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Soft or Hardback Lamp Shades – What’s The Difference?
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Soft or Hardback Lamp Shades – What’s The Difference?

You’re searching for the perfect new lamp shade for your favorite lamp. You know the color, the interior theme you want to match, and what style you want, leaving the final decision to choose from either a soft-backed lamp shade or a hard-backed lamp shade. But what makes one different from the other?

Soft or Hardback Lamp Shades

Here, we separate the two production methods with explanations for each, to describe how each is made and also the resultant lighting effects you can expect.


Hardback Lamp Shades


Laminated or hardback construction is generally used to create precisely shaped, angular lampshades. You can often find the below lampshade styles have been made using hardback construction, all of which share clean, angular characteristics:


-      Drum lamp shades

-      Euro lamp shades

-      Empire lamp shades


Soft or Hardback Lamp Shades

Drum hardback lampshade


Hardback shades are made using a stiff, plastic backing, usually laminate, which then provides most of the construction for the entire lampshade. One large piece of laminated is curved to form a cylindrical or cone-shaped shade, which is then held in place by an upper and lower metal ring to create the finished lampshade.


Soft or Hardback Lamp Shades

Euro hardback lampshade


The primary benefit of choosing hard-backed lampshades over soft is the vast range of fabric choices available. Materials for these shades that we tend to use most often in our hardback lampshades include real or faux silks, linens, European parchments, and burlap. A huge multitude of fabrics can be bonded onto durable, laminate backing to create a stylish shade that will match any interior theme.


Soft or Hardback Lamp Shades

 Empire hardback lampshade


For more about our hardback shades, read our blog: Why You Should Choose A Hardback Lamp Shade.


Softback Lamp Shades


Unlike hardback lamp shades, soft-lined and sewn fabric shades can be molded into more unusual and curved shapes. Malleable, woven fabrics have more ‘give’ and can be pulled and stretched to create curved shapes, such as those found in:


-      Bell lamp shades

-      Scalloped lamp shades

-      Unusual, curved shapes



Soft or Hardback Lamp Shades

Bell softback lampshade


Softback lamp shades or soft-lined shades are created by stretching an outer fabric over a metal frame. This material is then trimmed down at either end, often covered with another piece of fabric to finish the edges at top and bottom. Trims are often the same color as the rest of the shade but can be cut in a contrasting color for a more striking effect.


softback and hardback lampshade

Scalloped softback custom lampshade made by Oriental Lamp Shade Co


Unlike their hard-backed counterparts, soft-backed lampshades often feature plenty of surface detailing and include pleats, tucks, and gathers for lots of texture. This is harder to achieve in the same way with hard-backed shades, given the unmalleable nature of the laminated fabric.

softback and hardback lampshade oriental lampshade

Unusual & curved softback custom lampshade made by Oriental Lamp Shade Co


Softback lamp shades have a lighter construction, and so will let more light throughout the lamp shade (depending on the type of fabric and lining used). If you want to create a softer and more ambient effect in a traditionally furnished room, we recommend using soft-lined over laminate. Our selection of soft-lined lampshades include numerous different fabrics, and we can even customize your lampshade if you have a specific material in mind – get in touch to discuss your needs with us!


To find our more about our bespoke services, read our blog How We Create A Bespoke Laminated Lamp Shade.


softback and hardback lampshades

Custom hardback lampshade made by Oriental Lamp Shade Co


Ready to find your perfect lamp shade? Explore our full collection here.







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