Welding Helmet Lenses: Different Shades and Their Uses Complete Guide

Are you a newbie to welding? Confused about which type of welding helmet lens to choose? Well, fear not as we will guide you through the different lenses and how each one plays an important role in the complex world of welding.

Let’s explore the various shades and their uses so you can make an informed decision!

Welding is an incredibly versatile profession. It can be used to join metals and alloys, cut them into different shapes, repair and even coat surfaces. But no matter what you’re welding or why, safety is always the priority. That’s especially true of your eyesight, which can be damaged by bright sparks or intense heat if unprotected — that’s where welding helmets come in handy!

A welding helmet consists of a durable headpiece to protect your head and neck from sparks and a tinted lens to protect your eyes. This article will provide an overview of how lenses with different shades work and their specific applications in the welding process.

Welding Helmet Lenses: Different Shades

When choosing welding helmet lenses, understanding the different shades, filter strength and lens features is an important factor in obtaining optimal eye protection, preventing eye damage, and achieving superior visibility while welding. There are a wide range of welding helmet lens shades available to meet different requirements and tasks. To understand the purpose of each shade lens option, it helps to first understand that instead of blocking light completely like sunglasses do, the correctly chosen lenses dim or reduce the intensity of light passing through them.

Arc Rating: After determining the type of hazard and required lens shade for a particular job or work activity, it is then time to identify an appropriate Arc rating. Under situations where you may be exposed to greater arc levels you will need a higher Arc Rating for appropriate protection for your eyes. Generally speaking lighter Smoke or Shade 5 lenses are great for Stick Welding (SMAW) processes or robotic applications with low amperages and intermittent exposure times. Smoke Shade 8-13 and Shade 15 lenses provide excellent protection from greater amperages and also protect from more than just infrared radiations but includes some additional visible light protection making these ideal choices when performing any TIG Welding (GTAW) processes requiring Gasoline Metal arc Welding (GMAW).

Digital Lenses: Digital Control Lenses are designed specifically with welding applications in mind where multiple steps are involved with alternating between two very different shade settings that can easily be done at a moment’s notice so as not to stop task production or workflow operations altogether. The intricacies of each setting can easily be customized helping prevent possible injuries associated with using somewhat inferior standard manual control lenses as both eyes receive equalized uniformed protection at all times within settings viz., 1/1/1/2, 2/4 , 2/4-8 & 5-8/9-13 etc…always keeping in mind however to select an appropriate level based on your needs that meets ANSI standards at all times as well.

Shade 3

Shade 3 lenses are the least dark out of all the possible welding helmet lens options. They can be used for any type of arc welding, including overhead and vertical welding, as well as cutting and grinding operations.

For light-gauge metals such as aluminum, AC TIG (Alternating Current – Tungsten Inert Gas) welding and MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welding processes, shade 3 is recommended. It also works well for general cutting and grinding procedures. Shade 3 provides a sufficient amount of visual clarity while also providing adequate protection from ultraviolet radiation.

Care should be taken to ensure a proper fit with the helmet in order to get the best protection while using this lens shade.


Welding helmet lenses are critical for protecting the welder from dangerous ultraviolet and infrared radiation. There are many different varieties of welding helmets available in terms of blend, design, and size; however, all welding helmets offer a few common traits— most notably the lens, which provides protection for the welder’s eyes and face.

Depending on the type of work being done, a welding helmet is typically outfitted with one of four distinct lens types: shades 8-12 (or variations thereof). Each shade offers its own unique set of benefits when it comes to protecting the user’s eyes. The following discusses each shade in detail so welders can make an informed decision regarding which one will serve their needs best.


Welding helmet lenses are specifically engineered to protect welders from the intense ultraviolet, visible and infrared light that is produced during the welding process. Different welding process will require differing lens tint grades in order to exploit their varying levels of manipulation or absorption that would otherwise be harmful to one’s eyesight.

The following is a guide for the common lens shades used in welding helmets and the benefits they have for different scenarios.

  • Shade 2 – Used mainly when welding at high amperage with low voltage settings, such as stick (SMAW) or flux-cored (FCAW). Generally used for aluminum and other light metals.
  • Shade 3 – Suitable for applications requiring a mid-range level of protection, such as MIG/MAG (GMAW) welding on stainless steel, mild steel and aluminum.
  • Shade 4 – Used mainly when welding higheramp MIG/MAG processes on thicker material (over 5mm) using higher current / voltage settings. Also suitable for TIG MMA & Plasma processes with low sensitivity materials such as aluminum and stainless steel where more visibility of arc is needed compared to shade 5 products.
  • Shade 5 – Ideal for torch soldering applications or working with brazing alloys, providing bright bluish color which can lead to better detail recognition due to greater visual contrast compared to shade 4 products. Also ideal for TIG welding of all applications but especially preferred by pipe welders due to maximum visible density it offers as well as properties like excellent fine arc recognition and minimized eye fatigue on longer weld projects even under direct viewing conditions if headgear settings are properly balanced accordingly (proper distance from arc).

Shade 5

Shade 5 welding lenses are suitable for most oxy-fuel welding applications as well as plasma cutting and some kinds of light grinding. They provide maximum UV protection, allowing the operator to use them safely even when working with short arc or pulse MIG. This shade is a mid-range filter that allows for clear visibility in most applications and is generally considered the most versatile for many welding scenarios.

Shade 5 lenses are appropriate when using processes such as SMAW (Shielded Metal Arc Welding), GMAW (Gas Metal Arc Welding) or FCAW (Flux Core Arc Welding). It is common in typical daily welding operations.


Understanding the different types of welding helmet lenses is important in order to determine which one is right for your job. Welding helmet lenses come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and shade levels, making it difficult to know which one is best suited for your needs. This guide will provide an overview of the types of lens coatings, shapes, sizes and shades available on the market so you can make informed decisions about which lens is best for you.

Automatic lens shades are a great choice for those who do multiple types of welding and do not want to change lenses every time they switch tasks. Automatics come with variable shades that allow you to adjust the darkness based on what type of welding you are doing. The different level of automatic lenses range from 3-14 which allows for more versatility when welding with different materials such as stainless steel, aluminum and others. Variable auto darkening helmets (ADF) are also a popular choice as they can be adjusted while you are welding without having to stop and switch lenses manually.

There are various other factors involved when it comes to selecting a welding helmet other than just the lens type. Size and shape should also be considered as larger lenses provide more protection but also block out excess light which in turn makes it harder to see your work. There is a large selection depending on dexterity requirements as well such as wrap around or lift up designs that allow additional comfort when working in any position or tight spaces. Finally, personal preference plays a role too when it comes down to color or design options – some people prefer bright colors while others prefer flat blacks or camo designs so don’t forget about this factor too!


When it comes to welding, safety is of utmost importance. One of the pieces of personal protective equipment that welders must always use is a proper welding helmet with the correctly tinted lenses. Different lens colors are used depending on the type and strength of the light given off by the welding arc – from low light conditions in general fabrication work to very high intensity levels in arc gouging applications.

The different shades are rated according to their optical density – which gives an indication of how much of the harmful ultra-violet radiation that strikes each shade will be blocked out – higher numbers indicate stronger protection. Below is a list and explanation of each shade:

1 (Shade 1): Use this shade for brazing and light plasma arc cutting only, when adequate protection against infrared (IR) radiation cannot be assured by other means. Block Ultraviolet (UV) rays up to 87% which reduces eye fatigue so you can work more comfortably and productively over long periods.

2 (Shade 2): This one is commonly used for shielded metal arc welding operations, resistance welding and spot/butt welding with tensilestrength less than 250N/mm² These auto darkening helmets provide great optical clarity at a moderate level UV/IR protection, up to 95%, for good visibility during torch or plasma arcs in low-to-medium amperage applications..

3 (Shade 3): Make sure you wear Shade 3 filters if you’re performing low risk MMA or TIG jobs such as light mild steel fabrication, thin sheet metal fabrication or car body repair projects with standard 200 series stainless steels or ferritic steels like 409 and 430 stainless steels. Unless suitable eye protection against infrared emission is provided then Shade 3 filters should not be used for plant maintenance / oxyacetylene applications . The filters block ultraviolet radiation up to 99% and protect your eyes from arc flash temperatures up to 190°C(374°F).

4 (Shade 4): This is meant for tasks done at medium to high amperage levels like grinding ,light pipe hand tool cleaning, chipping etc … It provides slightly better UV/IR protection than lighter shades but also cuts visible light consequently reducing visibility hence it may not be ideal when precise viewing is needed but still has a clear view compared to other dark shades . Shade 4 blocks ultraviolet radiation up to 99%. Protect your eyes from arc flash temperatures up to 200°C(392°F).

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Shade

When you’re shopping for a welding helmet lens, it’s important to choose one that strikes the right balance between protection and visibility. The shade you choose should match the intensity of your welding environment, as well as the type of job you’re doing. Here are some factors to consider when selecting a shade:

  1. The Type of Weld – Different welding types require different shades. Stick, MIG and TIG welding typically need different shades than gas welding or plasma cutting.
  2. The Intensity of Your Welding – The more intense your arc, the darker the shade needs to be in order to prevent eye damage. Keep in mind that different types of welds have different intensity levels, so you should adjust the lens accordingly.
  3. Surrounding Brightness – If your work environment has bright lights or reflective surfaces that make it difficult to see clearly, then you may need a lighter shade in order to get an acceptable level of visibility while still protecting your eyes.
  4. Comfort Level – Every welder has his/her comfort level when working on big projects or challenging tasks; because of this it is recommended that while choosing a lens shade keep into consideration whether its dark enough to ensure safety but also light enough so that user can stay comfortable during long hours spent working under its protection.

Welding Process

A welding process is any procedure that uses extreme heat, pressure or a combination of both to join parts or cut through materials. Depending on the type of process being used, tools such as heating torches, welding machines and pressure welders are usually needed. To protect operators from the intense light and heat emitted during the welding process as well as sparks and other debris, welding helmets equipped with special lenses are commonly used.

The lenses are designed to protect the eyes of wearers while providing them with optimum visibility of their work area. Different types of lenses produce different shades which should be selected depending on what kind of welding operation is being carried out. Each shade not only affects visibility but also determines the level of eye protection offered by a particular helmet lens.

The many shades available range from low numbers (between 8 and 14) which provide minimal protection but better visibility in bright lighting conditions to higher numbers (15-17) that offer more protection for arc welding processes but also a much darker viewing field. Depending on your purpose, you’ll want to pick a shade that offers optimal eye protection without compromising visibility too much; getting the balance right is essential for successful completion of any welding job!


The type of amperage used in welding determines the size, color, and shape of the metal oxide produced during the welding process. The higher the amperage, the hotter the arc will become. This increases the size and intensity of sparks being emitted and affects the tint of your lens.

A low-amp weld is best suited for a shade #3 or #4 lens. Low-amp welding includes electrode flux core welding, Plasma Arc Welding (PAW) , Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding and Spot Welding (SW). For example, when using TIG for aluminum on a lower amp setting you should use a #4 or #5 shade lens.

Medium-amp welds work best with a shade number 5 to 9. These types of welds include Mig/Steelertic Joint Welding (SJW), Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), Submerged Arc Welding (SAW), Ox-Fuel/Challenge Gas Welding (CFW), Flux Core Arc Welding (FCAW). For example , when doing Steelertic Joints you would use a shade 9 where short circuit mig uses a 7 or 8 lens.

High-amp welds are better suited for lenses with a shade number 8 to 13+. These include Carbon Arc Gouging and Air Carbon Arc Cutting/Gouging. When air carbon arc gouging with straight carbon plugs use an 11 or 12 lens to make sure your vision is properly shielded from harmful sparks flying at you during this type of process.

Other Considerations

When selecting a welding helmet lens, several other factors must be taken into account before making your decision. As previously mentioned, the level of protection from ultraviolet and infrared light is an important consideration, but it is also important to consider the comfort level of the lens when wearing it for long periods of time.

The different lens types, such as passive or powered lenses, will also affect your choice. Additionally, modern advancements in technology have led to features such as sensors that will automatically darken a lens when a welding arc is detected and digital display technology built into some helmets.

Finally, cost should be considered when looking for a new helmet and lens set up.

Auto-Darkening vs Passive Lenses

Before delving into the specifics of different lens shades for welding helmets, it is important to understand the main difference between two lens types: auto-darkening and passive. Auto-darkening lenses are designed to darken automatically without manual intervention when sparks are detected. This helps facilitate a smoother workflow and offers greater protection as potential hazards can be seen before they come into contact with the eye or face. Meanwhile, passive lenses require manual adjustment and must physically be flipped up or down in order to change between dark and clear states.

Auto-Darkening Lenses
Auto-darkening lenses are an important safety feature that can help ensure optimal protection while welding. They consist of a photo sensor array in the viewing area of the helmet that detects incoming sparks which causes them to automatically darken in response, shielding you from potentially dangerous flashes of light as you weld. The darkness settings on these lenses can range from shade DIN 8 all the way up to DIN 16, offering more room for customization than traditional passive lenses.

Passive Lenses
Passive lenses generally only offer one shade setting between clear and dark states, meaning there’s no flexibility for adapting to changes in ambient light during welding activities. These fixed settings offer adequate eye protection but do not always provide optimal safety due to limited range of vision during certain activities such as grinding or cutting tasks where lower shades would allow clearer vision while still protecting against arc flash or metal splatter impacts.


This guide was designed to help you better understand the differences between welding helmet lenses, as well as what they are used for. With a basic understanding of the different shades and how they affect your safety, you can make an informed decision when it comes to protecting yourself while welding.

Whether you’re a professional or just getting started in the field, having the right welding helmet is essential. It’s important to read labels closely and follow instructions precisely to ensure proper use. Your welding helmet should always be kept in good working condition and checked regularly for any type of damage or wear.

Remember that welding could present a serious hazard if not performed safely, so always remember to put safety first!


What shade of lens should be on a welding helmet?

The shade of lens on a welding helmet depends on the type of welding being done and the intensity of the light produced.

What do the different shades mean on a welding mask?

The different shades on a welding mask indicate the level of protection provided by the lens against the intensity of the light produced during welding.

What color lens is best for welding?

The color of the lens doesn’t necessarily determine its effectiveness. The appropriate shade level for the specific welding job is more important.

What is shade 5 lens?

A shade 5 lens is a relatively low level of protection used for oxyfuel cutting or plasma arc welding, which produces lower levels of radiation.

What is the minimum lens shade number for welding?

The minimum lens shade number for welding is 7, recommended for most welding operations.

What do welding shade numbers mean?

Welding shade numbers indicate the level of protection against the brightness of the welding arc, with higher numbers indicating greater protection.

How do I know if my welding helmet is dark enough?

Your welding helmet is dark enough if you can comfortably look at the welding arc without experiencing any eye strain or discomfort.

What welding lens is best?

The best welding lens depends on the specific welding application, with different levels of protection required for different types of welding.

What is the difference between auto-darkening welding helmet and fixed shade?

Auto-darkening welding helmets automatically adjust the shade level of the lens in response to the intensity of the welding arc, while fixed shade helmets have a fixed shade level.

What kind of welding helmet is best?

The best welding helmet depends on the individual user’s preferences and the type of welding application, with factors such as comfort, durability, and level of protection taken into account.

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