FAQ & Section Info
When you're building computers, it's really easy to get caught up in numbers and specs. We find ourselves comparing the stats and speeds of a hundred different parts, and pitting them against the pre-fab machines put out by the big manufacturers, and we may often find ourselves wondering why we even bother with custom computers when manufacturers make comparable systems already built. It's times like these we need to get in touch with the true spirit of system building: case lighting.
When it comes down to it, the only thing that makes a custom gaming PC incomparably awesome when pitted against a manufacturer's PC is whether or not it is constantly shooting photons out of any available crack, crevice, or window. After all, you didn't buy those memory modules with the shiny heat sinks and that graphics card that looks like an experimental arm-mounted energy weapon just so you could lock them up in a dank, black rectangle!
This here is my home system. I've spent much more effort getting this thing to light up seventy different ways than actually getting it to run any faster. I may not be the best case modder out there, but I hope this picture shows that I at least know something of what I'm talking about - and now, I'm going to share my addiction to case lighting products with you. It's the gift that keeps on taking!
Now, before I get into specific products that you can use to illuminate your computer tower, I'm going to explain a little about color theory, and how it can help you pull off a really distinct look. It turns out every color is made up of a mixture of three primary colors. What are these colors? If you answered "red, blue, and yellow", you are
The primary colors of light are red, green, and blue. You probably see this combination thrown around a lot as "RGB". These light colors mix in way that can seem initially a bit unintuitive, but can actually pull off some pretty neat effects.
Luckily for would-be mixers everywhere, most computer lighting products come in red, green, and blue, making this process pretty easy - and even more luckily, these colors all mix into white, making an unattractive configuration pretty much impossible (unlike working with pigments, where mixing all available colors produces a repulsive brown). However, it's not the best idea to mix all three - it's best to either pick one color and stick with it, or pick two colors, which will mix like so:
Red and blue will mix into magenta, blue and green will mix into cyan, and (perhaps most interestingly) red and green will mix into yellow.
If you're going to mix colors together, one thing that's wise to do is to keep them separate - one side of your case should be one color, and the other side of the case should be the second color.
In my computer, I keep all the blue lighting to the top of the case, and all the red lighting to the bottom. This produces a nice, smooth gradient from red to blue, with that wonderful distinct magenta color in the center. If you just put the lights everywhere without regard for placement, the lighting in your case will likely be dominated by the mixed color - probably not a bad look, though I prefer the gradient.
Now, to the nitty-gritty of how to make your case glow! By far the easiest thing you can do to light your case up is to get LED-lit fans. Most custom computer cases contain at least one from the get-go - if it doesn't light up, replace it with one that does. Almost every other case worth lighting has one or more additional spots where a fan can go, which usually look something like this:
Fans are by far the easiest and cheapest way to light your case - not to mention they keep your computer parts nice and cool, giving you an easy reason to justify buying them in the first place, seeing as how they serve an actual function besides being luminous.
Fans, like most lighting products, come three standard colors: red LED fan, green LED fan, and blue LED fan - however, some more interesting colors exist as well, like purple, orange LEDs, and even white lighted fan varieties. Experimenting with some of these esoteric color combinations might prove rewarding - after all, the worst two light colors can mix into is white.
Once you've exhausted your available fan slots (if you haven't added one more by gluing the drive bays together and sawing a hole into them), you may find yourself itching to keep the glow going. Luckily, it turns out they make products just for this purpose - little devices that just light up and do nothing else! I assume you're past justifying your purchases at this point. Luminescence is its own reward.
Probably the neatest of these products are the Logisys Glowing LED Case Feet. Anyone who's ever made a sidelong glance toward the car modding scene is familiar with the concept of "underglow", which is what these will provide you, of course - however, something that the manufacturer fails to mention is that the LEDs in the case feet actually shine into your case, as well, for free bonus lighting!
Soon, you'll start to see any available space in your case as a spot where you can stick some LEDs. Several different LED precuts are designed to hook into your power supply and glow, and can be purchased in the form of LED spotlights, glowing LED bars, or flexible LED strips, all with their own mounting methods from adhesives to zip-ties.
But as bright as LEDs are, they aren't the brightest things out there. If you want to stun onlookers with the awe of your luminosity, it's time to bring out the big guns: cold cathodes. These things are so bright, they'll almost completely overpower your LED lights - mix colors with caution!
That should be enough to get you started on tricking out your PC in a way that doesn't actually improve performance - and in the end, isn't that what having your own custom PC is all about? When you show your friends your system and tell them it has 32GB of overclocked DDR3 RAM and a Solid State Drive, their eyes will glaze over - but if you show them a computer that's glowing like a nuclear meltdown, you'll impress them without even having to say anything.