Introduction: Blinking LED Mood Lighting

Picture of Blinking LED Mood Lighting
Well I saw another instructable ( Fuzzy Logic Mood light )and was very inspired and decided the I wanted to take that idea and go a little further! This is a Piece of sheet metal with 48 blinking LEDs mounted in it, when it is laid on a table or aimed at a wall it gives a nice illusion of light reflecting off of water. But also it is cool to take a fogged piece of glass and put it over the top of it and it makes a very cool party looking piece of art!!

Step 1: Materials Needed

Picture of Materials Needed

Alright so I am sorry that I don't have a bunch of pictures of the materials needed, I accidentally deleted a bunch of pictures off of the camera that I had taken of the materials and parts needed. So I will make a list and try to add pictures later!

So here is a list of the Materials that I used and where I got them:

Blue Blinking LEDs ( Best HongKong )

Resistors ( Best HongKong )

Copper Metal Foil Tape (Micheal's Arts and Crafts)

Poster Board (Micheal's Arts and Crafts)

Old Phone Charger ( I just wrote a staff email at my work and had everyone bring there old phone chargers in, now I have a stock pile different voltage chargers!)

Piece of sheet metal (Home Depot, Lowe's, probably any hardware store)

Four Small Bolts with Nuts (Home Depot, Lowe's, probably any hardware store)

Four Small Rubber Caps that fit over the ends of the Bolts (Home Depot, Lowe's, probably any hardware store)

Step 2: Starting the Layout

Picture of Starting the Layout

First thing to do is to figure out how big you want to make this project and how many LEDs you want to be flashing...

So what I did is I wanted to have around 50 LEDs, and I thought I would like them about 2" by 2" grid, so I made six rows by eight rows which equaled 48 LEDs. Then I knew I wanted them to be 2 inches in between each LED so doing the math and keeping a 2" gap around the outside I ended up with a 18" x 14" piece of sheet metal.

Next I measured out my 2" by 2" grid onto the sheet metal with pencil (NOT pen, you need to erase these marks). Then you need to drill a hole just slightly bigger then the LED size you are using at every point that the pencil lines are intersecting. Make sure to place the sheet metal on a piece of scrap wood so when the drill bit goes through the metal it will have something to go into, because if you hit concrete, well lets just say that would be a bad thing.

As you can see in the image below the sheet metal was not the exact measurements that I wanted, but it was precut this way at Home Depot, so I did what I could, at each of the four corners I drilled a extra hole for the bolts, which will be used to elevate the sheet metal off of the ground, or away from the wall if you choose to hang this.

Step 3: Getting Ready for LEDs

Picture of Getting Ready for LEDs

So now that you have the Sheet metal all measured and holes drilled in it, it is now to to get the backing ready and holes in that so we can start the LED process. The reason for adding this backing (Poster Board) on to the back of the Sheet metal is so that we can more easily work with the LEDs and the soldering process, since there is a lot of soldering involved. I will show you what I mean "more easily" in the next step.

So the easiest way to get the holes on the Poster board to line up with the sheet metal holes that you already cut is to just lay the sheet metal on top of the poster board. Line up a corner of the sheet metal to the corner of the poster board so two sides of the board line up with two sides of the metal. Then take a pencil and start tracing the outline of the sheet metal onto the poster board, along with all the holes in the sheet metal.

Now take the poster board and start cutting and drilling out the holes, but make sure to use a little smaller drill bit then what you used to drill the sheet metal, not only does this poster board make it easier to solder but it will hold all the LEDs in place.

Step 4: Putting in the LEDs

Picture of Putting in the LEDs

Alright almost to the fun part of soldering! Maybe its just me but I enjoy soldering, it always seems to be one of the final steps so when you are doing it the project is almost complete!

SO, start putting all the led leads through the holes in the poster board so all the LEDs are sticking out of one side of the board and all the leads are out of the other.

Next grab your sheet metal and set it on top of the LEDs and start putting all the LEDs through the underside of the sheet metal. If you are doing this right the little ridge of the LEDs are being pinched in between the Poster board and the sheet metal.

Once you get all of those through and all LEDs in their places, grab the bolts and nuts and slide those through the holes that you made at the corners of the board, this will hold the Poster board to the sheet metal and keep all those LEDs in their correct positions.

Now flip the board over so you can see all of the leads sticking out of the back, at this time you need to rotate the LEDs so the negative leads are facing one direction and all of the positive leads are facing the other direction. Bend out the leads a bit so it is a little easier to keep track of them in case the rotate around a bit you can fix them before they do a 180 and are then soldered in backwards.

After that you are able to take a quick look at what the final project will look like!

Step 5: Soldering the LEDs

Picture of Soldering the LEDs

So as you know there are a lot of LEDs in this project so that means that there is a lot of soldering. It gets a little manotonous so get ready!

After doing some testing with the LEDs that I bought, I figured out that when they blink it actually cuts power from the light itself, so if you were to put a couple LEDs in an array they would blink together and not at there own pace, which would be cool if you wanted that effect, so maybe another project...

So to get the desired look I was going after I need to put each LED on its own circuit persay. So that is each LED needs its own resistor so they will all blink at their own pace.

I used the Copper foil tape as the main circuit for this, and then just soldered the positive leads of the LEDs to one side and the Negative leads to a resistor and then to the other set of copper foil tape.

I made some diagrams below to help with the understanding of this idea of useing copper foil tape, you could use wire for all of this, but I thought this is much cleaner. In these diagrams I use BLUE to represent the negative power from the power supply, and used RED as the Positive power from the power supply.

Step 6: Finishing Up!

Picture of Finishing Up!
Alright now that you got all of the soldering out of the way, it is about time to turn it on! So make sure all of the connections are good, and then go ahead and plug it in! At first all of them will blink a couple times in unison and then they will start to go off pace with one another and all will blink at random.

Some other Ideas that this could be used for... it looks really cool as is, but also if you put a fogged piece of plastic, or glass over it is a nice look. I even put it under a glass fogged table and it created a nice look, if you were to make a custom bar it would be nice lighting to put underneath, there are a lot of options and possibilities!!!

I hope you like this Instructable, and if you have ideas and or make your own versions I would love to hear, and see what you have come up with, thanks for looking, and good luck!

Not quite sure but I left it on for a couple hours and it started to make some rust looking dust on it, some kind of corrosion from the electricity or something, but it wipes off without a problem. So one thing to do is to seal the Sheet Metal before starting the project, or if any of you have any suggestions please let me know, and it can help me and anyone that is possibly making this project also, thanks!!


pgriffinbaron (author)2013-12-04

Can this be battery operated somehow? I'm building a robot costume, and this would be awesome for it.

MuselinMilan (author)2011-07-22

great job, but i don`t understant why the leds are blinking,it is not normal to stay on????

Well the standard LED is a solid lit LED. But I specifically purchase blinking LED's for this project!

FatherKino (author)2011-07-04

I see this is an old project. . Have you noticed if the LEDs dim after prolonged use? I made a LED night light and notice after a week of use, the lights had noticably dimmed. Do you get around that problem by using blinking LEDs?

seligtobiason (author)FatherKino2011-07-18

My LED's have not dimmed at all, still nice and bright. I don't think that using blinking LED's have kept them from dimming though. The main thing that causes dimming in LED's is to much power going to them, so maybe try using I higher resistance. Another thing is the quality of the LED's themself, now a days these things are so mass produced that the quality can be lost. Main thing is double check what resistors you should be using! Hope that helps.

DiyProjects (author)2011-05-03

haha i wonder what rgbs would look like

luckyvictor (author)2010-11-17

Why does it blink randomly?? wouldn't the LEDs stay on while there is a power supply?

These LED's are actually made to blink, it is part of their construction. You can buy many different kinds of LED's, from steady on, RGB flashing or Fading LED's, these LED's are just made to blink! They all blink at random times because the construction of the LED's are not each exactly the same so they have a little different speeds of blinking.

jessejwk (author)2010-04-12

 How do you hook up the phone charger?

seligtobiason (author)jessejwk2010-05-11

On the phone charger there is a positive and negative wire, so you just solder the positive wire to the positive copper tape, and do the same with the Negative.  If you are not sure which is the positive and negative, you can do a test with LED's, make sure you use the correct resistor for the test though so you don't burn out the test LED.

bluepills (author)2010-04-11

What exacly is a poster board? I'm from quebec a french province in Canada and that is something i've never heard of. I made a quick search throught ebay and on google and it won't come up with anything close to your board. Is it mandatory or can i use anything else to hold the led in place, perharps plexiglass will do the trick?

Thanks and great instructable!!

coltx1 (author)bluepills2010-04-11

poster board is just thin cardboard or real thick paper. try wal-mart's school supply dept or any craft store. it's realy cheap.

lamboboy732 (author)2010-04-05

 wow it looks really professional. Nice Job!

PAKIS-RULEZ (author)2009-07-11

hi bro i have a question can we use the same thing but make it react to music ? if so please tell me the circuit diagram for it if possible instead of symbols please put the pictures of the actual component i am trying to make something that react to music but on a large scale like your project please help thanks in advance.

justinacan (author)PAKIS-RULEZ2009-12-15

Yes just hook it strate up to the amp out puts and change the settings on the filters intill u get the frequence u want

hey there, so I am sure there is a way to make something like this to react to sound, but that would be an entire different project. There are many instructables on how to make your LED's react to music, so I would suggest searching for one of those. Here is one for example:

lol i found this one

and made it i have yt vid link there i ncomments

thanks a bunch now i will try it on a bigger scale :D

scris101 (author)2009-12-08

what kind of resistors? 

seligtobiason (author)scris1012009-12-15

well it depends on your Power supply, for the supply that I used... I used 1/4 watt 150 Ohm resistors.

You can go to  and figure out which resistors you need, It is a VERY handy website, I use it all the time!  I hope this helps, if you have anymore questions please let me know!

mightyhogan (author)2009-09-15

did you just solder the pos and neg ends of the charger to the foil tape?

Yup! sure did, easy as that! just make sure you have them in the right order before soldering!

hey man first let me say thanks for all the help i really appreciate it this thing is starting to look sweet i'll upload some pics when i'm done. but one more question, do you have a rec. on what voltage of charger to use so as not to fry the leds? i noticed you used a 5v

well it doesn't really matter on what voltage you put into the board as long as you have the correct Resistors. So you can use the LED calculator and put in your info for whatever voltage you have and then you can get what resistors you need. What power supply are you currently using? What resistors do you have right now?

thanks again for the quick response. i'd love to see if my leds and resistors are right b4 i solder. so i followed another one of your instrucatbles (great too btw) and ordered 5mm blue blinking leds and 150ohm resistors. will these work with either a 7v or 9 v phone charger or ethernet power supply?

Well again, the resistors really depend on what voltage you use, so if you change the voltage, or the amount of LED's in parallel then the resistors will need to change too. Take a look at the LED calculator ( ) and plug in the info that you are wanting to do an it will let you know exactly what resistors to use and how to wire them up. If you are not sure about what to put into the calculator click on the little "?" marks and they will give you an explanation.

Take a look at that website and go from there, if you are still not sure you can email me your info (how many LED's, what voltage you are using, along with the Ohms available on you power supply) and I can help you out.

ok so i tried to use the calc but the wiring diagrams that they give me a pretty confusing. i was hoping to use the copper tape in the same scheme you had to wire it up. its suggesting wiring two leds togetther pos to neg and the the neg of one to the resistor. i just dont understand how i would lay the tape. Here the break down; esp. if i try for a 3 or 4 row scheme piece of sheet metal 12/24 hoping for 3 rows of leds 4in apart or 4 rows 3 inches apart horizontally and 8 comlumns of leds vertically so either 24 or 32 leds so; 24 or 32 5mm leds.3.3-3.4v 20ma with a 7.7v 700ma power source. your help is greatly appreciated man, i cant thank you enough

Well, I am sorry that the calculator is a bit confusing... you just need to get a little creative with it, figure out how you can get the answers you want.

SO going off of that, you want to have it the same basic setup that I was using, which is one resistor to each LED... so that means that you need to know what resistor to use with that power source to power one LED.... which when you think about it, when you put in the number of LED's in the calculator just put ONE! Easy as that, now you know what resistors to use.

If you were to do what is explained above the calculator would tell you that a 220 Ohm 1/4 watt resistor would be the correct fit.... so just go out and buy one resistor per LED and you got it! Hope that helps, and when it comes to problem solving, you need to think outside the box!

riccolesmana (author)2009-09-30

Well, I tried it. And no luck. I use just the NORMAL LED, not the BLINKING LED. lol ~ btw the another way is using transistor.

Well there are many ways to get this effect, I wanted to create the most simple way, so then anyone can create this look without much experience!

riccolesmana (author)2009-09-29

Well, I'm bad at my physic studies (and I hadn't get any lesson for electricity yet). I rly need some help. This project will coming up for science fair project. How does the LEDs blinking? Without any software/programming.

There are many different kinds of LED's, in this case I just bought LED's that blink! So... no need for software or programing! They blink when you get them@

mightyhogan (author)2009-09-15

hi i'm building this at home (great instructable btw), i'm new to elec. and led and had kinda a lame question, how can i tell which is positive and which is neg? sorry i just dont want to do it backwards and have non working lights.

Well the two leads/wires, coming out of the LED's are positive and negative. In general they make the longer of the two leads the positive and the shorter one negative, so just think on Positive as longer, and negative as shorter. But most definitely test your LED's and make sure they work before soldering them all into place, it is not fun to have to rip it apart to replace an LED. If you have any more questions please let me know! OH and when its done I would love to see some pictures and/or video!

iBito (author)2009-04-26

What would be the best size for a smaller version of this? Do you think a 9" x 7" version of this would have the same effect? I'm moving and this is the best lighting idea I have found so far other than the ceiling lights. I was thinking of making it into somewhat of a lamp...

seligtobiason (author)iBito2009-07-14

Really you can make this any size you want, you just need to decide on the number of LED's and the distance between each LED that you want. I made it this size because I liked the size of the metal piece, so then I figured out the distance I needed to make the LED's etc..

patchrules2000 (author)2009-03-30

the rusting is probably because there is allot of moisture in the air and the electricity is charging the metal plate enabling it to rust faster than usual (allot faster) however I don't know why you would want to get rid of it because it makes it look allot better than just plain metal. oh well just my 2 cents :)

catz369 (author)2009-03-28

How do you add the charger to it?I'm new at all this and trying to learn.

seligtobiason (author)catz3692009-03-30

Well out of the charger there are two wires, one is the positive and one is the negative. While the charger is unplugged, cut the end off of the cord and strip back the cord so the wires are exposed... then if you have a tester you can find out which is positive and which is negative. OR just take the two ends and temporarily attach them to the positive and negative of the project. then plug it in, if it lights up then you got it right! If it doesn't light up, just unplug the cord and switch the leads and plug back in! I hope this helped, if you have anymore questions please let me know! thanks

NetReaper (author)2009-02-16

Could you just use a 3v wall wart? What should the amps be?

nickademuss (author)2009-02-03

Im building a model of the Titanic and im going to lite it from the inside with LEDs, I need a circuit to drive sections of the ship and slowly turn off one deck or room at a time randomly, then stop and turn on all of them at once. Can a simple circuit be built for that? Or will I need to use say a Basic stamp controller? Any input would be helpful. Thanks!

abirchall (author)2009-01-19

Hey, Do you mind letting us know the size and brightness rating of the LEDs you used for this project?

reinis (author)2009-01-03

hello, great project, but can i use nokia charger 3.7v for this project , and if i use it how big resistor i will need to use ?

Arbitror (author)2008-12-16

This is way easier than I thought! No 555s, nothin! It so easy! Thanks for this!

javier7high (author)2008-10-19

and the random blinking is made by the charger? no need of 555 chip? please answer coz i have like 3 of those same chargers laying around LOL! if this is simple as it looks it is the best instructable ever. (im a litl lazy as u can see) xD

Well actually the random blinking is not made from either, it is the LED's themselves. The LED's are blinking LED's, and since they are not regulated when they are made they have slight inconsistencies, which make them each blink at a slightly different speed. So when you first turn it on they will all blink together, but after 20 seconds they will have ALL blinked at a different enough pace that it looks totally random! It is a very simple idea, that looks very complicated! which is what I was going for, so yeah I hope that helped, if you make one please upload it so I can take a look!

oh thanks. im new in electronics. ill try to make this. thx for the help buddy

teh.vortex (author)2008-10-10

I'm in the middle of constructing this project and am using the same charger you used, rated 5.9V, 325mA.

the led wizard ( says this circuit should draw 960mA. should I be concerned of "overdrawing" from the power source?

seligtobiason (author)teh.vortex2008-10-13

Well, I found out that with the charger I used it does over draw a bit, but I left it on for 24 hours and all that happened was the charger block part (the part with the plug) was a little warm, not quite hot, either way I wouldn't leave it on for a month straight but it was not warm/hot enough to cause an issue for me... it is up to you what you want to do. If you are thinking about using it a a permanent wall fixture, I would suggest getting a power supply that can handle it correctly, I use mine under a fogged piece of glass under my home made mini bar, so it is not on all the time...

phantom_shock (author)2008-09-22

could the project work without using sheet metal?what other things could I used besides sheet metal?thanks.

Sure you can use whatever you want, I choose sheet metal because I thought it would look industrial... but you could use wood, plastic, really anything you want, just use your imagination!

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