Picture of Dimming EL wire

Electroluminescent wire is a thin copper wire coated in a phosphor, which glows when an alternating current (100V) is applied. Unlike a LED strip it’s not a series of point but an unbroken line of visible light in all 360 degrees. The brightness of this technique is sufficient for the application and because of the very flexible nature of this material it can be easily incorporated in many different applications.

In this instructable I will explain how to apply fade effects to EL-Wire.

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Step 1: Possible techniques

Electroluminescent wire is not easily adjusted in brightness, therefore fading in and out is hard. Two main techniques are used to change the brightness of the electroluminescent wire, one is based on a custom build driver that actually shifts electroluminescent wire brightness by changing the alternating current frequency. The other is based on the same mechanism and uses a 555-timer component to change the current frequency, but this version is a lot simpler.

A problem with changing the frequency is the color change in the electroluminescent wire, above the 2000Hz the wire will quickly change to a lighter color, for example from dark blue to aqua blue. This behavior is not desirable in my application, but a slow fade effect to show the user the device is in progress is.

link to tutorial with 555-timer:

next step how does it work

Step 2: How does it work

Picture of How does it work
I figured out that a standard supplied 3V EL-wire inverter is capable of handling a quite large range of input voltages from 2.5V till 3.5V.

Testing with a variable power supply showed a very nice color change of the electroluminescent wire and also showed that the inverter is capable of handling much lower voltages to completely fade out the electroluminescent wire. The next task was developing a variable power supply which can be adjusted with an Arduino.

Step 3: What do you need?

Picture of What do you need?
I ordered all my supplies at sparkfun. You are free to choose your own supplier.

This was my shopping cart

EL Inverter - 3v

EL Wire - of your favourite color 3m


Voltage Regulator - Adjustable

Kydasu1 month ago

Can this set-up be used on a costume? Or does it have to be hooked up to a PC in order to (slowly) fade in and out?

rikkkurd (author)  Kydasu1 month ago
It can be definitly be used on a costume the arduino nano will handle all the fading and a simple 9v battery will be enough to power 1 meter for a few hours.
russ_hensel8 months ago
Pulse with modulation applied on the output of the supply with a triac ( and arduino ) can give nice fade effects on multiple el wires. Perhaps I should write it up for instructables if I can find the time, but with the above hints you can probably figure it out.