RGB and RGBW lighting: key differences

By: Secom
24 de August, 2022
Reading time: 5 min

There is one simple difference between RGBW lighting and RGB lighting. While both have red, green and blue diodes, the RGBW system includes a white diode. This has various implications in terms of the lighting possibilities.

In this article we will talk about...

  • What is RGB lighting?
  • Main differences with respect to RGBW lighting
  • Applications of RGBW lighting
  • RGBW luminaires at Secom

What is RGB lighting?

An RGB device uses the three additive primary colours – red, green and blue – to produce practically any colour imaginable. The simplest RGB devices comprises three LEDS housed separately inside a unit covered with a transparent protective cover. The LED unit has four pins: one for each of the three coloured diodes, and a common anode (+) or cathode (-).

The system can generate a huge variety of colours. LEDs are by nature adjustable, enabling different shades of red, green and blue to be produced.

Each colour LED is technically capable of producing 256 different shades with the support of a high quality control system to achieve all shades possible. Lighting manufacturers combine the three primary LEDs with these 256 shades to create thousands of colours.

Main differences with respect to RGBW lighting

We can tell these systems apart by the number of pins. RGB has four pins, whereas RGBW has five. However, there are other features that set this type of lighting device apart.

Use of white light in RGBW

The white light chip in RGBW LED strips increases the lighting possibilities. The parameters can be adjusted to emit a whiter light or, for example, a more orange hue.

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More nuances

Systems that include white light enable a greater variety of lighting nuances. That’s why they are increasingly popular not only in homes but in commercial establishments, restaurants and cafes.

Cost and performance

Systems that include white light are more expensive than their RGB counterparts but offer enhanced performance.

Before choosing one or the other, the purpose of the lighting should be given careful consideration. The variety of colours in an RGB system makes this sufficient for decorative lighting, whereas RGBW is the top choice if bright white light is required.

Applications of RGBW lighting

The amazing performance of RGBW systems renders them suitable for a vast array of uses. Here are a few examples:


Decorative lighting of building facades is one of the most common uses of RGBW systems. Different lighting areas can be created, some with primarily white light and others with more upbeat shades or multiple colours.

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Likewise, RGBW technology is commonplace when lighting monuments on account of the range of options, its adaptability and the use of white light. Lighting for monuments should be tailored to the specific site and this means taking into account the basic lighting needs in addition to the social, cultural and aesthetic dimensions.

Creating unique atmospheres

Combining warm white LED light of 3000 K with red, green and blue can create a unique feel with unmatched lighting effects and higher colour rendering. LED strips can be installed in a huge variety of places and are self-adhesive to make the process even easier. They usually use 23 watts per metre and have a luminous flux of around 1400 lumens per metre.

4. RGBW luminaires at Secom

Secom stocks a range of RGBW luminaires offering excellent performance. Here are just a few:

Belel IP20 strip

Flexible LED strip. Ideal for indirect or decorative lighting. Self-adhesive and flexible, making installation a breeze.

Colores Tiras LED

BELEL IP65 LED strip

Another flexible, self-adhesive strip that is easy to install just about anywhere. Suitable for exterior decorative lighting projects.

Protek RGBW

Exterior floodlight. Great for creating unique atmospheres indoors and out thanks to its RGBW LED technology.

Esdium RGBW

Exterior floodlight. Great for creating unique atmospheres outdoors thanks to its RGBW LED technology.

RGBW lighting takes RGB technology a step further. Though the latter may work perfectly for many projects, RGBW is the better choice for more complex projects with higher technical specifications.

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