How to make a simple dome tool for light painting

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Picture of How to make a simple dome tool for light painting
Domes. They’re beautiful. Would you like to know how they’re made, and how you can make your own easily?

All you need is a simple dome tool. This consists of a circular shape with lights around it, and an axle equal in length to the radius of the circle. That sounded complicated, didn’t it?  How’s this: It’s basically a bicycle wheel with lights around it.

It doesn’t have to be a bicycle wheel, but they make the best example. Below, you’ll see two photos (front and side) of a quick little dome tool I made from one of my wife’s cross-stitching loops. I put some battery operated LED Christmas lights around it, added an “axle” that you can see in the side shot, and that’s all it took to make the picture above! It only took me about 15 minutes to assemble.

You can find more of my experiments in light painting on my blog in the photography section (here).
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Step 1: Materials Needed

Picture of Materials Needed
1. A circular framework. A bicycle tire works, but in this example I used one of my wife's cross-stitching circles.

2. A couple of pieces of wood or metal to make the crossbar and axle.

3. Battery operated LED holiday lights.

4. Some tie-wraps or tape to hold the lights and battery in place.
Dark Light (author) 2 years ago
For those of you in north central Ohio, I've begun offering a free course on light painting. I'm currently scheduling classes at local libraries, but any local group that would like a presentation is welcome to contact me. For more details and a list of already confirmed classes, you can check my blog post here.

I'm working on an ebook covering the same information. I'll update this instructable when it's completed.

Thanks for all the views and comments!!!!
I'm quite fond of light painting, and I really MUST grab some battery powered lights in the post christmas floggoff! (by which I mean MORE lights of course.)
Dark Light (author)  Dream Dragon2 years ago
Stay away from what we call here in the USA "Rice Lights". They are incredibly small LED holiday lights. The problem is, they are so small, and so is their angle of viewing, that they really don't throw enough light to make a proper exposure. If given the choice between really small and just small or medium, go with the bigger one for better/easier results.
In the UK "rice lights" or "grain of wheat" lights are tiny filament bulbs. often used for modelling but very delicate and largely superseded by LEDs.

My own, admittedly limited, experience shows that larger lights or clusters of light are more effective.
sbrookes12 years ago
Great idea!
Here's some photos of one I made with a skewer and a wooden lid.
THAT is just TOO Damned Crazy Baby!

it's TINY!
Dark Light (author)  sbrookes12 years ago
sbrookes1.....That looks fantastic! And I can see by the hole on the top that you also played with the radius of the axle to change the top shape of the dome, as thealeks was asking about, below. Great job! And thanks for posting the pics, they look great! This is what I love about Light Painting, you can take a simple little tool and make some really neat designs out of it.
sbrookes12 years ago
Dark Light,
Sorry for the late response but here are some photos of my laser.
There not that fancy but it could definitely be used in other ways.
Dark Light (author)  sbrookes12 years ago
Thanks, sbrookes1. Those look very similar to what we made with our Lite Writer Mini's that we sell in our shop. Seven different colors.  Here was a quick test doodle with the blue one:

Dark Light (author)  Dark Light2 years ago
We use them for light doodling, or light drawing.

thealeks2 years ago
Are you sure you didnt mean the axle was the same length as the diameter of the circle? In your pictures it looks longer than the radius
Dark Light (author)  thealeks2 years ago
No, I meant the axle was the same length as the radius, as I mentioned in Step 2, Assembling the tool. Making the axle equal the radius will result in a dome where the top is closed or sealed. You are correct though, my axle is almost the diameter. Actually, a little longer even. I did this on purpose. If you look at the picture, my dome has an open top, or circle, on top of it. I'll be adding more effects, like a laser shooting out of the dome. Thats why mine is a little longer in the picture. If the dome was closed, as they normally are, it wouldn't look right when I add the laser effect later.
oh ok thanks. I'd love to see pics with the laser or other effects! Great instructable!
sbrookes12 years ago
Dark Light,
Thanks and it was really easy to make, probably only took about an hour all up.
Yeah, to change the size of the dome i just adjusted how far the skewer pushed through the wood. For my next one I might use a multicolour LED strip to get some interesting colours and patterns, also, have you tried experimenting with a laser to make some cool patterns?
Dark Light (author)  sbrookes12 years ago
I haven't tried an acutal laser yet, as I can't find any in my parts pile. lol. I'm trying some cold cathode and other sources right now. I'm going to try to add a laser effect to my dome, though. I've got some 6 inch blue light bars that give a strange blue color on film. Think miniature light wands. I want to make a dome like yours with an open top, then go from floor to ceiling inside that center spot with the light bar held horizontally. This should make it look like the dome is shooting a laser beam out of the top opening. If you try the laser pics, please post a couple here somewhere. I'd love to see the effect you get with a laser. I just can't try it until my budget improves.
jenmar772 years ago
Dark Light (author)  jenmar772 years ago
Thanks, jenmar! I love how easy making these tools are. There's plenty more coming, too.
When I first saw this, i thought the battery pack was a motor that drove the rim of lights forward. I think that could be an interesting mod....favoriting your project - may remix it.
Dark Light (author)  audreyobscura2 years ago
That's a good idea. I misread it at first. My son left a few of his RC cars/trucks here when he went overseas. I'll see if I can get some batteries charged and mount this on one of them for some test pictures. If I can, I'll post the pics so you can get some ideas.
Dark Light (author)  audreyobscura2 years ago
Thanks, Audrey! You read my mind. I knocked this design off in only 15 or 20 minutes, but one of the things I did was attach it to the end of a portable drill to spin it. Check out the "space worm" and "futuristic ant farm" pics on my website. They were made with this tool, spinning it on a drill. Thanks for the feedback!