Learn why backlighting with Light Tape is the way to go, and how we are different than LEDs.
Backlighting doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Stick with us, and we’ll remove the stress. It doesn’t matter if this is your first project or your thousandth, we’ll happily walk you through the process of backlighting your stone or surface step by step from start to finish.
Two easy steps:
-Pick your surface.
-Send us your design (See the below file for what we need).
We have plenty of experience working with homeowners, designers, and contractors. Ask us any question- we can help.
The most important component is the translucency of the surface. Everyone will tell you their material is translucent, and you can light it up! This isn’t always the case. Translucency is a spectrum. Every stone, for example, is different- even if it comes from the same place. In some materials, the translucency may change even within the same surface, so there are spots that do not let any light pass.
We recommend that you test your surface to determine how well the it will respond to light. Inspect the slab you are buying first or get a sample of it beforehand if you can. Trust us, there can be a lot of variation from material to material.
The end goal is to have an evenly illuminated surface. You do not want the edges to be bright, and dull in the middle, or splotchy illumination with loads of cold and hot spots. You probably do not want a surface that’s only 50% translucent where only part of it is lit. Also, the more translucent the surface, the easier it is to see differences in illumination.
All those factors in the surface composition dictate which lighting technology will be best to illuminate your surface evenly.
The easiest and quickest way is to just take your phone flashlight and put it behind the material you want to illuminate.
Start by placing the light directly on the back of the surface. If you see a dot with a slight halo of light around it, like the planet Saturn, then that is a good indication the surface is translucent. As you move your phone away from the back of the surface, the halo should get bigger with more of the surface illuminating. This indicates the surface will ‘carry’ the light and will produce a fantastic glow. Of course, if you can see the entire phone through the surface, then you don’t need to test, it is almost transparent.
On the other hand, if you just see an illuminated dot with very little halo, that is not a good sign that the surface is very translucent. As you move the light away from the back six inches or so, does the light become fainter and you can barely see the defined dot, let alone a growing halo? Then that means to illuminate that surface, then you must create that level of light across your entire surface, basically 1000 little light dots, which is difficult.
Light Tape® is the most even light source available today, the entire surface is covered with phosphors and illuminates evenly. It is perfect for any application where the surface is translucent to transparent like glass. We manufacture the Light Tape to the same size and shape as the surface you are going to illuminate. That means that there is light underneath every square inch of that surface. And if the surface allows light to pass, you are going to see the illumination from the Light Tape®.
On the other hand, LEDs are single point light sources. The challenge there is how to make a 100 light bulbs appear to be just one, which generally requires a lot of diffusion. Thus, LEDs are better for surfaces that are not very transparent and you can diffuse the uneven light source. Most LEDs shine light from around the edge of the surface into the middle. LEDs all say they have great light scattering technology, ie. little lines that carry light. In the end, however, because the LED lights are on the edge shining in, the lines only help but so much to scatter light. The final result is rarely an even light especially if you’re working with a surface that isn’t perfectly square or rectangular. The results on wide surfaces or places where there are cut outs, such as sinks, you will see different light levels, lighting will be uneven. However, if the surface is very dense, it will act as a diffuser and this will help with the even illumination.
If your surface is translucent to transparent, use Light Tape®. For opaque to very dense surfaces, LEDs may be a better option. Test the material and give us a ring if you want our opinion, we don’t want to offer a light that doesn’t make our customers happy.
We basically do all the work for you. Our laser machine cuts perfectly to your shape. All you need to provide is the sub-surface to lay the Light Tape on before the final surface goes on top. This is usually a very thin sheet of plywood or acrylic.
We can illuminate up to an 11 foot surface at 30” wide with just one panel and connection. If your surface or countertop is bigger or wider than 30″, no problem! We can always overlap the panels because our Light Tape® are thinner than a credit card. The install takes minutes. We also precut all the sink holes, taps, etc…, just lay it on, and you are done. There is no worry about uneven lighting or diffusion. Imagine a material like poster board that illuminates, and comes in a long roll. That is roughly the same form factor as Light Tape®. Also, one power supply can illuminate multiple Light Tape® panels, also reducing the electrical needs.
Your stone fabricator should have a DXF or CAD file they can share with us. We just need a scalable file. If not, we can send you material to make a template of your surface. We will then use that to create a digital file so we can use our laser machine to cut out the shape. We will the do a test panel to verify our digital file matches your template, and if all good, we cut the Light Tape. Then roll it up, put it in a tube, and ship it to you via UPS. No crates or cargo shipping.
There are basically three different LED options for backlighting. There are squares, usually 12” in size, with LEDs around the edge. Another option is larger acyclic panels with LEDs around the edge. And the last solution is rolls of material that have LEDs imbedded and spaced apart.
SLABlite is an example of a company that offer 12” plastic squares with LEDs around the edge. They are assembled modularly to illuminate an area. When illuminating a larger surface, you will generally see differences in light and dots, apparent on their website images. There will be a load of small panels to cover any surface and cutting on site does not mean even illumination if the surface is not square. Odd shapes carry light differently. In the end, you have dozens of connections points, and from what we hear, makes installation and maintenance a nightmare. You may save a little on square foot basis for materials, but that is significantly offset after installation costs.
Other companies will have two main products for backlighting surfaces. An edgelit LED acrylic panel or a flexible LED sheet. For retail and commercial applications, where there is a lot of daylight, and space is not a premium, then their LED system is a good choice. For those applications where you are competing against natural light all time, you need uber brightness. For home use, the system can be more cumbersome, and you don’t need a product that bright in your home, unless you want your entire room to be the same color as your counter. They ship very large panels which usually means by freight in giant boxes. Their flexible LED sheets will require space to ensure even illumination and will produce heat. While their large LED panels will have trouble illuminating wide surfaces or areas around cut outs. The LED light dots will be visible through highly translucent materials. However, if you have picked a surface that is not very transparent, then they may be your better option.
Light Tape® can work with any number of stones. Onyx, quartzite, blue agate, and stained glass are among the most popular surfaces we work with. We work with Sierra Stone, Harkey Stone and Tile, Cole Brothers Stone and Marble, and Peachtree Renovations as a few examples. The thickness of your stone or surface is also important. For Light Tape® we recommend no more than ¾” thick especially if it’s natural stone.
Picking Out Your Stone
We’ve worked with lots of different surfaces in the past, and can help you determine what works best with Light Tape®. The more translucent the better. When considering Light Tape® over a traditional LED backlight, a more translucent surface works best since the light doesn’t have to be diffused. Because we don’t have individual bulbs, your surface will be evenly lit. If your surface is very opaque with minimal light penetrating, an LED solution might work best for you.
Here’s some great surfaces we know work well with Light Tape®:
-Stained Glass, or really any highly transparent material.
-Solid surfaces by Avonite, Corian, 3Form, etc.
The thickness of your stone or surface is also important. For Light Tape® we recommend no more than 2cm thick, especially if it’s natural stone. That being said, very translucent stones can be thicker, such as Cristallo.
How To Test A Surface For Translucency
It is important to understand how transparent your surface is. This will dictate whether Light Tape or LEDs is the best solution for backlighting. All you need is your phone flashlight to determine the relative translucency. Please click below for more information regarding our Backlighting Surface Test™.
First, do the test in normal ambient light or low light. This will replicate the installation conditions. If the test area is too bright, it will not show you an accurate result of how translucent the surface is.
The goal of the Backlighting Surface Test™ is to determine how much light passes through your surface. When placing an LED light source from your phone directly on the back of the surface, you will see how much light passes.
If you just get a little bright dot with no light halo, then you have an opaque surface. If you see a dot with a halo, then you have a more translucent surface. The last step is to slowly back the light away and see if the halo grows. If so, you have a very translucent surface.
Why Is Surface Translucency So Important?
The more translucent your surface, the easier it is for light to pass through, and the less need there is for light diffusion. Remember, it is important to check your surface’s translucency. Not every stone lights the same.
How We're Different From LEDs
Light Tape is coated over a surface with phosphors that is a meter wide. These phosphors glow with electricity and the entire surface lights evenly. Like a long continuous giant poster board that glows.
LEDs are single point sources of light. Phosphors are coated on the tip of the LED module. The LEDS are then spread out on a ribbon at different spacings.
The real challenge with LEDs is making 100 light bulbs appear to be just one. This usually requires a lot of light diffusion and ‘scattering’ technology. Light Tape® is different in this way because each panel is like one bulb. LEDs are better for surfaces that are not very transparent or translucent, and where the surface can act to diffuse the uneven light source.
If your surface is translucent to transparent, use Light Tape®. If your surface is very opaque to very dense, LEDs may be the better option. Test the material and give us a ring if you want our opinion, we don’t want to offer a light that doesn’t make our customers happy. We’ll let you know upfront if we think your surface may be too dense for Light Tape®
How Much Does It Cost To Backlight Your Solid Surface?
As a rule of thumb, the cost to backlight a counter is about the same as the surface cost. When you combine the material and installation cost, the end cost will be about the same, the range of around $90 to $100 a square foot. Light Tape cost is higher on a square foot basis because the entire surface is a lamp. At the same time, you just roll it out, installs in minutes with virtually no installation cost.
With LEDs, you are not paying much towards the actual light source, as the LED bulbs are very cheap. The costs are more for plastic light diffusing sheets and installation. If you choose the small squares, there is a lot of wiring and fitting. The large panels require several people to install and can be heavy, increasing the cost of shipping.
Who Are Some LED Backlighting Suppliers?
There are basically three different LED options for backlighting. The first are sold as squares which are usually 12”x12″ in size with LED bulbs around the edge. The second are larger acyclic panels with LEDs also around the edge. And the third are rolls of material that have LEDs embedded into sheets and spaced apart. They all use the same LEDs, just in different configurations.
SLABlite is a popular example of a company that offer 12”x12″ rigid plastic squares with LEDs around the edges. They are assembled modularly to illuminate an area, so lots of small panels cover the surface. Cutting them into odd shapes to fit your surface makes each square carry light differently. When illuminating a larger surface, there are clear differences in light intensity and visible dots. By the end, you have dozens of connections points and wires to hide making the installation and maintenance very tedious. While you may save a little on square foot pricing for materials, those savings are significantly offset after installation costs.
Other companies tend to have two main products for backlighting surfaces. These include rigid edgelit LED acrylic panels, and flexible LED sheets. For retail and commercial applications, if you are competing against natural light, you might need the high intensity brightness of an LED. Generally with commercial backlighting, often installation space is less restricted, giving plenty of room to diffuse the light. For home use, this system is more cumbersome, and you probably don’t need a product so high in brightness like you would in a casino or mall. There are adverse effects with too much light.
Don't Sweat The Installation
If you’re working with a stone fabricator, electrician or contractor, they should have a template of the stone, or the countertop underneath.
We basically do all the work for you. Our laser machine cuts perfectly to the shape you need lit. All you need to provide is the sub-surface to lay the Light Tape® on before the final surface goes on top. This is usually a very thin sheet of plywood or acrylic.
We can illuminate up to an 11 foot surface at 30” wide with a single panel and connection. If your surface or countertop is bigger or wider than 30″, no problem! We can always overlap the panels because Light Tape® is thinner than a credit card.
We precut all the sinks, faucet holes, taps, and outlets for you. Just lay the Light Tape® on, and you are done. There’s no need to worry about a buffer between the stone and Light Tape®, or space accomodation for bulky diffusion boxes. We don’t generate heat, so no need for a heat sink. We can fit easily with your existing plans and designs with minimal effort!
Imagine a material like laminated construction paper that illuminates, and comes in a long roll. That is roughly the same form factor of Light Tape®. One power supply can illuminate multiple Light Tape® panels, reducing the electrical needs.
Generally, your contractor or electrician will install our Light Tape® panels. Feel free to have them contact us with any questions they may have.
If you’re a contractor, electrician or stone fabricator please take a look at our installation manual below. If you have further questions that aren’t addressed, give us a call! We can sort you out.