Ikea Hack: Warm Up LED Accent Lighting Using Photography Gels

Dec 7, 2014

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

Ikea Hack: Warm Up LED Accent Lighting Using Photography Gels

Dec 7, 2014

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

Join the Discussion

Share on:

Ikea Hack Besta TV Wall Unit Undercabinet Accent Lighting Warm LED 2

Installing new LED accent lighting or replacing your old energy wasting halogen under-cabinet lighting with new LED accent lights?  Notice that even the “warm white” LED lights are just a touch too white or a touch too harsh compared to the warm glow of the halogen lights you’re used to seeing?

Click the link for a simple way to warm up the look of LED accent lighting for less than $10 in less than two minutes by using photography gels.

This Ikea hack is not just for Ikea LED accent lighting – the same method can be used for any brand of LED accent lighting.  However, don’t try this with other types of under-cabinet lighting.  Halogen and even fluorescent bulbs get very hot.  The LED accent lighting pucks that I have stay relatively cool – but its up to you to determine if its safe to put a sheet of plastic inside your LED accent lighting.

In case you’re not a photographer, photography gels are thin sheets of colored plastic film that photographers use to color a light source.  You can get 20″x24″ sheets of gels for less than $7 each – click here.

Different light sources such as daylight, tungsten / halogen bulbs and fluorescent bulbs have very different colors to a camera – but to a human eye, they look pretty much the same…except for when they don’t.

(If you are a photographer – please excuse the Photography 101).

In the case of lighting in your home – most people are used to seeing tungsten / halogen light (ie. “warm white”).  If you replace an old tungsten / halogen or “warm white” LED bulb with a daylight balanced LED bulb (ie. “cool white”), the “cool white” light often looks much too harsh compared to what you’re used to seeing.

I found this even with “warm” white LED accent lighting – so I used photography gels to correct the color – by slightly warming up the light even more.

Here is what the LED accent lighting in my Ikea Besta TV storage unit looks like with a 1/4 CTO Gel.  (By the way, CTO stands for Color Temperature Orange and is used to match daylight to tungsten light.  “Full”, “1/2” and “1/4” refers to the strength of the color).

Ikea Hack Besta TV Wall Unit Undercabinet Accent Lighting Warm LED 1

And here is the LED accent lighting in my Ikea Besta TV storage unit with a 1/2 CTO Gel.

Ikea Hack Besta TV Wall Unit Undercabinet Accent Lighting Warm LED 1

Its up to you to decide what looks best to your eyes – but to me, especially when the lights are dimmed a 1/2 CTO Gel on top of the “warm white” LED accent lights looks the best – although 1/4 CTO Gel looks better too and isn’t quite as noticeably orange.

To install the gels onto your accent lighting, just cut little circles out of the gel sheet and fit them into your LED accent lights.  The LED under cabinet puck lights that I have have a glass cover that just pops out – so I simply put the gel circle in and reinstalled the cover.

Here is the glass cover from the light.

Ikea Hack Besta TV Wall Unit Undercabinet Lighting Warm LED Installation 1

And here it is with the gel circle in place.

Ikea Hack Besta TV Wall Unit Undercabinet Lighting Warm LED Installation 2

And here is how the finished Ikea hack looks with a a 1/2 CTO Gel installed to warm up all of the LED accent lights.

Ikea Hack Besta TV Wall Unit Undercabinet Accent Lighting Warm LED 1/2 CTO gel

Oh, and by the way – it is very difficult to show what the color of white light actually looks like on a screen.  On screen, I prefer the color of pure white light – by far – as seen in the lead photograph with the naked “warm white” LED lighting and the camera’s white balanced set to match.

However, in person, to my eye the warmer LED lighting just looks more appealing.

But just to show you how deceiving the color of white light can be – here is a photo of my Ikea Besta TV storage unit with the original “warm white” LED accent lighting – except the camera’s white balance is set for the white screen on the TV (about 7500K) instead of the “warm white” LED lights (about 3500K).

This is what a swing of 4000K looks like in camera – and its hardly noticeable in person.

Ikea Hack Besta TV Wall Unit Undercabinet Accent Lighting Warm LED

“Cool White” or “Warm White” – What Looks Better?

Have you upgraded to cool efficient LED lighting – or are you sticking with your old fashioned, energy sucking, heat radiating tungsten / halogen light bulbs?

What do you prefer “cool white” (daylight balanced) or “warm white” (tungsten / halogen balanced) LED lights?

Leave a comment below and let us know!

Filed Under:

Tagged With:

Find this interesting? Share it with your friends!

JP Danko

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

Join the Discussion

DIYP Comment Policy
Be nice, be on-topic, no personal information or flames.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

39 responses to “Ikea Hack: Warm Up LED Accent Lighting Using Photography Gels”

  1. Gvido Mūrnieks Avatar
    Gvido Mūrnieks

    Shoot RAW!
    Develop two images: One with correct wite ballance, for TV. Other, slightly warmer.
    Open both in photoshop and layer one on top of other.
    Add layer mask and make it so, the tv is correct WB and everything else has slightly warmer WB.

    Personally, I preffer, to get everything right in camera. But, for this particulat scene, it would be more effitient, to do it in post.

    1. udi tirosh Avatar
      udi tirosh

      this is a real life hack :) so the lights stays orange always. kinda your way to get an orange living room light.

    2. Christopher Avatar
      Christopher

      Ahhhhh hahahahahahahaha…!

  2. Arthur_P_Dent Avatar
    Arthur_P_Dent

    And how does this relate to DIY photography?

  3. Jordan Avatar
    Jordan

    Thanks for this! I’ve had LED pot lights put into my dining room but they are far too “white” for the space. This hack and the accompanying link is just what I was looking for.

  4. nan Avatar
    nan

    OMG… thank you SO MUCH for this info. While I am not a photographer, I knew that the photography community would have this info. THANK YOU!

  5. Pauly Avatar
    Pauly

    Our leds cast a horrible green tinge, what colour would balance the green to warm white, I like 2700 K. Thank You!

    1. JP Danko Avatar
      JP Danko

      Magenta is the opposite of green – so depending on how harsh the green tint is 1/4 or 1/2 or full magenta would cancel it out – then stacking a CTO (color temperature orange) would warm it up.

  6. kent Avatar
    kent

    Could you recommend what gel to go with to make a white LED night light into more of a candle flame color temperature? I’m guessing FULL CTO but I thought I’d ask. Here’s a photo with the LED on the left and a nice warm incandescent on the right, which I’d like to imitate the color temperature of (maybe that’s more orange than candle light?).

    1. Troy Dalmasso Avatar
      Troy Dalmasso

      A full stop of CTO would get daylight to tungsten, and the reverse is true for tungsten to daylight, a full stop of CTB. In your case, a full CTO would do it.

      (Old thread but commenting for other readers.)

  7. enej Avatar
    enej

    Thanks for the hack.
    I just bought some LEDs that emit 4000K light. I want them to match with the rest of the lights in the house, which is 3000K. Do you have a suggestion for a filter?

    1. Matt Owen Avatar
      1. enej Avatar
        enej

        Thanks for the info! Much appreciated.

  8. Paul Butler Avatar
    Paul Butler

    Thank you for this. I have purchased the Rosco 1/4 CTO and a Rosco light/medium diffuser sheet as well. Cut them to fit in a GU-10 LED and sandwiched them to fit. You can add another disc to double the effect e.g. 2 x 1/4 = 1/2 CTO. Used for this purpose individual sheets a very cheap. Check for heat tolerance if you are using halogen lights.

  9. Hateful Barbie Avatar
    Hateful Barbie

    Hi there, I just found your article, sorry for being late to the party. I’m one of those who actually love, no I mean it, LOVE, the cool white temperature on my light bulbs, and I find the LED that IKEA sells are way too warm for my taste. Can you recommend me what to use to emulate that cool white color on my LED bulbs? Thanks a million in advance. ?

    1. JP Danko Avatar
      JP Danko

      CTB gels of course :) Color temperature blue is the opposite of orange and also come in 1/4, 1/2 and full strength depending on how much you want to cool down the white color.

      1. Hateful Barbie Avatar
        Hateful Barbie

        Thank you!! <3

  10. Lee-Anne Borman Avatar
    Lee-Anne Borman

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    My husband just finished installing LED recessed lighting throughout our kitchen and he worked so hard it broke my heart to have to tell him how much I disliked the cool harsh lighting they emitted. I was so discouraged until I found your article. This is exactly the solution I needed to try to move on from my beloved halogen lighting and embrace these LEDs. Best advice ever and I’ll update with pics once complete.

  11. M. K. Hajdin Avatar
    M. K. Hajdin

    Cold light gives me migraines. I had to buy an LED desk lamp that only had cool white LEDs in it. Sticking a piece of 1/4 CTO inside the cover has saved my sanity. Thank you!

  12. Kelly Robertis Avatar
    Kelly Robertis

    Hi I’m bought photography gel sheet u recommend,want to put on my chandler lights , thought it would have a sticky side? Don’t know how to apply it to little lights? Does this sheet have a sticky side? Do u use tape??? Thank u frustrated ??

    1. Anthony Semprun Avatar
      Anthony Semprun

      No sticky side. I bought for my bedroom c-fan. I had to use 2 layers (over one another) for it to get dark enough. It still looks kind of orange. But better than an operating room like before. It is a CHEAP life hack!! Worth it!! Thanks. The sheet is big enough to do several can lights (5×5 approx) and plenty of smaller lights.

  13. stmonday Avatar
    stmonday

    You da man! Thanks for this great blog. I’m going to use 1/2 CTOs on my outdoor landscape lights to get rid of the feeling I just moved into a prison yard. I appreciate your genius in figuring this out and sharing it with me! So relieved to get out of LED brightness prison.

  14. oldclimber Avatar
    oldclimber

    Working with light as work source, especially printing, art, painting, etc. is getting more complicated, as even common “full spectrum” halogen and LED are often mixing bars of limited spectrum to create a sensation of balance – yet the gaps can wreak havoc when your work gets moved to a true daylit area, a gallery with different lighting, and on and on. CRI is a useful first step, but overbalances in the red can give an artificially high (= good) number that is still not close to accurately displaying colors in reality. Further, as with fluorescents, LEDs have not actually been shown to be stable, in output, over prolonged time spans.
    The filtering trick is a cheap and simple way to effect everyday displays and such, but critical work may require a full spectrometer analysis (cheap app options are coming onboard) because our eye-brain system can be easily tricked, and is evolved to be auto-adapting, not fixed, as the camera white balanced photo above demonstrates so well.

  15. Kristine Allen Patti Avatar
    Kristine Allen Patti

    could this be used to tape around the strings of icicle lights outdoors? we had to buy new lights this year and I dispise the bright white led’s for Christmas

  16. Jim Wright Avatar
    Jim Wright

    Not photographic: More and more studies are coming out showing the sleep deprivation effects of the high blue content of LED lights. More than that, is the developing knowledge of the excessive blue light causing vision/eyesight problems over a long period. I have a houseful of LED bulbs and 20 4-foot LED tubes. I’ve ordered some of the sun filter material to give a try.

  17. YB E Avatar
    YB E

    Is there a way to dim lights that are too high wattage? I bought 5 w spot lights which there are 6 all together. Even with only 4 on it feels like a Macy’s display window. I’d like to darken them a bit without changing the color. Am I asking the impossible? I did not find lower wattage by the way. Thanks!

    1. Kapil Dev Mishra Avatar
      Kapil Dev Mishra

      Try decreasing village on step of 0.1 for suitable village for you.

      1. Kapil Dev Avatar
        Kapil Dev

        Try decreasing voltage on step of 0.1V for suitable voltage for you.

  18. Derek Birch Avatar
    Derek Birch

    I hate the colour of cool white led lights. it is too harsh and not at all comforting. I have replaced a few of my bulbs to LED, but it is very hard to find ones that are warm white.

  19. H Caulfield Avatar
    H Caulfield

    Thank you JP Danko! Just the info I was looking for, and so well written too–with links yet!

  20. Nonzpa Avatar
    Nonzpa

    Brilliant!

  21. Writing It Off Avatar
    Writing It Off

    Can I insert these into LED Recessed light kit that includes the bulb inside? This is the kind that needs to be completely replaced when the bulb dies because the bulb is part of the kit.

    Thank you!

    1. Lauren Perez Avatar
      Lauren Perez

      Hi! Did you end up inserting the photo gel into your recessed light? Hoping I can do the same

  22. Scott Nathan Avatar
    Scott Nathan

    I’d rather destroy planet and my utility bill than have my home feel like a post office. Incandescent only.

    1. LB LB Avatar
      LB LB

      Exactly my thoughts :D.

  23. BK Avatar
    BK

    Incandescent all the way. LEDs give me migraines, and fluorescents are not much better.

  24. Suleman Khan Avatar
    Suleman Khan

    The jewel exactly knows the value of a diamond. EnerNatural’s LED Warm White Light users actually possess jeweler’s sense. It lightens your homes and shops to that extent where you can find even a needle. Its brightness doesn’t irritate your eyes but pacifies. We strive for difference creation.

  25. Terry Wysocki Avatar
    Terry Wysocki

    I’d like to apply a CTO filter to some LED ceiling spotlights in my home but they have a convex face and won’t easily accept the film. Is there any form of a “spray” CTO tint available anywhere?

  26. Lauren Perez Avatar
    Lauren Perez

    This is awesome. Ok so are you saying I could put this on my recessed can LED lights and it doesn’t melt or anything?