I have a small project and I would like to have an LED display, just for the sheer fun and look of it. However it would be too expensive for me to make (I would like to use RGB leds) and I would need small LEDs very densely packed to display the information I want. However, the project I'm making I don't want to just stick an LCD panel in it.

So I was wondering, is there any way of hiding the fact an LCD is being used.

My initial thoughts where to use some kind of black / dark acrylic which would be strong enough to block out backlight bleed and the "greys" of an LCD but the colours and information on the LCD will be bright and strong enough to shine through the acrylic. Coupled with say an LED font or LED / dot matrix style graphics it will look like an LED display.

Is this a feasible idea? Are there any other alternatives or other techniques I could use? I thought about making my own LED backlight and using software it would only light specific parts of the screen that have text or information, making the black areas truly black with no light behind.


2 Answers 2


The nature of LCD is different from LED in that the first uses a white backlight and filters the light with liquid crystal pixels. The other is transmissive, and every pixel is its own source of light.

If you want to make an LCD look at though it is a lower-resolution LED display, you could simply design your graphics to appear as whatever type of LED display you are emulating, as you mentioned. The brightness and contrast, however are going to give away the true nature of the display to any careful observer. Even if you put the LCD behind a dark translucent acrylic and increase the brightness of the backlight to compensate, the fact that the "LEDs" are made up of small pixels will probably always be detectable. However, casual observers probably won't notice.

The effectiveness of mocking an LED display depends on your purpose: If you're doing this for a special effect prop for film or TV, it then depends on how prominent it will be. If you're doing a tight shot on the prop, shooting in HD, etc. - it might not look as convincing as it might in a wider shot. If you're trying to make something with a display that's visible in sunlight, an actual LED display will probably be much better than an LCD with a bright backlight.

What pixel pitch are you trying to emulate/achieve? What pixel width and height? For me, that would be critical to decide which display tech to use. If you're going finer than say a few mm, I recommend LCD or OLED. Above that, you can find or make an LED matrix.

The effort to back-light only specific parts of the LCD sounds as complicated, if not more, than driving a normal LED display to begin with.

(Disclaimer: I work for a company that produces LED displays down to 3mm pitch.)


Yes, that is possible, though black acrylic will make everything very hard too see.

A better option is hiding it behind a mirror. A two way mirror. With the lcd off, the glass acts like a mirror. With the lcd on, the lcd shines through. Just regular two way mirror glass is needed.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ That is a cool idea but its just that..when its off your going to see a mirror! I need it where it is just black really and not a mirror. Perhaps only a lightly tinted acrylic will be enough to block out the greys from the LCD thus not making the rest of the details too dark? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 16:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @binarysmacker the only way to say for sure is emperical testing. take a cell phone to like a printing/sign shop that has acrylic (hopefully semi opaque black) and see if it looks good \$\endgroup\$
    – Passerby
    Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 16:59

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