LEDs are the long-lasting, energy-efficient, and cool-to-use light sources that will illuminate our planet for many years to come. LEDs may not thrill the ordinary person, but the new techniques and control over these tiny light-emitting-diodes are guaranteed to “WOW“. RGB lighting is one of those methods that is becoming increasingly popular in some applications, ranging from under-cabinet accent lighting to PC Gaming Lights.
The multitude of color options and functionalities on the market might be a little daunting, as you’ll see later in this essay. However, RGB LEDs use color mixing to produce millions of colors using LEDs that only have three primary hues: red, green, and blue.
Quick Refresh on RGB Color Mixing
Remember when you were in elementary school and you mixed blue and yellow paint on paper to make green? The subtractive model is a color mixing method in which the primary colors are red, blue, and yellow, and the secondary colors are created by combining them. White is the lack of color in the Subtractive Model. Subtractive color mixing involves subtracting wavelengths from light with a wide variety of wavelengths to create a new hue. We use subtractive color mixing when we combine paints, dyes, or pigments, we use subtractive color mixing… As a result, it is widely used in printing and clothing drying.
This model is merely one of two that exist in the visible world; the Additive Model is the one we’ll be focusing on with lighting. Adding one set of wavelengths to another set of wavelengths is known as additive color mixing. When multiple wavelengths of light are combined, this is what occurs. When all of the colors are combined, we get white instead of a jumble of hues. Because all of the wavelengths still reach our eyes, this is referred to as additive.
The absence of color in the additive model is black, and the source of color is light photons emitted by various metal alloys. Red and amber LEDs employ an aluminum indium gallium phosphide (AlInGaP) material system, whereas Blue/Green/Cyan LEDs use an indium gallium nitride (InGaN) material system. RGB was born, with red, green, and blue as the primary colors.
How does color mixing apply to LEDs and Lighting?
An RGB LED is a light-emitting diode that can generate practically any color by combining the three fundamental additive hues of red, green, and blue. The most basic RGB LED comprises three independent light-emitting diodes packaged together and protected by a transparent lens. This LED package will have four pins: one for each of the three colored diodes, and one for the common anode (+) or cathode (-). (-).
The three primary color LEDs employ the additive color mixing technique we discussed before to create more colors than we can conceive. LEDs are dimmable by nature, allowing each red, green, or blue color to complete all of its many colors.
Each colored LED can create 256 colors in theory. To obtain every shade conceivable, you’ll need a high-end DMX controller, but we’ll go over that in more detail in the controller section. For the time being, you can see how the light maker combined the three principal LEDs with their 256 shades (256 x 256 x 256) to create the “16.7 million distinct colors” tagline that so many RGB lights have.
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So, how do RGB LEDs generate many color combinations? Adjusting the brightness of each LED is all it takes. To create purple, increase the brightness of red and blue LEDs while decreasing the brightness of green LEDs. To make yellow, dim the blue LED and increase the red and green LEDs. You get the idea….the color wheel below illustrates the procedure and is similar to what you’ll find in many RGB Control Smart Phone Apps.
So, What is an RGB Strip?
The same idea applies to an RGB LED strip. Many RGB LEDs are put on the strip, which normally has four wire traces, three for each color and one for a common anode. The strips usually include a standard 4-pin connection (officially known as a C4P connector) on the end that plugs into an RGB LED controller… More about that in the next section.
By activating all three LEDs to their utmost power, RGB LED Strips may provide a very cool white, however, bear in mind that this white has a significant blueish tint and is around 6500K. While RGB LED light strips may produce a wide range of colors, they do have certain restrictions. They can’t make brown or soft pink, for example. Color accuracy is entirely dependent on the controller unit in use.
How Can You Control RGB LEDs and Strip Lights?
You’ll need an RGB LED controller to get accurate colors out of your RGB light; they’re also known as 3-channel controllers since they manage the three basic color channels. This will make it simple to tweak the 3-LEDs to provide the desired illumination. Take a look at some of the most common kinds we utilize below:
1- Single-Zone RGB LED Controllers
LED Strip lights are widely controlled with these controllers. These include a basic receiving device that connects to your electricity and RGB strips, as well as a handheld controller that allows you to operate them from up to 30 meters away.
These can be found with an RF radio frequency connection or an IR line-of-site connection. These controllers easily control all LED lights connected to them; however, different sections cannot be controlled independently.
2- Wifi / Bluetooth Multi-Zone Smart RGB Controllers
The integrated phone app connects these SMART controllers to your smart gadgets. If you desire two dimming choices, you may also add a remote control. Each RGB remote (or smart device app) may operate numerous zones/rooms in your home thanks to the Multiple-Zone capability. Use the same RGB controller to manage your workspace, living area, and bedroom.
These controllers also provide you with additional color options because you can manually modify your Red, Green, and Blue LEDs from 0-256 from the phone app.
3- DMX Controller for RGB LEDs
A DMX controller allows you to control RGB lighting in an infinite number of ways and can produce 16.7 million distinct colors. Previously, DMX controllers were far too large and cumbersome to be employed in a tiny RGB application. DMX controllers can now be tiny touch panels, wall controllers, or even smartphone applications, thanks to advances in technology.
DMX controllers are often utilized for larger works or when several colors are required. The number of strips you have and how much you want to spend will ultimately determine which DMX controller you use. Some DMX controllers can simultaneously manage thousands of channels.
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Top 5 Best RGB LEDs and Strips to get you started
Now that you understand how RGB LEDs operate, have a look at our top 5 suggestions to select the RGB light that’s best for you. Here are five unusual products that change colors on the fly and improve the mood in your home.
12V RGB Flex Strips
12V Flexible strip lights are the most common RGB light strips we sell. The strips have 30-60 LEDs per meter and are available in lengths ranging from 3 to 16.4 feet. The strips come in two versions: waterproof IP65 and non-waterproof IP20, making them suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. These strips all include a 4-pin C4P connection that can be used with either our simple remote-style RGB dimmers or our smart RGB dimmers.
Plug-in RGB LED Strip Lights with Controller – For Long Length, Quality RGB
The RGB color-changing lights’ newest addition… The previous maximum length was 32.8 feet, but these strips blast that out of the water and may reach 150 feet! Each strip comes with a power wire that has an RGB controller built right in. The RGB strip kit comes with a power wire and an IR remote control in your choice of length. This is a simple color-changing strip that may be used outside or inside to run around rooms and coves. The strip is protected by a UV-resistant, heavy-duty transparent PVC enclosure. It may be customized further after purchasing because it is cuttable for every meter.
Side-Emitting RGB Flex Strips
The 12V RGB flex strips are the same as these unique LED strips. The main difference is that these have a very small RGB LED on the strip that emits sideways. This is a wonderful alternative for in-wall wash or backlighting situations where you need to shoot the light directly up. Because the tiny diodes are more expensive, they are more expensive than standard 12V strip lights, but the ease of side lighting makes this a worthwhile trade-off if your application requires it.
RGB+W LED Strip Lights
Do you want to add to the confusion? Add another LED to all those millions of hues and tints we discussed earlier. While RGB LEDs have three colored diodes, the RGBW LED Strips have four…one of which is a white diode. The Cree XML-2 RGBW LED, for example, is incorporated directly into the same diode, whereas our 24V RGB+W strip alternates RGB and Warm White diodes on the strip.
RGB (3-channel) dimmers will not operate with RGB+W LED lights; instead, an RGB+W Controller with four channels is required.
Cree XP-E2 RGB – High Power SMD LED
This is a single 20mm PCB with three Cree XP-E2 LEDs in…wait for it… blue, green, and red Individually addressable LEDs allow you to link your LED drivers and DMX controller to each individual LED for superior color mixing. Unlike the other LED strips on this list, which require a constant 12-24 DC voltage to operate correctly, these LEDs require a continuous current supply. More information on finding a driver for high-power LEDs like the Cree XP-E2 may be found here.
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