Introduction: How to Make a Backlit Keyboard

Picture of How to Make a Backlit Keyboard

In this instructible, we will be making a backlit keyboard using a usb-enabled keyboard and some el-wire.

Step 1: Needed Parts

Picture of Needed Parts

To do this project you’re gonna need a couple of things:

- USB powered Electro Luminescent wire or EL wire.
- A keyboard
- Hot glue Gun
- Screwdriver

Technically, you can use any keyboard, but the one I will be using has these built in USB ports to conveniently plug my el-wire into. If you’re really technically savvy, you can also put this in the keyboard of a laptop, but it will require a bit more modding because, by itself, the el-wire is too thick to fit behind the laptop keyboard.

Step 2: Disassemble the Keyboard

Picture of Disassemble the Keyboard

Begin by flipping the keyboard over and removing all of the screws that hold it together. This will allow you to remove the keyboard backing. Then remove the inside screws and the screws holding together the circuit board. This will allow you to remove the internal circuitry of the keyboard.

Step 3: Make an Entry Point

Picture of Make an Entry Point

We will need the El wire to pass from the back of the keyboard to the front, so we will need to make a hole and thread the El wire through it. Find the upper right corner of the keyboard. When flipped over, it should be the corner above the tilda key (show tilda graphic). You want to use a knife or a drill to cut a hole into this corner and thread the el wire through the hole. You may need to remove the tilda key in order to thread it completely through.

Step 4: Making Room for the Transformer

Picture of Making Room for the Transformer

Now comes the tricky part. We need to find a way to fit the transformer into the keyboard. For some of you, your keyboard may already have enough extra room for it. For me, I was able to remove one of the “extra” shortcut keys from the keyboard using a dremel, but you’ll just have to see what extra room your keyboard has for this to fit. After hot gluing it into place, I reassembled the keyboard and flipped it back over.

Step 5: Running the El Wire

Picture of Running the El Wire

Using a flat-head screw driver, start removing the keyboard keys. When taking them out, remember to place them in order somewhere else so that you don’t forget where they go. Either that are snap a picture of the keyboard before continuing. Once you have all the keys removed, start zig-zagging the El wire around the keys. You can hold the El wire in place by putting down dabs of hot glue every couple keys.

Step 6: Finished Product

Picture of Finished Product

After you’ve got it the way you want it, you can replace the keys and plug in the keyboard to see how it looks.


PaulL196 (author)2016-06-22

I have a Asus G73 HJ ROG running OSX Mountain Lion. the backlite keyboard has of course lost its software control. Im going to solve with hard wiring. Then Im going to paint it white. Has anyone got a spare MacBook Pro label?

PaulL196 (author)2016-06-22

this is all far too complicated. Most people only ever succeed in replacing 98% of removed from a keyboard, or 25% if they own a mac. Don't do it. Fly to Canada, dig up a few gallons of radium paint and take it from there. Personally, I prefer LED panels fitted to the laptop bezel and powered by a cable which runs down the inside of the screen housing, and soldered to the terninals of the speakers via a couple of diodes. Really helps me type when listening to heavy metal. (the radium paint thing is a joke. Dont go to Canada, you'll die. )

CaptainLlamas made it! (author)2016-05-29

Cool ible! I still have about 4 feet of the wire lying around, what should i do wih it? Also the pic is it without the back+ extras on it

zackharvey (author)2016-05-10

hoe long does the wire have to be

gogoguy (author)2015-05-13

I'm doing this. It's Awesome!

JustModIt (author)2010-08-14

can this be done with a laptop?

JesusG33k (author)JustModIt2015-02-27

I've taken apart many keyboards in my time, and a laptop is far to fragile and compact to be modified unless you are a PROFESSIONAL, which also requires access to special tools to safely open it. If you open a laptop, it's pretty much done for, which is why I take advantage of broken laptops and start smashing them since they are inevitably doomed.
Don't take it apart unless you want to doom your laptop.

Nuru (author)JustModIt2010-08-15

He does state in his video it can be done, but it requires more effort and time to make it fit....

Tkdwn (author)2013-05-26

Tnx for the instructions!

mertem (author)Tkdwn2014-01-22

Cool Keyboard :)

nerd7473 (author)2013-02-09

that is so cool

Ricardo Furioso (author)2010-08-12

Or get a Macintosh. My MacBook Pro has a backlit keyboard from the factory. It's 42 months old and going strong.

Kasm279 (author)Ricardo Furioso2010-08-12

The MacBooks are nice, but the PowerBook G4s started it! :P Oh, Dell has a few laptops with backlit keys, I think Acer does too..

Kalibar07 (author)Kasm2792011-06-12

actually it was Alien Ware who started the back lit keyboards NOT a MAC....though a nice try at promoting a obsolete system in my opinion .. lol and before you throw out that MAC's very seldom if ever get Viruses.. that is due to the simple fact that they arent worth the time to try and damage or hack into lol

Kasm279 (author)Kalibar072011-06-12

I was talking about stating it in the Apple line. Also, why the hell are you talking about media access control? I didn't even know those had keyboards.

Ricardo Furioso (author)Kasm2792011-06-12


jongscx (author)Ricardo Furioso2010-08-12

To be off topic, is that a cultural/regional thing of the length of time before one switches from months to years in describing lengths of time? I've heard someone refer to a four yr old as their 52 month old child and was curious.

LittleMonkeyMojo (author)jongscx2010-08-12

With children it is very common, especially when talking about developmental issues, at least to the age of 4, maybe 5. For something like a keyboard it seems strange to say 42 months rather than 3-1/2 years.

Gee---thanks for the diversion...I just realised I am going to be 648 months old next month! :-)

Ricardo Furioso (author)jongscx2010-08-12

Sorry. I have an app called Coconut Battery that reports Current Amt of charge, Current Battery Capacity, and Age of Mac in Months. So I just related that. Wait a minute I'll get out the calculator. That comes to 3.5 years. Thanks for the clarifying question.

timweaver17 (author)2010-09-10

how did you get it into the parts not the main keyboard like the home and end and then the number pad...

uk_060 (author)2010-08-15

it's worthless coz you still can't see the alphabets,etc on keyboard in dark , YEAH but good if you want make your keyboard little fancy .

gigafide (author)uk_0602010-08-20

Yep. It's simply for aesthetics. I mean, that's the whole point of el-wire, right? to pimp stuff out? :-)

HughGRection (author)gigafide2010-09-07

Why yes, yes it is.

rocksalt2342 (author)2010-08-13

what a great opportunity to finally destroy my windows key!

merijnvw (author)2010-08-13

wow great project and cool movie! I'm definately going to make this

osgeld (author)2010-08-12

needs a night pic

mikeyx (author)2010-08-12

I have Laptop computer can do.

zack247 (author)2010-08-09

i thought that maybe using acrylic sheet cut to fit around the button pegs, and having it edge lit, with a sanded surface, you could get the same effect. would that work too? cool ible by the way. too bad the el wire contest just closed

jongscx (author)zack2472010-08-12

all the effort of cutting the button holes would make it difficult; plus you'd have to make sure that the acrylic doesn't interfere with the keystrokes as it would take up space in the cavity under the keys... Same with the LEDs, etc. You may be able to get away with just a diffuser sheet, like a thin frosted piece of plastic. They have flexible cutting boards that might work; but still this seems easier.

zack247 (author)jongscx2010-08-12

i'll figure it out. i know it can be done, its just how its done. if i can find some thin enough stuff, i will try. ive got some spare keyboards laying around

jamwaffles (author)jongscx2010-08-12

These ideas sound good - I might try this some time. A CNC machine would be idea, but it's understandable most people can't get hold of one. I'm going to make one, and a good project would be to make a tasty backlit keyboard.

garavin (author)2010-08-12

Nifty 'ible. The only problem I could envision is that the individual characters on the keys are not lit, so if you're not a touch typist you may still have trouble seeing the key you want to type. But I'll bet it looks cool in the dark.

PhantomOfHeat (author)garavin2010-08-12

You could take the time with a hot knife and cut the letters out so they will light up.

garavin (author)PhantomOfHeat2010-08-12

Yep, & if you're really ambitious you could fill the cut-out letters with clear silicone to diffuse the light...

normalicy (author)2010-08-12

I did this to my keyboard a year ago (red) & it's still going strong. A warning though, some keyboards are easier than others. My Microsoft Natural 4000 keyboard has separate compartments for each set of keys, so you have to drill holes from one compartment to another (about 16 for me). Definitely make sure that you keep the wire flat, because if it sticks up the tiniest bit, the keys will either not engage or bind. Also, most inverters let off a very high pitch whine. Be prepared for that since it's fairly close to your head. I can't imagine doing it properly to a laptop keyboard since they have incredibly minimal space & because it would be hard to hide the inverter & get power.

Foaly7 (author)2010-08-10

Can you do this with a laptop, like one that you're diy building it, and maybe add a switch?

sephiroth67 (author)2010-08-10

What thickness EL wire did you use? The place near me has 5MM and smaller. Very cool idea!

sephiroth67 (author)sephiroth672010-08-10

Thanks a lot. I may try this. The laptop I got today is already backlit, so I'll try it on my old desktop keyboards in the closet. Great 'ible!

gigafide (author)sephiroth672010-08-10

I believe this is 2.3mm. I wasn't aware of this, but apparently, they go down to 0.9mm, which would be ideal for laptop keyboards.

Robot Lover (author)2010-08-10

You have seen the double rain bow? It's a double rainbow! OH my gosh o ...o DOUble rainbow! He was so high!

Kryptonite (author)2010-08-10

The EL Wire competition is still open if you so wish to enter this.

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