Picture of Easy Mood light
This is an easy way to make your own $50+ value mood light with a minimum of parts/effort/Cost and electrical or electronic experience. Even soldering can be avoided!.

Total cost could be as little as $2.

Step 1: The heart of the mood lamp

Picture of The heart of the mood lamp
The heart of the mood lamp is the colour changing light. Bright LEd systems driven by complex microprocessor systems are detailed elsewhere in instructables but this uses a commercial easily available colour changing LED from www.Rapidonline.co.uk if you are in the Uk or search fro colour changing LED or rainbow LED in Ebay or google for your country i am sure you can find them. Here they are £0.56 or so each.

The LED contains a red - Blue - Green LED and a minute microprocessor inside a standard 5mm LED package - IT IS SMALL. All you need is to apply 3 volts to the LED to make it work.
Mmjmama3 years ago
rickharris (author)  Mmjmama3 years ago
WrshpMzshn3 years ago
If I want my circuit to contain 3 LEDs should I wire them up in series and apply 9v, or in parallel and apply 3 volts? Or am I asking the question wrong?
rickharris (author)  WrshpMzshn3 years ago
Assuming your using the same type of LED as I am then you can wire them in parallel. The ic in the LED will operate from 3 volts to 12 volts without any other components.
Thanks, Rick.
moodlight3 years ago
Very attractive. Fantastic job done, creativity with the led at its best!
rickharris (author)  moodlight3 years ago
miamimac3 years ago
I noticed that the flat/smoth sides do not glow with color. Is there another material plastic... or would colored panels work...or very lightly translutent that would radiate the color from the smooth sides
rickharris (author)  miamimac3 years ago
If you want the smooth sides to glow then the easiest way is to rough them up with fine sand paper. Then they will reflect the inner light.

LauraClaire6 years ago
This is a very nice project, I liked it so much that I am thinking about creating one for myself. Is the only way to find an LED such as this on line? And where might I find some acrylic like that? This would be a great summer project for me, thank you for the post /r
rickharris (author)  LauraClaire6 years ago
The rainbow or colour changing LEDs you can get from the internet quite easily - even ebay sometimes. You don't say where you live so try a search. The acrylic you should be able to get in your local DIY or hardware store. Or you can try begging scraps from a local sign writer. In the UK try www.rapidonline.com and B&Q
I live in the U.S. So I can probably try Ebay. I will still try a search, though, to see what I can find. If not I am sure I can ask my dad to help me find one... Thank you once again.
Both home depot and Lowes sell polycorbonate and acrylic window panes. They would be with normal glass window panes. Just cut them up into slices. A big piece cost $18, but the little ones cost about $4.

I just used some scraps from with windows installation. 5 RGB LED's (From eBay) and a plexiglass pencil holder.
PICT1713 (Large).JPGPICT1715 (Large).JPG
rickharris (author)  rcisneros3 years ago
Very cool :-) Nice.
rickharris (author)  LauraClaire6 years ago
The acrylic is clear it is only coloured by te lights. The size is about 6 inches wide, 3 inches deep and max 8 inches high. But the size can be as you want and can find the acrylic to do it. Even a single small section cut to the shape of a flame and lit by a single LED looks good.
Oh, and before i forget, about how large would you say this light is all together? It looks pretty small....
I was wondering what kind of a switch would work, because I am really new at all of this and am basically trying to teach myself so any help would be accepted! Thank you!
rickharris (author)  danmcgann1213 years ago
Any kind of on off switch will do - I used something like this 

Depending on your junk box :-) the design can be easily changed.
Thank you! Are there any instructables that you know of that can teach me some of the basics? (such as wiring a switch) Thatd be very appreciated!
foobear9 years ago
how did you cut the acrylic? what tool did you use?
Most Common tools will work including a table saw. Finer blades will help prevent chip-out and putting tap over the line to be cut. (A plywood blade would work best).
Win Guy4 years ago
Just so you know, that strip board can also be called "Perf Board" or sometimes Bread Board.
acornman4 years ago
Nice .... Just to clear up the confusion for some people, RGB led's are generally requiring an electronic circuit to energise the colours as do Bi-Colour and Tri-Colour Leds . The Leds' shown here are nearly always referred to as RAINBOW Leds and always have only two leads and as stated contain the electronics for the colour change INSIDE the led lens, and as stated they come in
different flash or change rates.
Dren4 years ago
I got really excited with this project. Instead of acrylic I used broken school material(like rulers).
I thought I would need to sand it but turns out when unsanded the mood light stays enven better!
For the base I used cardbord and wrapped in tin foil so the cardboard don't fall apart.
I was reading through all the comments and the cost of the acryllic and had an idea... Could you use old/AOL cd's either cut, whole or whatever as the "acrylic" ? I know they are not translucent, but if you used something in the base to space them a little bit, you could get a very nice effect I think. Plus reusing a very nasty bit of garbage most houses have aplenty...
That was my first idea dude. But cd's aren't as tall as acrylics pieces. The idea itself works buf the lamp would be short.
very true...but more affordable, lol
Kylearin9 years ago
How did you keep the different LEDs from assuming the same color change pattern? Is there extra circuitry underneath for that, or do they just happen to come on differently?
rickharris (author)  Kylearin8 years ago
Each LED runs off its inbuilt microprocessor - Rainbow LEDs are made like that. All you have to do is supply 3 to 6 volts. You don't even need to put a resistor in series as the IC regulates the current as well. The frequency of operation varies and if you leave it on the LEDs will run out of sync and produce different patterns automatically - Nothing very complicated here - but not expensive either. All the LEDs start at red and then go through the same colour change cycle but generally at a slightly different speed.
They would go back to the same color, and then randomize out again, but not in a very long time, because its the LCM of the time required for them to change...
Quality isn't good enough to keep them at the same rate on most RGBs. They will eventually randomize. I have a couple of hi end - super bright RGBs, they all basically blink at the same rate. That's good or bad depending on what you want to do.
Just know there are kind of three different types of RGB's you'll run into. Slow blink. Fast Blink, (IMO really annoying) and Slow than Fast (Still annoying.)

Also you'll probably want to find RBG's in the 5000mcd (brightness) range. Beware of 2200mcd's and such as they are pretty dim.
I was wondering the same thing...
how the led connected?? Series with the battery?
rickharris (author)  biswasprateek6 years ago
in Parallel - these rainbow LEDs have an integrated circuited in the led to control the colour change so they can be connected direct to a battery (3 to 6 volts) - They are connected all negative side together to the negative of the battery.
n33r6 years ago
Hey Awesome Idea!! I Wish I Didnt Throw All The Glass Strips I Had Can U Pls Post Video Of It PLssss!
rickharris (author)  n33r6 years ago

Here is a video of a simpler lamp using the same LED. - (sorry for the audio).

and some pictures showing the simplicity of its construction.

rickharris (author)  n33r6 years ago
Owing to a hard drive crash (back up NOW - it's important) I lost the only video of the lamp and sadly it was taken apart for another project BUT I have a smaller similiar thing I can put up - Watch this space in a day or so.
andrew937 years ago
you're right. but for better results, apply 4.5 V .LEDs were made to work on that voltage
Yes and no. Check the specs for the best voltage.
guyfrom7up7 years ago
I bought 10x 5mm and 10x 3mm on ebay for 10 dollars including shipping, just so you all know
What? I just got 50 RGB LED's for £9 with free shipping! I went for the cheapest ones though :-D
wow thats cheap where did ya get them?
marcosdjcm6 years ago
Whats the battery life on the 1 LED with 2x AA setup? Also, how quickly do the colours transition? I know it phases through colours but how long does it take to do a whole cycle?
rickharris (author)  marcosdjcm6 years ago
2 AA alkaline batteries will keep the LED alight bright enough to see for several days - 4 AA batteries (6 volts) wil be brighter and lasts longer. The colour change is visible and takes about 1.5 to 2 seconds to drift through each colour. there is some overlap so the colours seem to change quite slowly. if you use 3 or 4 LEDs the colours mix as they go out of phase with each other producing even more colours - this makes the change cycle longer. The LEDs are cheap enough to buy one and try it out.
That sounds great for a cheap lamp Considering spending a bit more, how could i achieve a slower colour change?
rickharris (author)  marcosdjcm6 years ago
To do that you would have to programme a pic micro processor to do the colour change - there are several places on the web - and perhaps in instructables that will tell you how to do that. An alternative is to go down the mechanical route and turn a colour wheel slowly over a white light.
rerrett6 years ago
are the changes is lighting abrupt?
rickharris (author)  rerrett6 years ago
No very slow. the colors fade into each other. best results come from 3 or 4 LEDs that give a much wider range of colours. A down side is multi -LEDS will go out of phase and show different colours - In some way this is an advantage.
rerrett rerrett6 years ago
Cheyyne8 years ago
This one went really well for me, it was a great gift. Thanks again for the fantastic idea!
Where did you get the acrylic?
rickharris (author)  momof0078 years ago
Not so easy to explain: a) I am in the UK b) I a a teacher and the acrylic came from the scrap box. BUT any clear plastic will do the trick - here you can walk into any DIY store and buy clear plastic that would do the job OR you can try to beg scraps from a sign writer.
Model Zone sells clear plastic as well as loads of other cool stuff that you will need to make things from other instructables.
well.. problem is, acryillic/lexan/plexiglass is oil based and is uber expensive for such simple material, and typically the smallest size sheets you can get are 12"x24" in your local hardware store.. but again, its expensive ($5-$15 per square foot). i see all the "scraps" on here and wish i had that just laying around.. lots of projects i could do with that ;-P
rickharris (author)  the_better_nacho6 years ago
Your school - if you are at school will often have scraps you may be able to use if you ask and have a good project to do with it.! In addition there are lots of places that product small scrap - Sign makers for example who may do a deal if you are polite and explain what you are doing with their material.
wow, what a great job.
rickharris (author)  Cheyyne8 years ago
Nice - A bit bigger then mine I think. great job
wow. that's awesome, cant wait to make one.
momof0078 years ago
I am having trouble finding the acrylic. Could you please tell me where I can buy different sizes. I live in the north-east. Thanks
any local hardware store, they may label it differently as 'lexan' or 'plexiglass' (which are in fact different things but very similar in properties)
rickharris (author)  the_better_nacho6 years ago
Acrylic (correctly chemically called Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA)) is a very common thermoplastic. It has many commercial names as you point out.

Wikkipedia has a good description of its uses and properties herehere
xfactor8 years ago
What triggers the color change
theres a microcontroller (uber micro) built into the LED itself.. read the description ;-P
rickharris (author)  the_better_nacho6 years ago
Read my reply! :-)
rickharris (author)  xfactor8 years ago
The real answer to your question is Time - The inbuilt microprocessor controls the changes you can't do anything other than turn them on and off.
Wonderful Work! Congratulations!
rickharris (author)  Carlos Marmo6 years ago
Many Thanks :)
Lisa Fla7 years ago
Just FYI, we call it "frosted" here in the States, also.
Could the same effect be created by a large bowl/jar full of semi-transparent acrylic beads and spread-out LEDs?
rickharris (author)  Cat on my Lap7 years ago
Why not - give it a try and post the results :)
Wow.. this is amazing! I'm going to try it... if i can. I hope they have this type of LED at RadioShack.
They Don't . Try best hong kong
Kaiven acaz937 years ago
what? well, i guess it depends the location. i saw a red/green/blue led at radioshack
rickharris (author)  Kaiven7 years ago
Not the same thing - To use the RGB LED you would need to programme it using some kind of microprocessor. This is built into the rainbow LEDs - They are easily available on Ebay.
ah ok.
where can you get a strip board? I'm on Guam and we have no Radioshack or anything.
rickharris (author)  MrL33TPenguin7 years ago
The strip board isn't essential - You could just wire up the LEDS to a battery - BUT if yu have problems getting things like strip board you will have problems with the rainbow colour changing LEDs.
Heywasup7 years ago
for the led in the cup or watever it is how do u turn it on and off?
rickharris (author)  Heywasup7 years ago
I used a battery box that had a switch on it shttp://www.instructables.com/id/Easy-Mood-light/#
post commento i could lift the glass and turn it on. i have also taken the end off a battery clip and soldered the LED direct to the connections so I can clip the LED onto a battery holder for 4 AA sized batteries.

These rainbow colour changing LEDs are good at between 3 and 6 volts and will run for weeks on 4 AA batteries

cooldog7 years ago
hows it a mood light
it changes colors to put you in a better mood shut up its cool
isn't mood lights suppose change coulor according to your mood
rickharris (author)  cooldog7 years ago
Well a good question but the answer is no - The generic name for this type of changing colour light is a "mood light" perhaps because it sets the mood. PS: a mood ring also doesn't change because of your mood but because of temperature changes.
schattk7 years ago
Nice. You could also use a stack of old CD/DVD's and place the leds in the central shaft. Beware however if you glue the CD's together to test it first. Some glues tend to deform the CD.
dudisguy7 years ago
I got my color changing LED from a dollar store Led candle. I think it was dollar tree.
gerrard088 years ago
hi i was wondering what kind of switch do you need for the strip board of LEDS? im on rapidonline so please advise me which one to get
you can use ANY on/off switch, you could even use a standard wall switch
redsquare9 years ago
3 LEDs with a 9V, or am I asking for it. And a simple on off switch.
rickharris (author)  redsquare8 years ago
You can series them to 9V - In principle - I havn' tried this ... OK I have the tectnology and have tried it - Seems Ok . Still running after 10 Mins or so.
I tried running 4 of them in series from a 12v wall adapter.... They functioned but blinked randomly during the transition-phases, ruining the effect. I doubt it would function too long under those conditions. I don't really know why, but the voltage drop across each is different than the power required to run it. I'm successfully using a 4.5v wall adapter to power all the little LEDs. You can power quite a few of them, as long as they're all in parallel configuration. This has offered me the most reliability.
rickharris (author)  Cheyyne8 years ago
The rAINbow LEDs use 3 to 6 volts DC wall warts often give very dirty voltages and need capacitors attached across the supply lines to smooth the voltage.
Can you give me or point me at some information about this? How do you wire the capacitors? What is the concept behind why this is necessary?
rickharris (author)  donkeymon8 years ago
Generally the capacitors are wired from positive to negative - make sure the capacitor you choose can stand the voltage. The capacitor stores a small amount of electricity and uses it to "fill in" any drops in the current flow so smoothing the supply. LEDs in general wouldn't b a problem but the rainbow LEDs have an IC in them that expecte reasonable DC voltages between 3 volts and 6 volts.
would it matter if you were to wire them in a series or in parallel?
rickharris (author)  oshidutako8 years ago
The rainbow LEDS have a controller in them to make the colour change. You need to wore them in parallel at between 3 and 6 volts.
gerrard088 years ago
hi, sorry for all these questions...the switch is not necsessary right? because you can just take out the batteries to stop it? also, where exactly do the battery holder go? hope you dont mind explaning more, or providing pictures. sorry! im trying to do this for a project i really appreciate your help
rickharris (author)  gerrard088 years ago
No problem - no switch isn't essential - Because there are only 2 batteries I can fit them under the plastic strips easily, they are taped to the side of the box out of the way of the LED.
hobicaat8 years ago
rickharris, This is like way cool! Would you know how to rig a small motor to rotate the acryllic pieces? I'm assuming I'll atleast have to increase the batteries to support the movement.
rickharris (author)  hobicaat8 years ago
That sounds like a whole separate project - In principle you could use a small motor and gear box to slowly rotate the acrylic - how depends on what you want and it would add to the cost - even small motors and gear boxes cost about $2 - $3. The display looks like it moves anyway because of the changing light.
maxsample8 years ago
if you add a 1k resistor you can use as much voltage as you want.
rickharris (author)  maxsample8 years ago
No No NO! You must restrict the current through the LED to the specified level. If you don't know what it is then assume 25 mA. There are numerous web sites that will calculate the figures for you if you can't use Ohms law. In general you need to minimise the resistor value or you will not get as bright a light as you otherwise might. The rainbow LEDs do not nees a resistor and will run on 3 to 6 volts.
maxsample8 years ago
If you throw on a 1k resistor in front of the LED you could use a 9V battery.
rickharris (author)  maxsample8 years ago
Ah in this case the LED has an inbuilt Ic that controls the colour changes. In actual fact it is rated at 3 to 6 volts and draws 20Ma. If you keep within this voltages range these rainbow LEDS need no resistor. I agree that with a "normal" multi coloured LED you would neeed a suitable current limiting resistor.
this is awesome ill have to try that some time when i get time
jongscx8 years ago
did you glue the acrylic pieces together, or can they be rearranged to make different shapes if the user wanted to?
rickharris (author)  jongscx8 years ago
No they are loose and can be rearranged
Cyberia20168 years ago
You can get a versatile DIY LED system and SDK at www.a-r-e.nl The possibilities around this DIY system are endless.
firemanfu8 years ago
pwedy colors I gonna make this a x-mis prez
Big time.
xfactor8 years ago
What is the trigger that makes the LED change color?
rickharris (author)  xfactor8 years ago
It has an inbuilt microprocessor in the LED. It triggers on time.
rickharris (author)  xfactor8 years ago
An inbuilt microprocessor controlles the colour change. It is continious from switch on to switch off in a pre-determined pattern. Mix 3 or more LEDS together to get a wider colour change because they get out of sync fairly quickly.
Cheyyne8 years ago
Here's a good USA source for those LEDs:


RL5-RGB-ACC being the appropriate part number.

Have fun now!
sailor27678 years ago
cool good for my girl friend
sailor27678 years ago
nice cool for my girl friend
theHankster8 years ago
Very cool project. I'm thinking about making a pair for my daughters and was wondering if you could provide me with some rough dimensions for your box and the thickness, height and width of the plastic you used. Thanks. Henry
rickharris (author)  theHankster8 years ago
Acrylic 3 mm thick. Box 170mm x 65mm x 60mm Dimentions not critical. Tallest acrylic 190 mm shortest 70mm high.
noupos8 years ago
Hey that's nice! Anyway, could I use Plexiglas rather than acrylic, or am I simply a noob and acrylic and Plexiglas are the same?!? Thanks in advance noupos
rickharris (author)  noupos8 years ago
Any clear plastic will do - experiment!
japala8 years ago
He's right that's the best place to go! (Hi Jap! the link I posted above was from one of your posts on the forum!)
neoJunk8 years ago
Has anyone seen one of these built with a power cord? I'd like to build a permanent color changing light for my living room. My string lights are burning out, I've begun to question their safety anyhow. I’ve been working on a pummer but LED lighting is definitely next.
rickharris (author)  neoJunk8 years ago
You could run this from a power wall wart. The LEDs need 3 volts and will work OK at that because they have a built in controller. BUT not more than 3 V - if you have more voltage you need a resistor to reduce the voltage/current - You can find sites that will calculate the value of the resistor if you look at the data sheet for the LED at www.rapidonline.co.uk and google for LED calculator. i have run them from an old cordless screwdriver wall wart that supplied 2.8Volts.
Folks please don't confuse AC and DC electricity! It is possible to run LEDs of AC (mains) but you'll need an inverter or you could take your chances with a capacitor. Details on this link http://www.marcspages.co.uk/tech/6103.htm
Of course! Thanks for the tip. I'll post pictures once I get one of these working. I was at Ikea over the weekend and I saw some lights that were dying to be turned into LED color changing goodness. $5-$15 for a nice frosted shade with a hole in the bottom and a stand, ready for hacking. Ikea's three foot, single color LED strips in the kid's section? - $45. I love Instructables.
phenoptix8 years ago
This type of LED cycles through automatically. They're shortly about to be available on my site!
oooo, pretty colors! i likee
Hey man, great project, i was wondering if there was a way to connect this to a computer/ stereo, so it would bump with the music, that would be really really sick and moody.
rickharris (author)  andrewjuguete8 years ago
There is another project that does that in indestructables - It isn't possible with this because the LEDs are pre-programmed to change colour. - Good idea though.
foamyguy9 years ago
how do you get the acrylic scraps not to sit directly on the LEDs? did you cut a hole out that the LED assembly fits into? or just have something in the wood that keeps the acrylic raised?
rickharris (author)  foamyguy9 years ago
They actually do sit on the LEds but its not a problem. Originally I fixed an acrylic shelf above the LEDs but the hot weather melted the hot melt glue and it fell out but it didn't make much difference so I left it out.
rickharris (author) 9 years ago
You can see through it the acrylic is glass clear. The acrylic is available in many DIY or Sign makers often have a scrap bin if you ask nicely. You could also use real glass - BUT you would need to smooth all the edges do this at your own risk!
trebuchet039 years ago
Just wondering... where would one find the said scraps of acrylic? This sounds like it could be used with the solar garden light hack :P
If you go to a "retail" plastics dealer like "tap plastics", they usually have a "scrap bin" of pieces left over from contracted fabrication projects that are sold at a deep discount ($1/pound or so, IIRC.)
Looks awesome, if you look on the side, can you see through it or is it too thick