I've been making lights with LEDs for ages and thought it about time I show you how to make something brilliant, just from a bit of cheap led strip and a bit of cardboard.
All you're going to need to buy is the led strip and a power supply for it. The rest of the parts you'll probably have hanging around the house, or in the shed.
With led strip, you really get what you pay for. A lot of hardware stores stock cheap led strip these days and usually they come with their own power supply so you just plug them in, they light up and that's it. Best of all they are very low power, so are good for us all on the planet.
Step 1: What You'll Need
-12V led strip, about 4 feet of it (the easiest type to use is pre fitted with a power connector)
-A Power Supply for your led strip (if you brought a kit, it should come with a power supply that just plugs into it. If you need to buy one it'll need a 12V output. The led strip I'm using here uses 5W per metre so a power supply rated at 1Amp would be more than enough, that's what I'm using).
-a sheet of paper, 50cm x 50cm (or 2' x 2')
-cardboard, 2 sheets of twin flute cardboard also 50cm x 50cm (you can use an old box because these will be hidden in the finished piece)
-tape (sticky tape, packing tape or masking tape)
-sharp craft knife
-scissors, maybe... if you don't like knives...
-if you want to make the upgraded version you'll need some nice fabric cable and a plastic sheet, or some blackboard paint
Step 2: Draw Your Shape on Paper
I chose a balloon for this Instructable because you can make a feature of the cable, so it looks like a string holding the balloon, AND, it's a good shape if you want to make this as a present for someone for their birthday or whatever...
You can be pretty free with your shape, just make sure your led strip is long enough to go right round the outside. This balloon took 1.2m (4 feet) of led strip.
You can use any type of paper, it can be white, coloured, etc.
Step 3: Cut Out Your Shapes
With a craft knife, cut out the shape you just drew. Cut it carefully so you can use the outside of the shape as a template for the cardboard pieces that make the backing of the light.
We need the thickness of the cardboard parts to be more than the width of your led strip. So make sure you have enough cardboard to cut out 2 of your shapes at least.
Put the paper template on your cardboard. Tape it down.
Mark a line on your cardboard about 1 cm offset from inside of your paper template.
Cut the shape out carefully. You need to make the 2 shapes exactly the same.
One of the cardboard shapes is the rear of the light. You need to cut 2 more holes inside the balloon shape. One so you can hang it up easily, one to hide your cable connections.
Step 4: Tape Round the Edges
You can use tape to stick your two cardboard shapes together and then you'll need to run the tape right round the edge of the cardboard.
This is so that the led strip will stick to it , so it can be normal sticky tape, masking tape, packing tape , any type of tape that your led strip will stick to.
Step 5: Fit Your Led Strip
Start with your led strip power connector inside the pocket you cut in the cardboard. Cut a channel in the rear cardboard so that the wire to the plug fits in it, then carefully stick the led strip all the way round the taped edge of the balloon.
(I have picked the led strip that already has a power connector on it to make this Instructable really simple. If you need to fit your own wire, see the link two steps on).
You can normally cut the strip where it is marked every 5 cm or so. It's best to cut the strip to the mark before it overlaps. If this is at the tail end of the balloon it won't be as noticeable if there's a bit of a gap.
Step 6: Stick Your Original Paper Balloon on the Front
Your original white paper ballon should still be nice and clean if you used the outside shape as a template for your cardboard bits.
Now you can stick it on. I used a spray glue to keep it neat. Try to keep the overlap even, so it will hide the direct glare of the leds.
Step 7: Fit Your Cable...
Wrap the power supply lead round the tail of the balloon with a simple granny knot and plug it in to the connector of your led strip round the back of the light. You can hold it in place with a bit more tape.
Basically, you're done !
BUT ! an easy upgrade is to fit in a length of coloured cable to make it look a bit more interesting. You can find the cables online or in a hardware store if you're lucky.
If you search for 'twin core fabric twisted cable' you should find it.
If you've not wired up any led strip before or fitted connectors, have a look at this link that's a pretty comprehensive guide to soldering them.
Step 8: Personalising and Making It (old School) Interactive ...
So now you've got a lightey up white balloon thing on the wall.
You can make the front whatever colour you want , write on it, give it someone for their birthday etc etc.
I'll let you guys play with the permutations on that...
You can also make your balloon light interactive, in a lo-fi way by turning it into a notice board.
Cut out your balloon shape from a piece of white plastic sheet, and stick it on the front. This makes it a basic whiteboard. (Test your plastic first to make sure it wipes clean)
Or, you can go proper old school and make it a blackboard. I painted a bit of foam core with blackboard paint, cut it out and stuck that on.
If you make your own one balloon light please post an instagram with the tag #balloonible and tag me in it too @nick_rawstudio . I'd love to see what you've made.