Can Philips Hue Do Black Light?

Black light is used everywhere from security to parties. These lights use UV-A wavelengths to cause a glow-in-the-dark reaction called fluoresce. You’ve probably seen this in black light posters at party stores or when you’re getting your stamp checked after re-entering into a concert.

It can be an exciting twist on traditional lighting to be able to switch over to black lights. Whether you’re setting up the best Halloween party your town has ever seen, or you want to relive the glory days of black light posters, black lights offer a timeless cool. But within the world of smart lighting, can Philips Hue handle this throwback of party lighting? The short answer is…

You can’t really emit black light from Philips Hue bulbs. You can set your Philips Hue lights to mimic the “black light blue” or violet color of a true black light, but Hue lights do not emit enough UV-A light for that fluorescent effect.

What is Philips Hue?

Philips Hue isn’t just a brand of smart light (with 90+ products to choose from), it’s a complete smart lighting system.

The Hue smart lights typically connect to a central hub known as the Bridge. These then connect into the Hue app which can control your entire lighting system both inside and outside of your home. Each bridge can connect up to 50 Hue devices. Philips Hue devices range from smart LED strips to exterior lighting and motion detectors.

Since we’re talking about black lights, let’s take a look at the three types of Hue smart lights.

The Three Types of Hue Lights

There are three core types of Hue smart lights. These make up the heart of any Philips Hue smart lighting system. Each of these lights has their pros and cons, but none of them can handle true black light. Let’s get a quick overview of each of these lights and what they, and can not, do.

A Philips Hue starter kit (B22), and four E14 White Ambiance bulbs.
My Hue starter kit came with two Hue White bulbs.

Hue White

This is your basic white light bulb. It handles your essential functions such as “on / off” functionality and dimming. These lights are locked into a warm white color space that can’t be adjusted.

This light is ideal for most interior and exterior applications.

Hue White Ambiance

The Hue White Ambiance light range is much more useful. The biggest change here is that it offers both warm white and cool white settings:

Screenshot from the Hue app, showing the color wheel picker for a White Ambiance Hue bulb.
The color wheel/picker for a White Ambiance bulb within the Hue app.

This light is ideal for interior design. With the ability to switch between warm and cool white settings, you can make sure that your interior always looks the way you want it to in comparison to the natural light that you get throughout the day (such as a more yellow ‘warm white’ at night, and a more blue ‘cool white’ in the day).

You can also switch between cool and warm lighting to match your mood.

Hue White And Color Ambiance

Now we’re in the big leagues.

This light offers a stunning 16-million color options. If you tried a new color once every day, it would take you over 43,000 years to try every single option:

Screenshot from the Hue app showing an RGB color wheel for Hue Color bulbs
Screenshot from the Hue app showing an RGB color wheel for Hue Color bulbs

These lights can be dialed into any need. Whether you’ve set up the ultimate gaming room, and you need bold LED lights to match, or you want to find the right balance blue-white to really make your decor pop, this light has it all.

Except for one thing. While this light can create a mock black light effect, it lacks a true black light utility.

How do These LED Lights Work?

Diodes on the Philips Hue Lightstrip V4
Diodes on the Philips Hue Lightstrip V4

Hue lights are all LEDs, meaning that they contain small lighting ‘chips’. These can output different colors, for example they contain:

  • Red diodes.
  • Blue diodes.
  • Green diodes.
  • As well as cool and warm white diodes (so that any ‘white’ colors are generated in a high quality, natural way – instead of via a mix of different colors).

These diodes can be supplied varying amounts of power to create just about any color we can imagine. Except for black light.

Can They Do Black Light?

Sort of, and we’ll get into that later when we talk about how to create a smart black light, but for the most part Hue lights can not do black light.

Black lights work a little differently than normal lighting. They rely on a special coating to block visible light and allow UV-A light to pass through. This is why things glow under black light and then stop glowing when normal lights turn back on.

Our eyes aren’t really that in-tune for UV-A, so we need the environment to be extremely dark to see the fluorescence of a black light.

How Does Black Light Work?

Unsparingly, this gets more technical the more you look into it.

On the most basic level, a black light produces mostly UV-A light. This wavelength of light causes objects to fluoresce. This is that glow you’ve seen objects and paints giving off under a black light. UV-A light can be harmful with too much long-term exposure, but it won’t cause sunburn like UV-B will.

There are two kinds of black lights. The technical Black Light Blue lights and the less powerful general black lights.

Black Light Blue lights have a special glass, known as a wood’s lamp, that prevents nearly all of the non-UV-A light from passing through. These lights glow an electric blue.

General black light bulbs just have a violet colored casing over the light which has a similar effect, but it is much weaker. Generally, these black lights will do just fine for parties and other applications.

You can even do a DIY experiment and cover a flashlight with some purple and blue cellophane wrap to create one of these weaker black lights at home.

Now that we know how black lights work, how close can we get with a Hue smart light?

How to Get Close to Black Light With Philips Hue

While there are no current Hue lights that can do true black light, we can get really close.

Hue lights use a CIE color space which means we can’t directly enter RGB or hex values which are commonly used in graphic design to pick colors, but the Hue app also features an extremely intuitive way to select colors.

You’re going to need either a Hue bulb or an LED strip for this – but make sure it’s a full Color Ambiance bulb, not just White or White Ambiance. The first step is to set up all of your lights and get everything connected. After that, we’ll be setting our lights to shades of deep violet or electric blue. If you have multiple lights going, make sure to vary up the hue a bit as black lights tend to differ slightly from light to light.

If you are using Siri, you can ask for the lights to be set to “electric purple” to get this effect. Other apps and devices, like Alexa and Google Home, have a “Lavender” setting that gives the same effect.

This will give you the same effect as black light, even if it doesn’t have the same cool, UV-A fluorescent effect. Depending on how powerful your lights are and how sensitive your UV-A reactive decor is, these settings will be enough to give off a mild fluoresce.

Do Any Smart Lights Offer Black Light Capability?

Not really. There are LED black lights and even one made by Philips, but so far there are no smart lights with UV-A black light potential. There are a few workarounds that can get you the same utility as a smart black light, but with a few extra steps.

To make a regular black light smarter, we are going to be connecting your black light of choice into a Philips Hue Smart Plug. This adapter allows you to quickly transform existing light fixtures into smart light fixtures:

Philips Hue smart plug unboxed - but not yet plugged in
Philips Hue smart plug unboxed – but not yet plugged in

You’ll be able to activate any black lights connected to this plug using your Hue app. This will give you the most important feature of a true smart light (being able to smartly turn it on and off), although admittetdly without the color changing and dimming capability. Very few smart plugs offer light dimming capability, unfortunately.

About Tristan Perry

Tristan Perry is a software developer who is passionate about tech gadgets, DIY and housing. He has therefore loved seeing smart homes hit the mainstream. Tristan also has an academic background (in Math & Computer Science), and so he enjoys digging into the technical ways that smart home devices work.

Tristan owns close to a dozen Amazon Echo devices, way too many Philips Hue bulbs and lightstrips, a boat-load of Ring Cameras and Doorbells... and a bunch of other smart home devices too (from Reolink, Google Nest, GLEDOPTO and others).

If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions about this article, please leave a comment below. Please note that all comments go into a moderation queue (to prevent blog spam). Your comment will be manually reviewed and approved by Tristan in less than a week. Thanks!

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