How Do LEDs Change Color: The Science Behind How LEDs Produce Different Colors

How do LEDs change color? That’s a good question considering over the years, LEDs have undergone tremendous change. 

Now, you can enjoy up to six distinctly different colors as well as other subtle colors from your LED lights. 

And they’re now safer, more relaxing, and more beautiful. So you can enjoy a stylish experience with varying colors. 

Read on to learn all there is to know about color-changing LEDs.

LED Anatomy

LEDs comprise several components, including diodes made from semiconductor materials. These materials produce light in the form of photons under the influence of an electric current. 

 LED color diodes

(Caption: LED color diodes)

Now the current excites electrons in the material to a high energy state which produces light. And the light generated is in the form of visible light that the human eye can detect. 

Types of Color-Changing LEDs

There are two types of LEDs that can change color.

Indicator-type LEDs: Usually, you’ll find these LEDs primarily as indicator lights in panel displays and electronic devices. 

Also, in instrument illumination, such as on computers, screens, and cars.

 Note that these LEDs don’t cost much and require low power to operate. 

As a result, they’re short-lived, although they play their role well. 

Illuminator-type LEDs: Unlike indicator LEDs, these ones are not only durable but also high-powered enough to provide needed illumination.

 Also, these LEDs have a semiconductor chip, a substrate that supports the chip, and power contact points. 

Further, there’s a bond wire that connects the power contact points to the chip, heat sink, lens, and outer casing.   

About LED Color

Interestingly, the ability of LED lights to produce different colors lies embedded in the materials they comprise. 

See, LEDs have different materials that produce photons of varying wavelengths. These, in turn, produce a distinct light color that we’re able to see. 

For example, LEDs that use aluminum indium gallium phosphide (AllnGap) produce light colors ranging from bright red to amber.

 On the other hand, LEDs with indium gallium nitride (InGaN) emit green, blue, and cyan colors.  

Now combining different semiconductor materials would produce different colors. 

For example, AllnGap and InGaN would generate green-yellow to yellow.  

Different Forms of LED Color Changing

Interestingly, color-changing LED lighting is now available in different forms.

 As mentioned earlier, you’ll often see indicator-type LEDs in indicator lighting in panel displays. 

Typically, that’s the light that you see on traffic lights. 

Other forms of color-changing lights are corn lighting, used in photography and videography, and flexible strip lighting. 

And now stadiums have replaced jumbotron screens with color-changing LED concepts. 

Also, these lights have revolutionized homes as well so that living without LED color-changing features, from computer screens to home lighting, has grown inevitable.   

So now it’s possible to change color and program your LEDs to your preference. 

In fact, it’s a lot easier because you can just connect it to your smartphone and change colors from the comfort of your seat. 

How LED Color Changing Works

Color-changing bulbs work on the principle of varying red, green, and blue light. The secret is that these bulbs can switch colors in different combinations. 

They have a microcontroller system that allows them to switch colors. As a result, they can generate the various colors you see. 

Another way LED bulbs are able to produce different colors is their pulsing or “blinking.” 

For example, a LED pulsing 50 times per second will produce the deep dark blue color you see in LED bulbs. 

See, LED bulbs pulse rapidly and that way, the colors change fast, producing millions of subtly different colors. 

That way, you can get a myriad of color options for LED lights. 

Why Red, Blue, and Green?

LED lights employ red, green, and blue as these colors get produced at specific wavelengths detectable to the human eye. 

See, our eyes have light sensitivity abilities to colored lights, an ability enhanced by cone cells. And these cells mostly detect three colors, red, blue and green. 

For this reason, you’ll find that the founding of many LED lights is on these three colors. 

And the different colors we see are varying combinations of these primary color wavelengths. 

How Electric Current Impacts LED Color 

Now LED bulbs hold three individual diodes, each with one of the primary colors, red, blue, or green. 

And the diodes produce a given color when you pass current through one, two, or all of the diodes. 

For example, passing current through all three diodes produces white light.  And if you pass current through two diodes, you’ll get yellow, cyan, or magenta color. 

Also, as you might expect, varying the current amount also stimulates the LEDs to produce a different color.      

To illustrate, blue color LEDs made of InGaN or SiC (silicon carbide) typically require a forward voltage (Vf) of 2.5 to 3.7 Vf. 

On the other hand, red LEDs use 1.6 to 2.0 Vf, and green LEDs 1,9 to 4.0 Vf. 

How White Light Gets Formed

Interestingly, white light color means it has all seven colors like sunlight does. And LEDs generate such light in two ways:

Mixing colors: The color diodes mix all three colors (red, blue, and green). 

These colored diodes get energized at optimal intensities by means of a single cathode that links all three diodes. 

Manipulating emitted color: Interestingly, it’s possible to manipulate blue LEd light through a phosphor that changes the light to yellow color. 

Then, the remaining blue light combines with the newly created yellow light to generate white light. 

However, this concept comes with limitations. It produces a range of colors that may not necessarily be actual white color.    

LEDs Do More Than Just Change Color

Besides changing color, LEDs change color temperature. In fact, it’s on this ability that LEDs can achieve desired light colors. 

Now color temperature, measured in kelvins, describes how warm (red) or cool (blue) a light appears. 

And bulbs operate by varying their temperature to generate varying light colors. For example, lights for daily activity must be above 4500K, mimicking daylight. 

Then other light colors fall somewhere between 2000K and 3500K. 

Although LEDs don’t have filaments for temperature control, they can achieve warm or cool light, from red to UV blue and green color.


Does Voltage Change LED Color?

See different light-emitting diodes designed for specific colors require different amounts of forward voltage. 

Therefore, varying the voltage passing through a LED bulb with different color diodes will impact the final color that the bulb produces. 

How Does a Light Emitting Diode Get Its Light and Color?

Simply put, a LED achieves its color when current flows through it. Typically, LED comprises three primary diodes of blue, green, and red colors.

 Now two diodes produce a specific color when current passes through. And when current passes through all three diodes, it generates a white color. 

Additionally, pulses in the diode also create subtle changes in color. Thus, the bulb can produce hundreds of color combinations.  

Why Do LED Lights Go a Different Color?

Typically, LEDs contain diodes with semiconductor materials that produce red, blue, and green color wavelengths. 

And these diodes can produce different colors when the primary colors get combined. 


So how do LED lights change color? Well, the trick lies in their having diodes with the three primary colors and how they combine these colors to produce other colors.

 Also, the diodes have pulses that can also cause color changes, enabling a LED bulb to produce several colors.