Edge-lit acrylic

Blogs about acrylic in interiors produce many positive reactions. Many people are surprised with the result when they first apply acrylic to their interior decor. Thanks to the range of colours and the various transparencies, acrylic sheet is a versatile material for interior design. By using lighting, you can add an extra dimension to acrylic sheets. LED lighting, in particular, offers endless possibilities. In this blog, we give the most important tips to achieve the best result.

Choose the right LED strip

There are several LED strips on the market, there is a distinction between LED strip on a flexible roll, and LED strips that are mounted in a plastic housing: the latter are often available in the hardware store. The best result, however, is obtained with LED strips on a roll, these strips are often provided with a self-adhesive backing. The great advantage of these LED strips is the possibility of mounting the LEDs directly on the acrylic.

Different sheets, different lighting techniques

Acrylic has excellent light-conducting properties, the light flows effortlessly through the sheet. This applies to both clear and coloured acrylic. To make the sheet ‘light up,’ an unevenness must be created either in or on the material. This does not apply to opal white sheets as when they are illuminated from the top side the sheet will light up evenly.

LED strips have a very wide beam angle, so in principle, you can position the LED strip on the acrylic however you like and you can even use relatively thin sheet thicknesses. However, for the best result, we recommend using a sheet thickness of at least 8 millimetres. This thickness captures all the light from the LEDs so that the lighting effect is maximised.

Engraving acrylic

As previously mentioned, transparent acrylic will only light up when the light hits an unevenness in the surface. Therefore, the surface must be engraved; for the best effect, do this on the back of the sheet. Engraving can also mean that the entire surface is roughened, for example by evenly sanding the back with a fine grain sandpaper(600-1000).

The choice of design is entirely up to you, you can engrave a drawing, lettering, or an image in the acrylic. You can make your own design on the computer and print it out. Keep in mind that you print the design in mirror image, if you stick the design on the acrylic, you can trace it on the back of the sheet. If you then look at the front, you see the design in its original form.
The engraving starts with the transfer of the design to the acrylic sheet, for this, you use a fine marker pen that can write on any surface. The mirror-printed design is glued to the front, and then you trace the design on the back. When you have finished tracing, you remove the design from the front. Next, place the acrylic sheet on a soft surface, for example, a terry towel. Now you can start engraving!

Use a Dremel or similar machine for engraving. You begin by engraving the contours, the outer lines of the design. You do this with an engraving tool with an oval head, this allows you to engrave beautiful straight lines. Then you can fill in the design, you do this with the engraving tool with a round head. You can engrave very accurately with this tool. Make sure that you keep to the same depth: in the places where you have inadvertently dug deeper, a bright spot will occur.

Mount the LED lighting

LED strips can be cut to length and this is the first thing you do before you mount the LEDs on the acrylic. Then you test whether the LED strip works properly, this test is very important because we are going to glue the LED strip to the acrylic. If after glueing you discover that the LEDs are not working properly, you run the risk of damaging the whole thing when dismantling.
In order to ensure that the light spreads evenly through the acrylic, you can still burn the bottom edge (the end face). You can read how to do this in the blog Polishing Acrylic.

We do the glueing using a hot glue gun. Place the LED strip against the bottom edge of the plexiglass and ensure that the LEDs are exactly in the middle of the sheet thickness. You can temporarily fix the LED strip with adhesive tape to hold it in place. Then glue the LED strip to the acrylic; try to prevent any glue getting between the LEDs and the acrylic!
In principle, your project is now finished, now you only have to finish it. You can conceal the LED strip in a pedestal, or in a profile. You can find plenty of ideas on the internet!