Select Page


RGB, RGBW, and RGBA: What’s the Difference?

  • RGB, RGBW, and RGBA are multi-chip LED packages designed to produce a spectrum of controlled light.
  • RGB LED lighting refers to lights that use either a three-in-one chip (made up of red, green, and blue) or three discrete red, green and blue LED’s controlled in the same fashion as a 3-in-1 chip. These three colors are used in combination to produce over 16 million colors.
  • RGBW LED lighting is similar to RGB; but instead of using a three-in-one chip, it uses a four-in-one chip that adds white to the red, green, and blue. Sometimes, this form factor may include an RGB 3-in-1 chip plus a separate white LED diode. Typically, a supplier will offer a choice of the white CCT, such as Warm White (2700K-3000K), Natural White (3500K-4500K), or Cool White (6000K-6500K). RGBW lights are great at making displays appear more vibrant, lively, and vivid because the addition of white provides options for color saturation  Additionally, having a White (such as warm white or daylight/natural white) diode means a better quality white than the often blue-hued white derived from RGB alone. Being able to operate the white separately from the R, G, and B diodes means less stress and heat on the lamp, and therefore helps prolong the lifetime of the fixture.
  • RGBA LED lighting is very similar to RGBW, and it also uses a four-in-one chip. However, RGBA applications use amber instead of the white in RGBW LED lighting. This expands the light to include warmer tones such as rich golds, yellows, and orange shades.


Color Changing Lighting Equipment

The DMX, or digital multiplex protocol, is a widely used method of lighting control. DMX has become the go-to choice for stage lighting, nightclubs, complexes, Christmas light displays, and outdoor theaters as well as private and public venues. A DMX controller is a specific kind of console or software program that uses the DMX protocol to control the LED lights over 512 channels that make up one universe (DMX512). DMX can be implemented in two ways: simultaneous color change or digital pixel. Simultaneous color change refers to all LED’s or lamps connected to a DMX Decoder or Controller changing color in unison, because they are all set to the same address. Pixel lighting uses DMX controllers to allow the user to control individual or groups of LEDs. This fine level of control allows pixel-based systems to produce a brilliant display of lights, effects, and moving patterns including video. For users desiring wave-like patterns, logos or moving dynamic displays, then pixel lighting is the right choice.

DMX can be managed with the use of a console or software, as well as an interface or decoder. For non-pixel RGB/W/A lights, a DMX decoder will typically be required to receive the DMX signal from the console or computer. A decoder interprets the DMX signal and tells the RGB/W/A lights on the secondary how to behave. A system may have one decoder per lamp, or a whole string of lamps or LED strips connected to a single decoder. It is important to note that each decoder can be programmed to a specific address (3 channels if RGB, 4 channels if RGBW/A), so if a project has multiple decoders, they can each be set to the same address or different ones. The DMX controller will dictate which decoders will react based on the command. For Pixel lighting, a decoder will not be required, but since pixel lights are typically controlled via DMX software, a DMX interface will be required to feed the DMX signal to each universe. In Pixel lighting, each LED or group of LED’s can be controlled individually. This means that while a reel of color changing RGBW LED tape will have only 4 channels total, the same length of pixel RGBW LED tape may have 4x the number of pixels. For example, a non-pixel 1’ RGBW color-changing LED tape segment has 12 LED’s, but only 4 channels (R, G, B, W); whereas a 1’ RGBW pixel tape with 12 LED’s may require up to 48 channels depending on the pixels per inch (this may be 1 LED = 1 pixel, or 3 LED’s = 1 pixel). Therefore, Pixel lighting can be much more demanding and costly, but the possibilities are much wider.

DMX controller software can be used in a variety of applications to help users manage the color-changing lighting in certain applications such as concerts, nightclubs, or game shows. Users can also pre-program specific sequences for their color-changing lighting with standalone DMX controllers. As each DMX controller software is slightly different, it is best to consult us regarding your project needs and we can help specify the right controller and color changing lighting option for you.


Color Change Lighting Options

Standard RGB/W/A color-changing lights and pixel lighting each have their benefits and can be suitable to different applications. RGBW pixel lighting allows users to control the color, saturation, brightness, and speed down to the individual pixel. This fine level of control allows pixel-based systems to produce stunning moving imagery, patterns and shows. For this reason, RGBW pixel lighting is often used in concert, theater, amusement park and bar/nightclub applications. Products that are more popular with pixel lighting tend to be linear or matrix style lighting solutions, such as LED Neon, LED Tape, Pixel Dots/String lights, and LED array sheets.

Standard color-changing RGB/W/A lighting can also mimic pixel lighting by using multiple decoders/controllers in the field. Since each decoder is often individually addressable, users can group lights to specific decoders to create interesting patterns and scenes using the DMX controller. The decoders can also all be set to the same address, which means all lights on the installation change in unison, thus creating a more harmonious mood. For applications such as landscape lighting, water features, residential cove lights, holiday lights and other accent/ambient lights, simultaneous color change may actually be preferred from both an aesthetic and cost perspective.

Overall, both of these color changing lighting options are widely used in a variety of contexts. Simultaneously, outdoor color changing lighting is often preferred for applications focused on ambiance, accent, backlighting, coves, and exhibitions. RGBW pixel lighting tends to be preferred for those looking to create more customized light patterns and shows; it can add lighting effects to an existing show. Are you struggling to figure out what is best for your situation? Contact us today for a free consultation.


Color Changing Lighting Solutions

There are a number of different color changing lighting options available to purchase, with each one offering something unique.

Bulbs/Light Engine

The option of bulbs or a light engine are both suitable for many fixtures and custom assemblies. One major benefit of these color changing lighting options is that they allow for existing fixtures to be adapted and refitted to allow for color changing lighting. This is a beneficial way to update older lighting systems and revamp them into new color changing attractions. This is also a way to bring fresh new ideas to market in the color-changing space, without reinventing the wheel.


Linear color changing lighting options include LED tape, Neon Flex, Cove Lights and other similar products. LED tape is incredibly popular nowadays and can be particularly appealing when used as under cabinet lights, cover lighting, back lighting and perimeter lighting. When installed into a linear housing, color-changing LED tape can be adapted to more refined spaces and applications where aesthetics, diffusion, and adaptive mounting is important. Neon Flex is especially useful when it comes to outdoor/wet location cove lighting, perimeter lighting, and other similar applications. RGBW pixel lighting can also be used in linear options like LED tape, and its flexible nature means it can easily be relocated and maneuvered to fit different spaces.



Color changing lighting has started to become a more popular addition to architecture in recent times. For example, color changing lighting can be seen in use for flood lights, linear bars, wall grazers, and facade lighting. In general, color changing lighting is used in architecture as a means of highlighting certain elements of buildings or spaces, or it attracts attention and interest to different areas. This is seen in particular with outdoor color changing lighting, and it is used to draw the viewer’s focus to an especially attractive element of the outside design of a building. Many buildings like to utilize color-changing lighting to reflect pride in sports teams, holidays, school colors, or other special events.


Entertainment & Hospitality

Nowadays, one of the most popular uses for color changing lighting is in the commercial entertainment and hospitality space. For example, many hotel pools and fountains have the ability to look more spectacular than ever at nighttime due to the use of IP68 lighting. This refers to lighting elements that can be used underwater up to various depths, depending on the strength of the lighting elements. These are highly beneficial for anywhere with a water feature, as it truly makes the attraction come alive once the sun goes down. Other uses for color changing lighting in the entertainment industry include DMX dots and linear bars, which can both be used in a variety of show-stopping applications, such as concert displays, nightclubs/bars, amusement park rides, event halls, and beyond


Questions? Contact us at or (310) 340-7625.