With the proliferation of the digital printing press and the availability of low-cost stock images, there are many different producers of products to cover fluorescent or LED lights decoratively.
The following is a discussion about overhead light panels (cover, diffuser), image quality, print medium (the panel itself), and custom sizing.
IMAGE QUALITY AND LIGHT TRANSMISSION
An image has several properties to consider when purchasing a decorative light diffuser.
Fluorescent Gallery decorative designs are originals developed to keep the lighting appropriate and artful. We never purchase a stock image. Our decorative images are original photographs of real decorative glass, iron, and marble. We then use these photographs to piece together artful designs without impacting light quality. Where appropriate, we use shading to make the design more realistic. All products are available in an unlimited number of sizes.
Fluorescent Gallery sky ceiling images and sky murals are our original photographs of sky, clouds, trees, and foliage. The camera is positioned from below; therefore, the print orientation resembles looking up. Many are so high-resolution that the image can expand to cover a large room.
Purchased stock images available at a lower cost. Many stunning designs are available that produce dramatic results when backlit, yet they make a poor light. That high-contrast, colorful image on your computer screen will result in a dark print that blocks valuable light from the fixture.
Various print media is used to create decorative light covers, sky ceiling panels, etc.
PREMIUM QUALITY: FLUORESCENT GALLERY FLAT ACRYLIC FOR LIGHTING
When a light panel is to span an opening without sagging, allow good light, and not turn yellow, quantity acrylic sheets are the best choice. Therefore, after an intensive search, we selected acrylic products specifically designed for lighting applications.
We offer only premium acrylic sheets in unlimited sizes for our decorative prints in three thicknesses: .060”, .080”, and .125” – see Acrylic Panel Options. All three thicknesses offer a slight matte finish for excellent ink adhesion, no shine, and softer light.
- Designed for optimum light transmission, maximum bulb diffusion, and no reaction to UV, they effectively hide the bulbs and lie flat in fixtures.
- They offer excellent light transmission while effectively diffusing the bulbs in the fixture and reducing glare.
- They will not become brittle or turn yellow over time.
- Designed specifically for lighting, these materials, with their slight matte finish, produce good adhesion for the ink from a digital press. The result is a panel that appears to have the ink embedded rather than printed on it.
- They are stiffer panels that lie flat in the fixture and can span large openings with minimal center sag.
- Even without being printed with a decorative design, the acrylic is beautiful.
- This material can be slightly more fragile, like glass.
- Its packaging must be very secure to transport it safely. This safe packaging does result in higher shipping costs.
MID-RANGE QUALITY: LIGHT GAUGE POLYCARBONATE
A printed option, producing a reasonable result, is the many forms of light gauge polycarbonate.
- Light gauge polycarbonate is a lower-cost option that replaces an existing light diffuser.
- It can be cut to size using a pair of tin snips or other means.
- It can be rolled up in a box, lowering shipping costs.
- Panels typically have a thickness of .045”.
- The resilient nature of the material allows for a thinner diffuser; however, the center droop can be noticeable.
- It is not strong enough to support a panel over 48” x 24”.
- The material has a shiny surface, which is not noticeable when illuminated but does not look as natural with the lights off.
- They may turn yellow over time.
LOW-END QUALITY: DECORATIVE FILM INSERTS
Decorative insets are translucent white film printed using a roll-to-roll digital printer.
- Using purchased stock designs, decorative film vendors can produce inserts in volume, in one size only, and at a lower cost.
- Easy to trim using scissors or a razor blade; however, this crops off part of the design.
- Commonly rolled up in a tube and shipped inexpensively.
- The film must lay inside the fixture on top of an existing acrylic light cover. If that panel has any texture or color, it will interfere with the design visual.
- A fun and lower-cost way to decorate, but not necessarily a long-lasting one.
PRODUCING PANELS FOR CUSTOM-SIZE FIXTURES AND FRAMES
The Fluorescent Gallery Method of Custom Sizing
Since our images are original artwork, our experts can graphically modify them, maintaining balance in detail without distortion. The customized image is printed onto the panel and cut to the specified size. The panel(s) are then custom-packed and shipped to you ready for installation.
In comparison, decorative film and polycarbonate producers print at one size. This size can be too small or large for many installations. Cutting is required to fit custom-size fixtures. This low-cost benefit comes with an extreme drawback by possibly ruining the visual balance of the image.
Custom Size Examples by Fluorescent Gallery
Our Tuscan Iron design, shown below, illustrates how we carefully preserve the integrity of the original 2’x4’ image for each unique aspect ratio.
How Not to Modify Artwork for Custom Sizes
As these images illustrate, cropping or stretching the original artwork produces unacceptable results.
There are many ways to decorate overhead lighting installations. Since 2007, Fluorescent Gallery has been serious about delivering light covers that are a work of art. These quality panels are durable, will look the same for years or decades, and offer a unique design specifically for you.