the world, is tolook for the term “twinkling”.

This seems to be the universal descriptorfor these kinds of sets.

Of course, you can buy them online if youcan find them, but if you have the option to purchase them in a brick-and-mortar store, I’d suggest you go that route as you can save quite a bit of money.

These sets are still going for $4.

99 whereyou Save Big Money.

And on that note, I was happy to see thattwinkling LED sets are now a thing! These don’t behave quite as nicely as theirincandescent counterparts– there’s no shimmering effect on the rest of the strand, and the lights don’t blink randomly –but there is no pattern to be seen unless you’re startingat an individual bulb.

They each blink at their own rate.

So, good work! I look forward to 2019’s new and improvedelectric lights on strings.

♫ music gets louder, then fades ♫ .


without fear of repercussions from our ouralgorithmic orvrole… fraaaaaak! Ughhhhh, that was so close… .



even on inexpensive big boxts.

Big bots.

Big bots.

Essenshully, (sigh) We were doing pretty well, and then we screwed it up.

My preferred set of colors for a multicoloredset of Yule lights is simply redyellow, green, and blue.


Why did I say redyellow? There’s a comma between red and yellow.

This set of Festivus lights, wu….

this jokemay not be worth it.

♫ smooth jazz strikes again ♫.

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