I'm going to show you how to build a simple LED stick figure costume. This project is super easy providing you have basic soldering skills. It was a huge hit in our neighborhood. I lost count of how many people said this was the best costume they had seen that night and how cool they thought it was. It seemed like every single house we went to had something to say about it.
I've seen other tutorials on how to do this but none detailed the LED connections the way I felt they needed to be detailed for beginners. Hopefully this makes it easy enough for anyone to complete this project in just a few hours.
Video of the final product can be seen above. Bonus video at the end of this Instructable!
Step 1: Gather the Materials
The following materials are all that you need for this build:
- Roll of LED lights (Amazon)
- Wood Embroidery Hoop (Amazon)
- Male / Female Connectors (Amazon)
- 12V Rechargeable Battery Pack (Amazon)
- Toddler Sized Hoodie & Sweatpants (Amazon)
- Electrical Tape for electrical connections
The power supply is the most expensive component. It is rechargeable and can be used for many other projects. If you want to go a bit cheaper, you can substitute the 12 VDC supply for a standard 9V battery. The 9V won't be as bright or last as long but it is still quite good for most needs. Note: The 12 VDC supply shown here was tested for 5 hours straight and was still shining bright!
The Embroidery Hoop helps to keep the head clearly "defined" as a circle.
Step 2: Gather the Tools
You need the following tools for this project:
- Soldering Iron (and solder, flux, etc.)
- Hot Glue
- Wire Strippers / Cutters
Step 3: Cut the LED Strips
Cut the LED strips for the suite. You will be making a total of 5 strips which will eventually turn into 6 (will explain why later).
The length of your cuts will vary depending on the size of the outfit you have. The most important thing to remember is that LED strips have a "cut line" that is typically every 3 LEDs. It is clearly marked on the LED strips as a line or may contain "scissors" indicating the place to cut. You may have to cut your strips slightly short or long depending on where your cut-lines fall.
Cut the 5 strips to length using the hand drawn diagram. The longest strip will be the one that extends from the torso area up and around the head.
Step 4: Build the Pants
- Solder a wire to the positive connection on each of the two LED strips
- Twist and solder the two positive leads together
- Repeat the process for the two negative leads
- Attach a male or female JST connector to these leads (It doesn't matter which you use. You just need to use the opposite on the hoodie side)
- Secure the LED strips to the pants using the peel off tape from the LEDs and hot glue at the top where the wires meet the LED strips. The hot glue will pretty much ruin the pants unless you're willing to invest a lot of time getting it out. That said, it does an amazing job keeping the LED strips in place and attached to the suite. You might be able to get away with using just the LED strip tape, but I would be willing to bet that it won't hold up for long.
Step 5: Build the Hoodie
- Lay the arms in place on the hoodie
- Lay the center LED strip in place
- Cut the center LED strip where the arms meet (see photos)
- Solder the LED strips as shown in the hand drawn diagram
- Attach the LED strips using adhesive tape and hot glue as shown in the photos
- Insert wooden hoop to ensure proper fit. If needed, using hot-glue to hold hoop in place (I did not need to do this as it was a pretty tight fit)Wood
- Attach both the opposite JST connector AND two wires for power at the waste level point as shown in picture. Note: The DC power jack shown in this picture comes with the LED strip purchase.
Step 6: Power It Up
Connect the 12DC power source to the DC power jack and fire it up! If your connections are all good, it should immediately light up.
Step 7: Have Fun!
Once you're done have a blast! This costume was the hit of our neighborhood this year. Check out the reactions from the people in my video. Every house was like this! We had bus drivers and a pizza delivery guy stopping to say how great it was. Parents wanted to have their picture taken with him. It was so much fun and well worth the effort!