I live in a US condo building which has standard recessed lights, looking somewhat like this:

enter image description here

I find the light to be too harsh and would like to have a way to diffuse it. Is there some sort of a diffusing lens I can install on top of the lights to make them pleasant to the eyes? Or should I just install a different lamp type if I want that effect?

  • do a quick test ... tape a sheet of wax paper over the light
    – jsotola
    Commented Nov 10, 2020 at 23:24
  • I would cut a circle that just fits inside the can, maybe needing a few dots of poster putty to secure. A white foam plate or takeout "clamshell" should work for source material; I use that in DIY lamps and it works well, the thinner the better.
    – dandavis
    Commented Nov 12, 2020 at 8:04

5 Answers 5


You need to talk to your local gaffer supply/film production supply. Rosco makes a variety of gels and scrims to do exactly that, and they’re made to be near hot halogen lights.

Alternately, you may be able to find LEDs that aren’t crap and have proper diffusers on them.

  • Well the LEDs are Phillips, the most expensive ones you can get. But that's not diffuse enough for me. Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 5:18

Our new home is almost entirely lit by MR16 - GU5.3 LED downlights that are too harsh for my taste. Snap-on solutions for the fixture don't seem to exist so I researched the bulb route.

Basically, you can replace the bulbs and look for a flood rating in degrees. 100bulbs.com says this for MR16 bulbs (YMMV):

  • Narrow Spot: less than 10 degree beam angle
  • Spot: 15 degree beam angle
  • Narrow Flood: 25 degree beam angle
  • Flood: 36 degree beam angle
  • Wide Flood: greater than 50 degree beam angle


Soraa makes a specialized bulb with a magnet and sell interchangable snap-on lenses that offer different types of diffusion, although they seem to only offer 2 sizes of bulb (including the MR16) and seem to be about 10x the cost per bulb ($25-26, plus $5-6 per diffuser) of ones with fixed / built-in flood ratings ($3 - $4).


I've ended up purchasing these recessed can trims with a diffusing lens. They're not as diffusive as I'd ideally like but it's better than before.

enter image description here


Silk is known to soften lighting, but it's expensive & attaching it to the cans would be problematic. IMHO. I don't like the harshness of LED bulbs either. I replace them. There are various options with bulbs, such as "warm white" "daylight" "5000K"

Be aware of the heat though. If these cans were made for LEDs, and you put an incandescent in there, it may over heat.

  • 1
    Another thing beside LED temperature is their emissions spectrum. Many led bulbs emit only several narrow bands, which can be hard on the eyes. There are several markers such as CRI (colour rendering index) that are listed on bulb packaging. I personally try to buy LEDs with CRI at least 90 (out of maximum 100 which would be sunlight CRI), but typical common bulbs here usually have 80
    – Gnudiff
    Commented Nov 13, 2020 at 6:54

A retro-fit diffuser that fits with your make and model of housing/trim will be difficult to find (maybe impossible). Try different (lower lumen, different color) bulbs.

OR Try this- High-temp spray paint, flat white. Make a cardboard template and start by spraying just a small circular area in the center of the existing bulb glass. If there is still too much light, make the template hole bigger and spray again.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.