Edge-lit vs. Backlit Light Boxes

Back-lit vs Edge-lit

Posted on 09, February, 2015

Last Modified on 26, August, 2019

Are you looking at purchasing a poster light box and can’t figure out the difference between edge-lit and backlit light boxes? There are a few reasons why you'd pick one over the other - one being that the lighting in the room has a direct reflection on the appearance of your graphic. Read on to learn the difference between the two.

What is an Edge-Lit Light Box?

LED Light Bulbs for Edge-lit Poster Frame

Edge-lit light boxes are quickly growing in popularity. The LED lights shine sideways through the translucent panel behind your graphic film, indirectly lighting your graphic message. Having the lights on the side of the box allows the frame to be an inch or less in thickness. With edge-lit signs, there are fewer bulbs required for complete illumination, which will, in turn, lower your monthly energy costs. With this lighting method there might be a slight glow on the sides and corners on your display but if you use diffusion paper the glowing will be minimal or not show at all. The size of your light box will also have an impact on the diffusion of the light towards the center of the frame. Remember, the larger the edge-lit light box, the further away the bulbs will be from the center. So, when using a larger frame the center tends to have less light and may look slightly dimmer.

What is a Backlit Light Box?

LED Light Bulbs for Backlit Poster Frame

Backlit light boxes are popular for outdoor or well lit areas. This style of frame typically features LED bulbs across its whole back panel, facing towards your graphic. This construction allows the backlit graphic frame to be highly visible and have a more evenly distributed intensity of light throughout the entire frame. One thing to take into consideration is that backlit light boxes feature more bulbs than edge-lit frames, causing them to use more energy than indirect or edge-lit light boxes. If you are purchasing a LED light box, the energy costs will be lower compared to a fluorescent or T9 backlit frame. Additionally, backlit poster frames do not have the low profile design that an edge-lit would have. This is because more space is needed behind the graphic, usually 2” - 4” deep for light diffusion purposes. People tend to prefer backlit signs because of the occasional ability to replace bulbs easier compared to edge-lit in which you usually cannot replace the bulbs.

Edge-Lit vs Backlit Light Box Infographic

Difference Between Direct & Indirect Lighting Solutions

The two main types of light box sign technology are direct and indirect lighting. Direct lighting is more often associated with a backlit sign. For example, with LED strip lighting or fluorescent bulbs, there would be rows of lighting on the back of the box facing towards the poster. This is great for well-lit areas and translucent poster materials. Indirect is used with edge-lit frames and are great for custom boxes that are cut out in the front, when used in darker rooms. These frames are also more energy efficient.

Energy Cost Calculator

Enter the products kilowatt (kWh) usage: 1 kilowatt = 1000 watts
Enter your local kilowatt hour (kWh) rate: Look up your local rate
Enter the average hours per day the device runs:
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The cost of this device per 50 years is:

By entering your products kilowatt usage, your local electricity rate and the average hours per day that the product will be running you can find out a few different facts that could help you determine if a certain product is a good fit for you. The calculator will tell you how many kWh the devices use per month as well as the cost from per hour to a year and even 50 years. This is an exceptional tool if you want to see the difference between LED and fluorescent efficiency or the cost of an edge-lit poster LED frame compared to a backlit frame.

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