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Understanding the Difference Between Neon Signs and LED

July 02, 2021 3 min read

If you’ve been searching for something creative and eye-catching to put on that empty wall in your home or place of work, you will have no doubt come across neon signs before. A neon sign can provide the perfect statement in any room, with its bright colour and innovative design.

Despite this, there is still a lot of confusion, with many people often buying LED signs thinking they are neon. Many companies will advertise what looks to be a neon sign, when it is in fact made using LEDs. We know the hard work and skill that goes into making a genuine neon sign, and we want you to understand that too.

The only similarity between neon signs and LED signs is that they are both types of illuminated signage. In every other aspect, these two types of signs are very different and it’s important to know what you are buying. Here we take a look at some of the key points to remember. 

Light source

Neon glass signs are electric, lighted by luminous gas-discharge tubes that contain rarefied neon or other gases, usually argon. This is how they achieve their inimitable glow.


On the other hand, LED signs are created using light emitting diodes (LEDs) which are strung together closely to create a steady source of light.


With that in mind, you’re probably wondering what difference this makes to the brightness and overall appearance of a neon sign versus an LED one. Neon signs traditionally give off a warm glow which provides a welcoming feel to any room, and are typically very bright. Neon signs offer a 360 degree light source, creating a beautiful effect.


LED signs are also bright but are usually a harsher and colder light in comparison. What’s more, the design of LED signs mean that they are usually only illuminated on the front and sides, and so you don’t experience the same effect.

Materials and manufacturing

Neon signs are made from glass tubes, which are bent to shape over a flame by hand. Air and any impurities are removed via a vacuum pump, and the tubes are then subjected to a high voltage electricity to make them hot before being filled with neon or argon gas to achieve the colour and glow. It is an incredible craft and takes many years of practice to master the skill of bending glass!


LED signs are created by housing the light emitting diodes in a flexible silicone or PVC strip. The strips are glued on to a backing, using a template. In some cases acrylic is used, in which case the acrylic will be cut on a laser cutter and the LEDs are put in by hand. It does require some training to make an LED sign, but there is much less skill involved.

Important facts to remember about neon signs 

If you’re shopping around for the perfect neon sign, it’s important not to get disillusioned with false information you might read online. If you have read anything along the lines of neon signs being expensive to run or are toxic, this is misinformation. 

At Neon Creations, all of our neon signs are made by hand in our own UK workshop and we take great pride in being able to create genuine neon signs for you.

Neon signs are not toxic, as they are made from neon or argon gases which are noble gases. This means they are found in the air we breathe every day.

What’s more, neon signs don’t get hot and won’t burn you. This will get warm, as most electrical appliances do, but it’s not enough to be dangerous. We manufacture our neon signs with the right size of transformer to avoid any such incidents.

Neon signs are no more expensive to run than your household lights. Our neon signs come ready to be plugged into a standard mains socket, and run at about 60 Watts. To put this into perspective, a 100 Watt bulb can run for 10 hours for 1kWh of consumption, which is around 17p. Even if you kept your neon sign switched on for 10 hours each day, it would only cost around £62 per year. Remember that most neon signs also run at less than 100 Watts.

We’ve got loads of information busting the myths about neon signs, as well as tips on how to check you’re buying the right sign. If you’re still not sure about what you’re buying and you would like some more advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch!