The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect LED Backlit Desk Setup

So you’ve decided to add some LED’s to your desk. Sweet!

Whether you want a simple well-lit workspace or a hardcore RGB battle station, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about adding LEDs to your desk setup. 

We’ll cover the benefits of bias lighting, the types of lighting to choose from, where to place them, how to ensure a long-term installation and more.

rgb LED backlit workspace with lights behind monitor

Key Takeaways

  • Adding LED backlighting to your workspace has serious benefits in terms of eye comfort and aesthetics.
  • There are a ton of LED lighting solutions to choose from in terms of colors, customizability, functionality, etc. 
  • The most affordable way to add LED backlighting to your desk is with LED strips. They are super cheap and very reliable. 
  • The main LED placement locations include behind your desk ledge and behind your monitor. Both of these bounce and spread on a rear wall and give the illusion of a much larger light source. 

The Benefits of LED Bias Lighting

Turns out, adding LEDs to your desk setup is a pretty wise investment with real benefits. The main benefit here is eye comfort which will be huge for those long hours at your desk. 

Reduced Eye Strain

A typical computer desk just has a monitor and a desk lamp. Besides your monitor, you only have one other light source illuminating one side of your desk. 

The area behind your monitor is still dark, creating a sharp contrast between your monitor and the back wall of your desk. The result is eye strain. 

gas spring monitor arm

Similar to watching TV in a completely dark room, your eyes feel more strained when only a small area of your view is bright. 

You ease your eye strain by adding more light around your monitor, thus spreading the light throughout your point of view. A well-lit environment is much easier on the eyes. 

Bias lighting bounces light off of your rear wall and brightens up the area around your monitor. This will be a huge benefit to adding LEDs to your desk setup. 

Aesthetic & Customizable Desk Setup

We cant talk about the benefits of an LED desk setup without talking about the aesthetic benefits. 

A backlit LED desk setup can provide a huge aesthetic boost to your desk. The areas that are typically in the shadows are now lit up!

screenbar halo light bar govee bias

My backlit monitor even lights up two framed pictures I have hanging above my desk. 

Also, many LED solutions are RGB, meaning they can change to pretty much any color. That means you can set the mood for anything at your desk. You don’t have to be stuck with a single color at any time. 

If you like changing up your desk’s appearance every so often, LED lights can easily do this with a press of a button. 

The Best LED Types For Desk Setups

There are a ton of LED lighting solutions on the market these days. Let’s talk about the main options out there. 

LED Strips

LED strips are going to be the most affordable option out there in terms of adding lights to your desk setup. Cheaper ones may not be as bright as more expensive ones, but they certainly get the job done. 

My first backlit LED upgrade to my desk was a simple LED strip along the rear ledge. They still function perfectly fine to this day!

They typically come with a wireless remote that lets you select the color, brightness, and any effects.

LED Light Bars

Quality LED light bars have been another popular offering for desk bias lighting. They are basically LEDs packed into a case with a nice diffused front cover. 

That means you don’t see any individual LED dots, only a smooth and diffused light source. I currently have these behind my monitor, and they are now my main backlit LED light source.

If you go for the nicer light bar options out there, they come with a solid mobile app that is actually supported with updates. Some will even work with your smart assistant devices! 

Popular options include the Philips Hue Play Bars and the Govee Flow Plus lightbars. I use the latter and have a dedicated Govee Light Bar Review here.

Philips Hue Play White & Color Smart Light, 2 Pack

The Philips Hue Play is a versatile and customizable smart light that can be controlled with your voice through Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, or Google Assistant. With limitless possibilities for enhancing your home, the Hue Play can be mounted behind your TV for the ultimate lighting experience or placed anywhere in your living room for a pleasant ambiance. The pack includes clips and double-sided tape for easy installation.

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Govee Smart LED Light Bars
4.6
Pros:
  • 16 Million Colors
  • Included brackets make setup easy
  • Smooth and even lighting
  • Feature packed mobile app
  • Works with smart assistants
  • Has a Stream Deck Plugin!
Cons:
  • 8ft max distance between bars
  • RGB is not as bright as white settings
  • Occasional wireless control issues
Check Price on Amazon

I mainly chose the Govee lights due to their price tag. If you want a brighter diffused light source, LED light bars are the way to go. 

Other Accent Lights

LED strips and light bars are not the only way to get nice lighting at your desk. There are plenty of other accent lights that can sit on top of your desk and add nice glowy aesthetics. 

These will take up some desk space but can add a lot of character to a desk. Here are a few examples:

Industrial table Lamp, Edison Desk Lamp, Small Metal Lamps for Bedside, Nightstand, Coffee Table, Dressers in Dorm Room, Bedroom, Office, Black
  • CONVENIENT & SPACE-SAVING FEATURES: This study desk lamp is lightweight to 1.55Lbs (0.7kg), easily disassemble and portable and has a non-slip rubber bottom that prevents...
  • CHOICE FOR SAFETY: The bedroom table lamp is made of high-quality materials and UL Listed. With an E26 universal standard base, each lamp takes one maximum 60-watt...
  • SIMPLE YET ELEGANT INDUSTRIAL DESIGN: The nightstand desk lamp delivers a sleek silhouette featuring an antique C-shaped industrial look. Perfect table lamp for styles...
  • GREAT GIFT & HOME DECOR: The Edison bedside lamp is the best choice either for your daily use or as a gift for birthdays, housewarmings and any celebrations, and it...
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LONRISWAY Small LED Wood Table Lamp, Bedroom Bedside Night Light, Dimmable Led Lighting, Creative Home Decor Table lamp, Unique House Natural Beech warmging Gift Wood lamp
  • Wonderfully Gentle on the Eyes: Shines a flicker-free light that brightens your space without harming your eyes; ideal for reading, working or studying
  • Endless Lighting Possibilities: Create the perfect ambience with our LED desk lamp’s unique combination of 5 brightness levels,This dimmable lamp comes with a 3000K(3W)...
  • 【Dimension】60mm(L)*60mm(W)*130mm(H) in total, lamp height: 5.91 inch/150mm, cord length:47.24 Inch/1200mm. The small table lamp doesn't take up too much space and...
  • 【Soft on eyes】 provides just the right amount of light and diffuses it evenly, bright but not blinding, muted but efficient. Perfect for reading, nursing or working...
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You can also use the classic

as a nice rocky accent piece. The options are pretty much endless with desktop accent lamps. 

LED Light Colors & Appearance

RGB vs Single Color

There are two main types of LEDs. RGB LEDs or single color LEDs. 

RGB stands for “Red Green Blue”. These three colors can work together to make millions of colors with different combinations and brightness levels. If you want some flexible and colorful lighting accents, this is definitely the way to go.

minimalistic and spacious desk setup

If you have simpler design goals and just want a single color, those options are available and are often more affordable. 

For example, many folks just want a shade of white. If you want a nice and cozy warm white, you can find those LEDs very easily. 

Brightness & Color Temperature

Two more properties to keep in mind are brightness and color temperature. The latter is more applicable to those with white-only lighting setups. 

I found that more expensive LED lights happened to be brighter. This is likely due to the type of LED that is being used on the product. 

I found that the super budget-friendly LED options were the dimmest. This is certainly the case for my LED strip is behind my desk. 

This LED strip is very dim compared to my more expensive Govee Light Bars. The cheap strip also flickers when recording video of my desk. 

If you want a variety of color temperatures with your white LEDs be sure to specifically look for adjustable color temperature LED lights. 

benq screenbar halo  with warm lighting
screenbar halo lighting mode 3 with cold lighting

These adjustable temperature lights actually have both cool and warm LEDs integrated into the light strip and they simply adjust the brightness of each type to get the desired temperature. Here’s an example of a white LED strip with adjustable color temperature. 

LEDENET Tunable White LED Strip Lights 16.4ft DC24V Adjustable Color Temperature SMD 5050 300LEDs 2800K-6500K CCT Flexible LED Strip Lighting Non-Waterproof for Bedroom,Home, Kitchen
  • ✨5050 2 in 1 dual white: Cool white and warm white in 1 LED, use a color temperature controller to achieve color temperature adjustment from 2600K-7000K, it’s...
  • ✨Reliable Quality: Featuring a 12mm wide high-quality PCB copper base, the LED strip offers faster heat dissipation and better electrical conductivity. Durable and...
  • ✨Easy to use: The LED strip can be cut every 6 LEDs along the cut mark, and its flexible construction is perfect for effortless DIY installation. The strong 3M adhesive...
  • 📦Packaging: Only the 16.4ft/5M CCT LED lights is included. The DC 24V power supply and LED CT controller need to be purchased separately.
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Setting Up & Positioning LED Lighting At Your Desk

Exposed LEDs vs Bounced LEDs

When shopping for LED lights for your desk, it’s a good idea to think about how you want them placed. Some people like the look of exposed LEDs, while others like to hide their LED lights and have them bounce on the rear walls. 

Exposed LEDs simply mean LEDs that are placed such that you can actually see the light source when you are sitting at your desk. Bounced LEDs are usually placed behind your monitor or behind your desk. These bounce the light on the rear wall giving a more natural and diffused look.

BenQ Ideacam S1 Pro on monitor

Gamers typically lean toward the exposed LEDs, because they are much more pronounced. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about where to place your LED lights at your desk!

Behind Monitor Placement

If you want to attack eye strain head-on, place your LED light strip or light bars behind your monitor. This creates a natural extension of your monitor brightness to the area right behind your monitor. 

This is my go-to light to turn on when I start working at my computer. They also have LED light strips pre-cut made specifically for behind your monitor.

Here’s how I set up the lights behind my monitor. You can see I have two

Govee Light Bars
4.6
Pros:
  • 16 Million Colors
  • Included brackets make setup easy
  • Smooth and even lighting
  • Feature packed mobile app
  • Works with smart assistants
  • Has a Stream Deck Plugin!
Cons:
  • 8ft max distance between bars
  • RGB is not as bright as white settings
  • Occasional wireless control issues
Check Price on Amazon
hooked up using the supplied Govee mounts. 

hide monitor cables (2)

I also increase the distance between my monitor and my wall to spread the light as much as possible. These light bars can pretty much illuminate my entire room when turned to their maximum brightness. 

Behind Desk Ledge Placement

If you want your desk ledge to not disappear into a shadow, adding a light strip on the back edge of your desk can make for a very interesting look. 

This was my first LED lighting addition to my desk setup. Behind desk light strips have the best effect when you have full visibility of your desk’s rear ledge. 

I started using a monitor shelf that obscures the back of my desk. So now my LED strip is not as noticeable anymore. 

Before the desk shelf, it was a really clean bounce light. I placed the LED strip behind the desk as shown in the image below:

Hide Wires Under Desk led strip behind desk RGB

You also want to force your desk to have a gap with the rear wall. That ensures that your LEDs can actually diffuse and bounce the light. I currently have about a 1-2 inch gap. 

This gap also ensures that you don’t see the individual LED spots. 

If you have no choice but to place your desk really close to the wall, I would highly recommend using a pre-diffused silicone-covered LED strip, such as the ones below:

Lamomo LED Neon Lights, 12V Warm White Dimmable LED Strip Lights, 16.4ft/5m Waterproof LED Neon Rope Lights, Silicone 3000K Neon LED Strip for Bedroom Indoor Home Decor (Power Adapter Included)
  • 【3000K Warm White】The neon rope lights include 600 super bright warm white LEDs with 12V working voltage and 3000K Color Temperature. Upgraded LED and Side-Brightness...
  • 【Touchable Dimmable Controller】 Unique design LED light strip come with an upgraded Touchable Dimmable Controller, long-press dimmer to adjust light brightness (dim...
  • 【Cuttable & Extendable】 Along the black marker line, cuttable every 0.98", you can cut it to DIY special residential decoration or design a unique commercial sign,...
  • 【 IP65 Waterproof 】 Made of the IP65 technology that makes it waterproof, Available to Use in the Swimming pool/in Heavy Rain Day. Durable&Weather-resistant&Heatproof...
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iNextStation Neon LED Strip Light 16.4ft/5m 12V Silicone Rope Waterproof Flexible LED Neon Lights for Bedroom Indoors Outdoors, White (Power Adapter not Included)
  • Super Bright Neon Lights: The neon flex lights are made up of 600 2835SMD LEDs with side-brightness design for brighter illumination compared to average LED strip lights.
  • Flexible & Waterproof: The neon LED strip lights are more flexible and IP65 waterproof, suitable for indoor and outdoor usage. Easily bendable for custom shapes.
  • Cuttable, Dimmable & Safe: Cuttable every 0.98in(2.5cm) with marks on LED strip to create unique designs. Dimmable with included dimmer or alternative.
  • Soft Light: The thick and flexible silicon jacket surrounding the LEDs diffuses the light for a soft, even illumination suitable for bedrooms, kitchens, and more.
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These are already diffused so you don’t see the little LED dots everywhere. It’s a much cleaner and more continuous LED light source.

Using Adhesive Back LED Mounts/Strips

Most of these LED backlit desk setups will require you to use adhesive back mounts. 

Not all of these products stick really well, so here are some tips so you can get the best adhesion with whichever LED product you go for. 

  • Step 1: Thoroughly wipe down and clean the mounting surface. Wipe down with isopropyl alcohol to ensure a clean and dry mounting surface. 
  • Step 2: Add pressure when sticking your adhesive back products to your desk or monitor. This helps maximize the holding strength. I add pressure for about 10-20 seconds. 
Govee Flow Plus Light Bar adhesive back mounts

Controller Placement of Your LED Lights

All of these LED products have a controller of some kind. Even if you have an app on your phone, keep this controller in as convenient of a place as possible. 

Trust me, you will get tired of looking for an app on your phone every time you want to turn on the lights. Keeping the controller convenient lets you sit at your desk and just press a button. 

Govee Flow Plus Light Bar controller

I have my Govee Light Bar controller right behind my monitor. All I do is reach behind the monitor and click a button. 

My LED strip that is behind my desk uses a little wireless remote. That remote is in my drawer and is ready to go at any moment. 

Pro-tip, if your LED strip has a wireless remote, keep the receiver end of the LED strip easily visible from the remote’s perspective. This will ensure you don’t have any connection issues and your button presses work right away.  

Manage LED Cables

After you have all your LEDs up and running manage those cables! I have a dedicated article on how to manage monitor cables for those using behind-monitor LED lights. 

You’ll see my exact process for hiding those light bar cables. Also, check out our article on how to hide cables under your desk. This covers how I hide my rear desk LED strip cables. 

Popular LED Brands Worth Considering

Though the no-name Amazon brands will be a bit cheaper, you may get better lifetime product support by using a well-known LED light brand. 

For example, I had a small problem with a flickering Govee LED light, and they just sent me a new one after I proved the issue. That’s great service that will keep me a customer! 

Here are some great LED light brands that will keep you happy in the long run:

They make everything from screw-in light bulbs to LED strips, and even decorative LED panels. Phillips will be the most expensive option of the bunch.

Photo of author

Dasun

I'm a big time workspace enthusiast who is constantly experimenting with my setup. Sharing along the way to help people make their own desk setups more functional and inviting, whether it be for productivity or play!

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