How to Use a Laser Level in Bright Light Conditions

Laser levels are awesome tools that can speed up many jobs and make alignment tasks fast and easy.  But a lot of people have run into trouble when they try to use their laser levels outdoors in bright direct sunlight.  We get questions all the time asking how to use a laser level in bright light conditions.  The unfortunate reality is that a laser is a nothing more than a concentrated beam of light.  When it is placed in very bright light conditions, its visibility will unavoidably be diluted by the ambient light.  The effects of this dilution can vary, depending on several different factors.

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The most common effect is for the visible range of the laser to be shortened.  This is true for any laser level on the market – regardless of its power, color, and advertised range.  There’s really no way around this.  The worst case scenario is that the laser becomes essentially invisible, drowned out by the ambient lighting.  This is more likely with a low power laser with a short range. The good news is that there are some things you can do to increase the effective range of any laser in direct sunlight.  We’ll take a closer look at them here:

5 Tricks – How to Use a Laser Level in Bright Light Conditions

Depending on your situation – some of the methods below may help… or they may not help at all.  But here are 5 tricks for how to use a laser level in bright light conditions.  Be sure to read them all, because some of them require an expensive purchase – and some of them are absolutely free!

Trick #5 – How to Use a Laser Level Sensor / Receiver / Detector

If your laser level has a compatible laser sensor or receiver – this is probably the best approach to use the laser normally in bright light conditions.  Even when a laser beam is undetectable by the naked eye, it can still be precisely detected by a sensor that is specifically designed for this purpose.  This is the most reliable tool that can instantly show you how to use a laser level in bright light. To find out if there is a laser sensor or receiver that is compatible with your laser – refer to the documentation that came with your laser.  Most rotary laser levels, and many high-end cross-line laser levels will have a compatible sensor.  Depending on the brand of your laser, a new sensor will cost you about $50 – $150.

Pro Tip: Read Your Documentation

Don’t skimp on a laser receiver / detector / sensor by buying the cheapest one you can find.  Different lasers have different frequencies.  There can be slight frequency variations between different lasers of the same color, and even the different laser of the same brand.  But the sensor you use needs to exactly match your laser level.  The manufacturer will likely have listed compatible receivers in the original user manual.  If you can’t identify the appropriate sensor, contact the manufacturer.

Trick #4 – Use a Laser Card

You might call a laser card a “poor man’s laser detector.”  It’s basically a small piece of colored plastic which, if positioned correctly, will help you identify your laser beam in bright light conditions.  Most laser cards have a mounting hole that allows you to hang the card from a small nail, but tape will work just as well if you can’t find a place to put a nail.  At very long distances, in very bright direct sunlight – the card may not be enough to resolve your issue alone.  Used in conjunction with the other methods in this list, however, it often provides a cheap and easy way to use your laser in bright light conditions.

Trick #3 – Use Laser Recognition Glasses

You can learn how to use a laser level in bright light with these special glasses.  Laser recognition glasses are simply colored plastic glasses that you wear while you are using your laser.  Laser glasses effectively filter your vision to limit the light you see, making it easier for you to identify your laser beam in daylight.  It’s basically the same principle used by the laser card – but instead of creating a light filter in a small localized area it creates a light filter across your entire field of vision.  Much like the laser card – laser glasses may or may not be enough to solve your problem on their own.  But if you use them along with the other tricks listed here, you’ll probably be able to manage just fine.

Trick #2 – Power Up

Laser visibility in bright light conditions is partially dependent on the power of your laser.  If you’re consistently running into issues with visibility during daylight hours – you might need to consider upgrading to a more powerful laser level. If you normally don’t have any trouble, then the problem may be just as simple as a low battery.  Recharge or replace your batteries, and see if that doesn’t resolve your issue.

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Trick #1 – Manage Daylight Hours

This may not be what you are wanting to hear, but this is probably the most practical and helpful advice in this list.  As stated above, the effective range of any laser is going to be limited in bright light.  The most effective way to learn how to use a laser level in bright light conditions is to learn to schedule your day’s work in conjunction with natural light fluctuations. The worst time to use a laser level in the northern hemisphere is the afternoon, when sunlight is most direct and intense.  Visibility is much higher during morning and evening hours, when sunlight shines down at indirect angles.  You can take advantage of this by doing your alignment and measurements during the early morning and evening.  It’s not an ideal solution, but it works great.  And for most jobs, it isn’t too hard to manage your schedule so that you use the laser primarily at the beginning and end of each day.  Do your measurements first thing in the morning, or measure the next day’s work at the end of each work day. If you can manage your schedule in this way – you’ll never run into visibility issues as a result of bright light conditions, and you won’t need to spend any extra cash to patch a problem that can be entirely avoided by simply adjusting your schedule. Image for How To Use a Laser Level in Bright Light Conditions

Wrap-Up – How to Use a Laser Level in Bright Light Conditions

Hopefully these tips have helped show you how to use a laser level in bright light conditions.  The best approach for you is likely some combination of the tricks above.  Sometimes one method completely eliminates the problem, but more often it needs to be actively managed with multiple techniques. If you know a good tip that we forgot to include here, use our contact form to send it our way.  We’ll add it to this page to share it with as many people as possible.

Michael F.

I'm a laser level enthusiast. I enjoy keeping up with new products and industry trends, and I write about them on this site. I was introduced to lasers at my first job out of college, working for an industrial automation company. From there, I moved on to work with larger CO2 lasers in the packaging industry. Along the way I've owned and used several laser levels, and I've always kept myself up to date with the latest and greatest.