There are many ways of making a backlit shelf, depending on where the shelf is situated and whether it is part of an enclosed shelving unit or open and fixed on a wall. However, a good general purpose method for many types of shelves is to use connectable light strips. There are several slightly different systems on the market.
Use a kit for an easy way of making a backlit shelf. Ikea’s Ledberg lighting strip set, for example, can be used to great effect at the back of a shelf. Many other kits are available. Unpack the kit and check everything is present. There should be three light strips, six U-shaped guides, six screws and a mains connector.
Connect the three light strips together. They attach via their push-fit end pieces. Lay the three-strip configuration at the back of the shelf where you would like it to be fixed. Mark the two ends with a pencil.
Place the first U-shaped guide at the first pencil mark. Place one of the screws in the screw hole. Screw it into the shelf with a screwdriver. Pre-drilling is not usually necessary. The screws are short and will drive into most kinds of wood easily. If you prefer, mark the holes with a pencil and pre-drill a small pilot hole first.
Follow the same procedure for the other pencil mark. Do the same with the remaining four U-shaped guides. Space them out between the two guides already fitted.
Fit the connected light strips into the U-shaped guides. Connect the end of the mains attachment to the end light strip. Connect the plug to a mains socket. Switch on.
For very full shelves, such as bookshelves, consider placing the light strips below the shelves rather than on the shelves. This way they will illuminate the items below to great effect.