Umatarō sushi restaurant real neon sign

What are the benefits of real glass neon over LED neon?

Neon lighting is iconic and has long been celebrated however in recent years LED neon has emerged as a popular alternative, offering flexibility and energy efficiency. So what makes real glass neon so special and why does it continue to hold an invaluable place in the world of lighting?

The craft of producing real neon signs from straight rods of glass is officially on the Association of Heritage Crafts ‘Endangered’ list, which led to us creating this video of real neon signs being made, showing the talent, skill and training that goes into producing a real glass neon sign.

Artistic Authenticity

Real neon is made of glass and sculpted by hand. The craftsmanship involved is a meticulous and skilled process that has to be honed over decades. Each neon light or sign is therefore a work of art which is entirely unique. LED neon lacks the authentic handmade touch and can therefore feel mass-produced or impersonal.

neon template being rolled out for glass neon


Real glass neon is often favoured for its classic, nostalgic look. It produces a warm and vibrant glow that many people find appealing. LED neon, on the other hand, can closely mimic the appearance of glass neon but may have a slightly different quality of light. Some people prefer the traditional look of glass neon, while others find LED neon to be a suitable alternative. The softness and subtle variations of light emitted by gases in real neon tubes coupled with the inherent imperfections and organic flow of the glass tube bends, adds character to each light. LED neon, by contrast, tends to produce a more uniform and cooler light, which may not evoke the same emotional response or create the same atmosphere.

real neon glass being bent

Customisation and Design

Real neon lighting offers wonderful design customisation options. Skilled glass benders can perfectly replicate handwriting for example to create a light that couldn’t be more personal. The nature of its production also means that certain design elements are built in – there are gaps between sections of glass and other sections are painted out to stop the light coming through. LED neon, while adaptable and capable of achieving various designs, is a factory produced material which lacks these characteristics and abilities.

electrodes being fixed to neon glass

Longevity and Durability

Real neon lighting boasts impressive longevity and durability. When properly maintained, neon tubes can last for decades, retaining their luminosity and visual appeal throughout. The glass used in neon tubes is resilient and resistant to degradation, ensuring that the brilliance of the neon remains consistent. This makes it a reliable choice for signage, architectural lighting and art installations where consistency and longevity are paramount.

Superior Colour Quality

One of the main advantages of real neon lighting is its exceptional colour quality. The neon and argon gases used in traditional neon tubes produce pure, vibrant hues that are unmatched by LED neon. Real neon’s colour palette includes iconic shades of pink, red, blue, and more, all of which possess a distinctive luminosity and depth. LED neon on the other hand relies on phosphor coatings to mimic the appearance of traditional neon colours and it often falls short in capturing that richness and intensity.

real neon glass on test

Environmental Consideration

In terms of environmental impact, real neon lighting has advantages over LED neon. LED neon contains electronic components, including semiconductors and metals, which cannot be recycled. Real neon on the other hand consists primarily of glass and gas, making it inherently recyclable and eco-friendly. Additionally, the energy consumption of real neon is often comparable to or even lower than that of LED neon, especially when considering the long lifespan of neon tubes and the energy efficiency achieved through advancements in power supply technology.

In order to provide balance, and so that you can make an informed decision as to whether a real glass neon sign or a replica LED neon sign is best suited to your project, it’s important to take a look at the potential disadvantages of using real glass neon for your sign:

  1. Fragility – Glass neon signs are delicate and prone to breakage. The glass tubes are susceptible to damage during transportation, installation, or even due to accidental impact. This fragility makes them more challenging to handle and maintain compared to other signage options.
  2. Maintenance requirements – Neon signs require regular maintenance and upkeep. Over time, the gases within the glass tubes can leak or degrade, causing the sign to lose its brightness or stop functioning altogether. Repairing or replacing damaged tubes can be time-consuming and expensive. Additionally, neon signs are sensitive to weather conditions and may require additional protection or maintenance in outdoor environments.
  3. Limited design flexibility – While neon signs offer a classic and nostalgic look, they have certain limitations when it comes to design flexibility. Creating intricate shapes or complex logos with neon tubes can be challenging and may require more expertise and time. This limitation can restrict the creative possibilities for businesses or individuals seeking highly customised or intricate signage.

While LED neon therefore has its merits, real neon lighting remains an unparalleled choice for those seeking a truly authentic illumination experience. Its superior colour quality, longevity, artistic authenticity, warm aesthetic, customisation options, and eco-friendliness contribute to its enduring appeal. Real neon’s ability to add character to a space, its enduring craftsmanship, and its ability to evoke emotions and nostalgia make it an irreplaceable form of illumination. As we appreciate the brilliance of real neon lighting, we recognise its unique place in our visual landscape and the timeless impact it has.

To whet your appetite even more, here’s a little round-up of some of our favourite real glass neon signs ever made. Enjoy.


radio city music hall real neon sign

Radio City Music Hall Neon Sign – The marquee of Radio City Music Hall in New York City is another well-known neon sign. The vibrant display with its distinctive Art Deco style is a recognisable symbol of one of the world’s most renowned entertainment venues.

moulin rouge neon windmill

Moulin Rouge Neon Windmill – The Moulin Rouge windmill in Paris, France, is a legendary neon sign associated with the famous cabaret. The red windmill with neon lights has been a symbol of Parisian nightlife and entertainment since the late 19th century.

Real glass neon Budweiser sign

Budweiser Neon Sign in St. Louis – The Budweiser sign in St. Louis, Missouri, features a large red neon outline of the Budweiser logo. It has become an iconic symbol associated with the city and the Anheuser-Busch brewery.

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Written by:

Ben is Co-Founder of Carousel Lights and multi award-winning businessman. He graduated from the University of Birmingham with a degree in Engineering and then subsequently worked in senior roles for British Airways and the BBC.

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