RGB LED: What You Need to Know

RGB LED: What You Need to Know

Introduction of RGB LED

What is an RGB LED?

RGB LED is a LED package that contains red, green, and blue light-emitting diodes. This package has 4 pins, three of which connect these three LEDs and the other pin is for a common anode (+) or cathode (-).

common anode (+) and cathode (-) RGB LED

RGB LED works under the principle of additive color scheme. RGB stands for red, green, and blue, which are the primary colors in additive color scheme. When combining these three colors together, a white color is produced. Additive color scheme is widely used in televisions, phones, and computer monitors. The process of adding colors is to add different wavelengths that can be seen. Another color scheme that you might be confused about is the subtractive color system. Its basic colors are cyan, magenta, and yellow. With the combination of these three colors, you get a black color. Because in this mixing process, less and less light is reflected. Subtractive color system is mainly used in printing, dyeing, etc.

Additive and Subtractive color model


Each red, green, and blue LED has its own shade, ranging from 0 to 255. To create different colors, you can simply adjust the intensity of these three lights. In this way, as many as 16 million hues of light can be produced. For example, to create red light, you need to set the intensity of green and blue light to zero and that of red light to the maximum. But it is hard to get all the colors by RGB combination. Several colors like brown are outside of the RGB color model so it is almost impossible to achieve.

What is it used for?

Creating numerous colors is only one of the advantages of RGB LED. The usage of it can be found everywhere in cities and living places because it has much more benefits than expected. Here are some of the advantages of it:

  • A wide range of color

As we mentioned above, with RGB LED, you can create about 16 million hues of light by the simple combination of red, green and blue lights. It can not only produce different colors but also changes the brightness of them. This results in many options for the usages of it, such as decorating streets and stages, displaying colors on smartphones or computer monitors, and there are more possibilities waiting for you to explore. Moreover, these days the control of RGB LED is also quite easy. Sometimes with several touches on your phone, you can change the color of a whole room by using certain applications.

  • Energy-saving

It consumes less energy than common lamps because it works with high efficiency and emits less heat. As a cold light source, it has a longer lifespan and is safer to use. Even though it can display more colors than a common led, the energy costing will only vary slightly.

  • Flexible

The design of it is usually very compact. Besides, there are different types of products for users to choose what is suitable for their places. Products like the RGB LED strips can even be cut into the desired length.

With these merits, RGB LED becomes a competitive light source used in many fields. It is used in different areas of our houses, on the streets and stages, in digital devices, and so on. Below are some detailed applications of it in our life.

  • Decoration

What you need for Christmas is not only love but also RGB LED. It is of necessity in decorating streets, storefronts, houses, and Christmas trees. The main reasons are its ideal performance on energy saving, its long duration, and safety. What’ s more, it is adjustable and easy to control. You can change the light to any color at any time you like.

  • Physical and mental health

RGB LED has been proven by researchers to be beneficial to people’s physical and mental health. For example, you can choose warm colors, such as yellow, pink, and orange to make it easier to fall asleep. These lights are relatively soft and will create a warm feeling.

There is a way to treat certain skin conditions and issues, namely LED light therapy. Conditions like Eczema, Psoriasis, and so on can be improved to some extent by lights of required colors.

Switch your mood with different lights. For instance, blue light brings calmness to your mind and studies find it may help with depression as well.

  • Gaming equipment

For gamers, the gaming room is a small world of their own. Equipment with RGB LED helps to integrate the lighting effect with games, so that not only the lighting looks good, but also can create a strong e-sport atmosphere.

Today, RGB lights have become the standard setup of various gaming peripherals such as keyboards, mice, and headphones, and the accessories inside the chassis are also using RGB light. The rise of RGB lighting stems from players’ pursuit of aesthetics and the perfect linkage between RGB peripherals and games.

Is it good for our eyes?

Generally speaking, RGB LED is not that bad for our health. LED lights don’ t produce UV light, so are safer compared with other lights in this perspective. And it is even better than white LED because it can emit light of different colors that are healthy for our eyes. As long as the intensity of light is controlled within safe limits, and the use of it is not prolonged, there won’ t be much damage. That being said, RGB LED still has its drawbacks. Sometimes exposure to blue light for a long time can be harmful to our health.

So which colors should we choose to protect our eyes? Warm light is a suitable choice in our daily life, such as warm white light. Besides, green, yellow and red lights are also good for our eyes in different ways.


Both RGB and White LED can produce white light, yet the imaging principles of them are different. For White LED, there are two main methods to achieve white light, one is by converting blue light to white with a yellow phosphor, and the other is by applying ultraviolet LED and blue, green, and red phosphors. While for RGB LED, it works by combining the 3 primary colors: red, green and blue for white light. Although it seems that both LEDs achieve the same effect in the end, there are quite a few differences between these two.

  • Brightness and Purity

The brightness and purity of RGB LED are higher than that of white LED, because the light it produces is a combination of red, green and blue light, rather than a single white light. And if you want a white LED to show different colors, you will need optical filters, which causes much light loss.

  • Usage

As we mentioned above, RGB LED can be used in many places for users’ specialized needs. RGB LED can do it with itself while white LED has to work with facilities.

  • Cost

Cost is a key factor that both producers and customers pay attention to. From this perspective, white led defeats RGB LED with a lower price.

  • Reaction speed

White LED is faster than RGB LED with regard to reaction speed. A white LED can respond after 1~2ms, while RGB LED will need 4~8ms. If the signal response time is too long, afterimages are likely to appear in the dynamic pictures, reducing the display effect.

  • Stability

As for the breakdown of lamps, flaws of RGB LED are more obvious. Because red, green and blue led are different from each other. Therefore a fault in led of a certain color will lead to the loss of that color. Showing on the screen, the missing color can be quite noticeable. Yet for white leds, since each one of them has the same color, when one is broken down, the others can help to cover the defeat.


RGBW means Red, Green, Blue and White. Compared with RGB LED, RGBW adds white light. RGB LED has a 3-in-1 LED chip and 4 pins. While RGBW uses a 4-in-1 LED chip and has 5 pins. That is the most obvious difference. Other differences are as followed:

Constitution of RGB and RGBW LED

  • Light effect

Adding a white light makes RGBW able to produce a brighter and purer white light than RGB LED. And with this extra white light, more colors can be produced. For example, you can change shades of a certain color with a RGBW LED.

  • Installation and control

There are not so many differences between RGB and RGBW LED when it comes to installation. All you need to take care of is to use the correct controller. The controllers of them are distinct. RGBW has 5 outputs and RGB has 4 outputs.

  • Cost

The cost of RGBW is certainly higher than RGB because of the added white chip. But RGBW makes it possible to create more ranges of colors and stronger light.

  • Usage

For common lights such as streetlights, RGB LED is enough. But if you want a purer white light or a complicated color display, RGBW will be more talented.

How to control it?

Principles of controlling RGB LED include constant current reduction (CCR) and pulse width modulation (PWM). But because of reasons such as high heat emission of CCR, usually PWM is applied to control the brightness of separate light to achieve different colors. There are some facilities for users to adjust different colors.

  • Controller and receiver

Buy controllers and receivers and then install the receivers. You can change the colors of the RGB LED by pressing buttons on the controller. This type of controller realizes the function of receiving signals via RF or IR technique. Note that it can only control lights within a limited area.

RGB LED controller

  • Wi-Fi/ Bluetooth and receiver

You can create different colors of lights with your smartphone. To do this, buy a receiver that can receive signals from Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Then you can use certain applications to control the lights.

  • DMX controller

DMX controller is useful when a large amount of lights need to be controlled, because it can control over 512 channels. Data of each LED light is shown on the screen of the controller for you to separately control them. DMX controller is widely used in stages, bars, hotels and other places that always hold large-scale activities.

DMX controller

RGB LED strips

The RGB LED light strip is a type of products that mount LEDs on a strip-shaped FPC or PCB hard board. Because it has a long lifespan (generally, the normal life span is 80,000 to 100,000 hours), and is very energy-saving and environmentally friendly, it has gradually emerged in various decoration industries. LED strips are generally divided into two types: Flex LED Strip and LED Light Bar. Characteristics of RGB LED strips include:

  1. Soft and can be curled freely.
  2. It can be cut and extended.
  3. The light bulb and the channel are completely covered in flexible plastic, so RGB LED strips act well in insulation and waterproof performance. It is very safe to use.
  4. Strong weather resistance.
  5. Not easy to break, long lifespan.
  6. It is simpleto creategraphics, text and can be bent into other shapes.

it has been widely used in buildings, bridges, roads, gardens, courtyards, signs, etc.

RGB LED strips

RGB LED controllers

As we mentioned before, controllers are essential to achieving the function of producing over 16 million hues of light. By simply clicking on applications on our phones or pressing buttons on the controllers, we can change colors and even create diverse light effects. Merits of RGB LED controllers include:

  • Compact
  • Easy to install and use


If you have been bored with the universal white light, why not try RGB LED lights which bring more personalized relish? RGB LED, for its talent in producing colors, energy saving, flexibility and so many other benefits, has played an important role in our daily life. It is sure to be a sign of a more diverse and advanced world.

Written by ——
Sushant Kulkarni
Sushant Kulkarni
9+ years of experience in implementing and debugging elector-mechanical systems, successfully leading multidisciplinary engineering teams and completing projects. Reach Me Now>>
Sushant Kulkarni
Sushant Kulkarni
9+ years of experience in implementing and debugging elector-mechanical systems, successfully leading multidisciplinary engineering teams and completing projects. Reach Me Now>>
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