Introduction: How to Make a Bright LED Panel for 20$

Picture of How to Make a Bright LED Panel for 20$

- What is up everybody, In this tutorial I am going to show you how to make a super bright LED light panel which is great for video lighting due to its natural white color temperature and it wont cost you more than 20$ to build it.

Step 1: What You Need?

Picture of What You Need?

- For this project we are gonna need a 10m of led stip wire and a 100W step down voltage regulator.

- We also gonna need a wooden or plastic sheet that is about 45 x 35 cm in length and a steel bar that will serve as a base holder. You could also use an aluminum that you would need to bend in a bench vise but I had a steel one already in my shop.

Part list:

- led strips - 12$ - :

- 100W step down converter - 3$ - :

-plastic sheet - 3$ - :

-steel bar - 2$ - :

Step 2: Cutting Strips...

Picture of Cutting Strips...

- LED strips have marks on every 5 cm where you can cut them in half so I cut it on every 40 cm which gave me 25 equal strips that we are gonna glue it on plastic sheet later on.

- Now we need to cut our plastic plate to a length of 45 x 35 cm.

- I also draw a line which will help me place all the strips in parallel to each other.

- Now simply peel back the adhesive backing and attach your strips to a plastic sheet.

- Some strips had a very bad adhesion, so I need to hot glue them back in place.

Step 3: Soldering and Making Connections

Picture of Soldering and Making Connections

- Next thing we need is an old cable that is at least 60 cm in length.

-Peel of the plastic insulation so you end up only with a bear copper wire.

- Cut off the excessive length and hot glue it on both sides to prevent it from moving while soldering

- I strip down some old cable and cut it on every centimeter to make a connection between the main cable and led strips.

- I choose that my first side is going to be a plus so I connect a plus terminal on every strip to a main cable wire. I did the same on the other side except I connect a minus on every strip to a main wire.

- That is probably gonna take you a lot of time so after you finish cut of the ends and we can test our panel for the first time.

- For now everything is working fine, so lets continue with building the frame.

Step 4: Making Frame and Steel Base

Picture of Making Frame and Steel Base

-I cut 2 x 45 cm and 2 x 35 cm wooden strips at 45°angle and glue them in a solid frame.

- While we are waiting for glue to dry I cut 2 x 16 cm and 1 x 35 cm steel bars with an angle grinder.

- Then I weld them together with a stick welder on 45 amps and smooth the corners with a grinder.

Step 5: Finishing Frame

Picture of Finishing Frame

- Now we need to drill some 6 mm holes in the wooden frame and the steel base.

- If it is everything ok after inserting the screws the final thing is to sand the whole frame a bit and mount the led strip panel to our frame with a few screws.

- At the back also attach a step down converter with two small screws in the middle and connect it with main cable with another two 20 cm in length wires.

- After that, drill a 5 cm hole in the middle of the steel base so we could later attach it to the tripod.

- To prevent iron from oxidizing I quickly coat it with anti corrosion paint and we are almost done.

- While waiting for paint to dry I modeled a simple wing nut frame for a nut and bold so we can easily adjust the angle of our panel.

- For the power source I used an old laptop's power adapter which is just right for this project . Strip the ends and connect it to the step down converter. I also put some velcro tape on the back of the panel so it can hold the adapter in place.

- Last but not least, we need to mount the whole panel to the tripod with a M5 screw and a bold. Secure it tightly and our panel is finished.

Step 6: Results

Picture of Results

- With the potentiometer at the back we can adjust the output voltage and with that dim the LEDs for how much we need to.

- The panel is ideal for video shooting or product photography due to its natural white color temperature.

- We can also easily change the angle of the panel in case we need to and that is pretty much it.


Step 7: Watch a Video


huddleto (author)2017-01-11

Thanks for taking the time to post this Jake. With your help, I was able to build the portable work light. My first LED project. Thanks again!

DanielS1054 (author)huddleto2018-01-06

Wow, amazing idea to use a parts organizer for this. I was thinking about using a transport case with handle, but this is so much easier.

Jakes workshop (author)huddleto2017-01-28

Sorry for late reply huddleto, Holly molly that is soo cool. Very well made!

JohnW51 (author)2016-12-13

Wouldn't it be possible to set the voltage too high and burn out the LEDs?

69the420 (author)JohnW512017-02-22

I know it's been some time since you posted this comment but just thought I'd reply in case anyone else runs into this problem…on the LED strips that I used (iNextStation 5M 5050 Day White 300 LEDs IP65 Waterproof Flexible Strip Lighting12V using a step down converter, the LED strips just start blinking/flashing if you turn the voltage up too high. They'll keep flashing until you bring the voltage down.

JohnW51 (author)2017-01-10

Can you give me an example of a 12V, 60W power supply that can be bought for $4-$8? I'm not finding any.

Jakes workshop (author)JohnW512017-01-10

JohnW51 (author)2016-12-13

Good project, but I think $40-$50 is a more realistic cost. Lots of stuff is not on the materials list. Mainly, the AC/DC power supply, which I'd estimate to cost between $25 and $35.

AnthonyC105 (author)JohnW512017-01-02

Not a chance, more like & 4-8

ceaser7 (author)2016-12-18

Thanks for sharing this project. Do you know what the Kelvin rating is? I'm looking at some leds that are 6000 to 8000k.
thanks again.

dpeach (author)ceaser72016-12-20

The ones he links to in the materials list are 4000-4500K. I assume that is what he is using.

regist4 (author)2016-12-08

très utile pour la photo à pas cher merci pour le partage.

Jakes workshop (author)regist42016-12-08

you're welcome :)

JamalA19 (author)Jakes workshop2016-12-17

good job . I liked . I watched the videos and I liked your work, and I have a couple of comments I want to send them to you. 1. The use of regulator illumination intensity so we can use the intensity suitable for every place and time lighting. Second, it can be used as part of lcd screen. Or any other scrap screen. Thank you

rafununu (author)regist42016-12-09

Sauf que ça ne fonctionne pas !

coolcrafter101 (author)regist42016-12-08

French, eh?

Taz-Hood (author)2016-12-13

Thank you for this tutorial! I truly appreciate it.

Lovetl (author)2016-12-09

Hi, I'm looking for a project to light up a pond for hockey this winter, would you say this gets bright enough to cover a rink? Or would I need to make more than one? Thanks!

Taz-Hood (author)Lovetl2016-12-13

Light coverage falls off by the square of the distance. (Someone PLEASE correct me if I'm wrong or not saying this correctly!) Thus, a single panel won't light a rink; you'd potentially need dozens of them. You can see a light from 10 miles away, for instance, but you cannot read by it. And because of this phenomenon, for an alternative to dimming, you can adjust the amount of light by moving the panel closer to or farther from your subject (e.g., when lighting a static portrait or a video interview). LED light panels for photography are so darn expensive; I'd love to be able to build my own.

Yonatan24 (author)2016-12-09

Great job! Maybe you should replace the dimmer with a "non-flicker" one. You won't get those weird flickering lines when shooting videos/taking pictures...

rafununu (author)Yonatan242016-12-09

Anyway, there should be a DC power supply. I don't see the interest of a DC/DC converter here, it cannot dim properly Led ribbons.

WannaDuino (author)rafununu2016-12-11

Yes tru ans also a lost in all, heat means lost on the converter.

i used a simple dimmer and it dims wonderfull ( 2USD only ) complete with 12v connectors and nice look.

And its NOT flickering pwm on vids.


Yonatan24 (author)WannaDuino2016-12-13

I have that dimmer, and it flickers really badly. Weird...

Jakes workshop (author)Yonatan242016-12-09

Thanks :) It is NON-flickering light, It uses voltage regulation instead of common PWM-regulation :)

Yonatan24 (author)Jakes workshop2016-12-09

Nope. What you used (linked) is a PWM dimmer that flickers 180,000 times a second, which can cause flickering in photos/videos, and headaches for certain people (like me!)

That is not voltage regulated :)

panic mode (author)Yonatan242016-12-12

nice ible... thanks for sharing.

btw. how can a photo cause flickering? that is a single static image frame...

if you still can see flickering, your display is at fault - or more precisely its power supply or background light inverter. try different monitor and see if the problem goes away.

i checked video and at there is indeed flickering at 5:56 but this is from interference of background light with camera scan rate not from LED display.

I just checked datasheet and XL4016 is a "low ripple" DC/DC regulator with filtered output up to 8A ( but actual ripple value is not mentioned anywhere. Btw. lower current draw means lower ripple.

according to linked LED strip data, LEDs draw 5.6W per meter. So 10m strip draws 56W which at 12V is about 4.7Amp. if we consider this load to be resistive - that would be equivalent of 2.57 Ohm. RC time constant (with shown filter cap of 1000uF) is 2.57ms. that is short enough to cause flicker - if the period of oscillator is similar or slower. but it is not... 180kHz means that DC/DC converter period is only 5.56us (500 times faster) indicating that this is indeed very hard filtered output with low ripple. no surprises here since according to datasheet intended use for this chip is in TVs as well.

JohnC430 (author)Yonatan242016-12-11

I am familiar with the voltage regulator he used in this ible. it puts out DC with a lot of filtering so it is not pulsing (Look at the first pic and u will see the filter cap mounted near the transistor or go to ebay and see close up pics of it) . also he is using a pot to adjust the light to whatever brightness he needs so there is nothing wrong with this.apart from that at 180KHz neither ur eyes nor your camera will see the blinking.

LED's require current control for brightness adjustment but since the strip already has a resistor for each set of 3 series LED's they form a crude current source which is again ok for this to work.

The fact that he has made it so cheap, and is sharing the idea with us is very generous of him. no matter if it is a competition or not.

The power supply AC to 12VDC to power the buck regulators can be bought for about $6 each from or ebay

Thanks for sharing.

Yonatan24 (author)JohnC4302016-12-11

Yes - I've made a quite a few LED projects (working on one right now by the way!). I just wanted to let him know that it flickers. That's all!

Now, I looked again. At 5:56 at the video, I think a lamp from the background is causing the flickering...

JohnC430 (author)Yonatan242016-12-11

yes I also saw the flicker on the wall. it may be from this LED light. perhaps his power supply is doing it because the flicker is at a very low frequency (after all we can see it). it may be his DC-DC or even his AC-DC power supply is unable to handle the load so it is oscillating

Jakes workshop (author)Yonatan242016-12-09

You are right, but I have't seen any flickering on my dslr and I have tried shooting within the whole range of the shutter speed.

Thanks for letting me know, I must say I was quite sure it uses voltage regulation :)

Yonatan24 (author)Jakes workshop2016-12-09

I can see the flickering in the video, but if it doesn't bother you, it's fine...

rafununu (author)Yonatan242016-12-09

Frequencies higher than 8kHz don't produce flickering on HDTV.

rafununu (author)Jakes workshop2016-12-09

Voltage regulation doesn't work with Leds, if voltage goes under 3V for a white Led, it shuts down. Ribbons have 3 Leds in serie with a resistor, so if voltage decreases to 9V, no more light !

Yonatan24 (author)rafununu2016-12-09

It does, it just isn't perfect. It has a very big advantage over PWM, though.

I guess it depends on the type of LED.

rafununu (author)Yonatan242016-12-10

No, sorry, it doesn't. This is due to the physical properties of any diode. Diodes (even Schottky) have a threshold voltage and this voltage is arround 3V for a white Led. Thus, under 3V a white Led doesn't produce light. If you don't believe me, try it.

Yonatan24 (author)rafununu2016-12-10

Still works very well, though!

Mayhem2 (author)Yonatan242016-12-11

Ah! The first one!

rafununu (author)Yonatan242016-12-10

After a while thinking to that, I suppose you were thinking to current control, which is actually the best way to dim Leds. Some manufacturers use a mix of current and pwm, Eldoled for instance.

jw-vargas (author)2016-12-12

Good God, all the snotty comments . . . leaving me to question, one: if you're so good, where's your video? and two, as snotty as they are, I'd say the hell with you and wouldn't bother with making the video.

mid_life_crisis (author)2016-12-12

Instead of the laptop supply and step down transformer, could you use an old PC supply like so many of us have lying around? It's bulkier and would need to sit on the floor or have a bracket made for the tripod, but it's already putting out 12 volts with plenty of current and filtering.

askjerry (author)2016-12-11

I am surprised you didn't mount the LED panel to the back of the frame to help protect the LEDs. This would also allow you to place a frosted sheet of acrylic to the front to help diffuse the light if needed, or to add color gels for different effects.

Flicker: I saw the flicker at the 56 second point that was described below... it may have been caused by the panel, or by other light sources as it was not apparent in the video comparison. Installing a large capacitor across the output would help smooth the power out a bit more if needed.

Overall... given the very low cost of this project... I think he did an outstanding job.

WannaDuino (author)askjerry2016-12-11

exact that is what i did

to use additional color sheets when needed see mine.

pity he did not, and also very high costs


electrocoder (author)2016-12-11
WannaDuino (author)2016-12-11

I love it,

I also made some 2 panels, but for only 8 USD.

so your cost are REALY HIGH!!

And also wireless, and stationairy on 12V outlet. Dimmeble.PWM.

But i used old parts,that what i loved to do. I have an old DELL pc and used it until now for 3 projects, and i stil have a lot to use of it. see my instructable.

from that pc i made 2 wireless LED panels with go pro adapters so it can mount EVERYWARE and in every form.

And i build also a CNC Machine out of it.and no this is not try to get votes for myself, i am not in the contests.

Just to let everybody see what this community is for al of us.


WannaDuino (author)2016-12-11

Love it. But.

i made some for only 8 USD so your cost are a bit HIGH


curiosity36 (author)2016-12-11

Useful, simple, low cost project. As usual, there are good suggestions in the comments and as always, a few nay-sayers. I look at 'ibles and food for thought. Take the maker's idea and run with it in a direction to suit your needs, finances, materials at hand, and technical expertise.

Thanks for posting.

jferva (author)2016-12-11

O_O Finally!!!

Crumpred (author)2016-12-11

Excellent idea (got my Vote), I'm definitely going to build a couple.

The power supply, wood and incidentals were not included in the build price.

The real cost would be closer to 40 to 50 USD.

eggert (author)2016-12-09

Nice build, but I have one question... How do you prevent the LEDs getting fried? I have quite a lot notebook power supplies, they are from 17 to 22 volt. Can you limit the out put voltage of the buck converter independent from the potentiometer?

Yonatan24 (author)eggert2016-12-09

These strips need to be powered with 12V or less. They will burn out with more that 12V.

Yes. Turning the potentiometer will increase/decrease the voltage...

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