How to dim LEDs on electronics?
August 23, 2011 11:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a way to dim LEDs on computers/electronics without completely darkening them.

I'm a college student...thus my bedroom is also my office/work area. So, I've got many things with power/status LEDs around my desk, which is across the room from my bed -- cable modem, router, USB hubs, computers, etc.

When I'm awake, the lights don't bother me too much. But when I'm trying to sleep, they're way too bright. I've been putting something in front of/over top of the lights occasionally, but that's too much of a hassle to remember to do (and sometimes to find something that adequately covers the lights).

Plus, I don't want to completely darken them (it's nice to see at-a-glance whether something's wrong with the network, etc). I'm unwilling to modify the devices (add resistors, change LEDs, etc) for various reasons (including the fact that the cable modem is leased, and that there are so many devices that it would probably take a lot of time that I don't have).

I've seen these, but I don't particularly want to buy a $10 pack of adhesive dots without knowing that they'll work well.

Any suggestions for dimming LEDs? I'd prefer something cheap, and maybe something I can source locally.
posted by PCjabber to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
a couple layers of scotch tape or another kind of clear tape. saran wrap even.
posted by fuzzysoft at 11:28 AM on August 23, 2011

Piece of black paper (perhaps just regular paper with black marker on it), use a thumbtack to poke tiny holes in it where the LEDs are, tape it down. Free, and you control the amount of light with the size of the tiny hole.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:28 AM on August 23, 2011

Best answer: You could try buying a neutral density gel - that's a sheet of tinted plastic used to reduce light intensity for photography etc. Just cut out some little squares or dots and stick them over the LEDs.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:29 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

building on that answer, scotch/clear tape with a magic marker dot of sufficient size will dim it without obscuring it entirely.
posted by radiosilents at 11:29 AM on August 23, 2011

No idea how successful this would be, but: paint over the LEDs with a suitably semi-transparent nail polish? Extra coats for extra dimming.

(This might not be particularly un-doable though, nail-polish remover might mark the casing and/or take off decals along with the polish.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:15 PM on August 23, 2011

Find a girl that's torn a pair of black stockings/pantyhose and cut strips out of them. Tape strips to the lights on your devices.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:28 PM on August 23, 2011

Best answer: Just stick a black electrical tape on it. If you still want to see what the leds indicate, just leave a small gap on the side; just enough to see them on/off.

That simple... that's how I do it.
posted by bbxx at 12:39 PM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I hang a dress sock whose mate I lost years ago down the from of my pc.

Classes up the joint.
posted by Sphinx at 12:43 PM on August 23, 2011

Nail polish. Dab a bit on the light in the color that you want. Let dry repeat as necessary until you have the brightness that you want.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 1:07 PM on August 23, 2011

Scribble on them with a Sharpie: the spots you miss or cover poorly will allow some light to come through, but not as much.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:09 PM on August 23, 2011

I just scotch taped parts of index cards over the lights. It really dims them, but you can still see them.
posted by jefftang at 1:14 PM on August 23, 2011

Best answer: Slightly cheaper than the option you linked, i've bought a set from and can confirm that they work. One particularly bright blue LED i wound up double layering them, but it did a great job of killing the glare and looks decent (at least on black electronics)
posted by topher74 at 1:38 PM on August 23, 2011

post it notes, works just fine.
posted by tomswift at 1:56 PM on August 23, 2011

Best answer: Try gaffer tape. Although it's black, I know from experience that LEDs will still shine through it. Best of all, it's nicely removable.
posted by tommasz at 1:57 PM on August 23, 2011

Best answer: One word - LightDims.
posted by DandyRandy at 2:29 PM on August 23, 2011

Make that last one a second to topher74.
posted by DandyRandy at 2:29 PM on August 23, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for all the suggestions so far!

I'll probably shy away from anything permanent. Paper stuck over the lights seems like it'd work fairly well, but might take away from aesthetics. (Same with articles of clothing over top.)

I had thought about electrical & masking tape but the former always seems to leave sticky residue, and it's pretty opaque. Masking tape might work well for some of my applications, but not others (my printer and UPS have backlit rubber buttons that might be hard to adhere to). Plus, neither option is the most aesthetically pleasing.

I've used gaffer's tape before (in an unrelated setting)...good to know that light will shine through it. Might be hard to find locally (though I'm suspecting that several of the options I prefer will be the same way). I had thought about lighting gels (like polarization film) and, again, couldn't find a local source.

DandyRandy and topher74, thanks for the link. I checked that product out and it looks good...and pretty inexpensive. Do they look terribly obvious/bad on non-black electronics? Any experience with sticking them to "domed" LEDs/lenses or rubber buttons? That might be a good balance between cheap and easy :-).
posted by PCjabber at 4:35 PM on August 23, 2011

Color the top (sticky backed) part of a post-it note with a black sharpie, then trim to fit. If it's not dark enough, take 2 or 3 post-its together from the top of the pad. Cheap and no residue.
posted by zepheria at 9:08 PM on August 23, 2011

Response by poster: So, I ended up going with the LightDims recommended by topher74 and DandyRandy...and I'm impressed.
  • Service was great. [My default shipping address in PayPal is my parents' house, as that's still my "permanent" address, being a college student...anyway, I submitted the order without thinking, and quickly emailed support and they replied within a few hours, saying that they shipped to the new address I gave them.]
  • Shipping was fast. I ordered on Thursday late afternoon, envelope was postmarked Friday in CA, and it got to me in NC yesterday (Monday).
  • The product works well! I ordered one each of their "original" and "blackout" style dims, and they cover light well. The "original" ones still allow me to see the LED without difficulty -- they're just not as bright as they were =)
Regarding my questions about 1) using them on non-black electronics and 2) sticking to domed LEDs:
  1. They're dark-colored, so they're definitely not invisible on (e.g.) white electronics. But they don't look bad, by any means.
  2. They stick to domed LEDs just fine. I've got a set of Logitech Z4 speakers, and the volume control remote has an LED that sticks up a couple mm from the surface. I used a slightly larger 'dim' on it (starting in the center), and it looks great (almost can't tell it's there).
They seem to stick to rubber buttons just fine too. My only complaint? They're a little bit hard to get off the plastic sheet they come attached looks like whatever cut the 'dims' to their shapes also scored the plastic sheet, so it sometimes takes some careful peeling. Very minor issue, IMO.

Thanks again for everyone's responses =)
posted by PCjabber at 7:05 PM on August 30, 2011

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