Cards with LEDs add a touch of excitement to the Holiday season. For 2014, JHP Productions is introducing the Pin Hole Backlit LED Holiday Card. This step by step instructable will show you how to make this type of card yourself.
Pin Hole Art normally makes for a really cool textured design. However, for this project, we are going to use the holes to diffuse light instead. With a matrix of holes plus a black and white picture on top creates a simple aesthetic look…until the LEDs are turned on. The LEDs behind the holes add a soft glow to the picture and in this particular case, tell the story of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer travelling navigating through the foggy night with his glowing red nose.
Difficulty: 3 of 10
Comments: Some basic soldering
Time: 6 Hours (upper limit)
Cost: Under $10 if you have the majority of the tools. Took <$6 for me.
Step 1: Materials
Total Material cost is around $6-$10.
Materials (to make one card)
- -Assorted LED (5mm) - 1x Red, 4x Blue, 1x Green
- -CR2032 & CR2016 Coin Cell Batteries (2x CR2016, 1x CR2032)
- -CR2032 Battery Holders (2x)
- -Mini Slide Switches (2)
- -Wire (Red & Blue Insulated)
- -Plastic Wrap (the culinary type - 3 feet)
- -Foam Poster Board (20" x 30" board or something of similar size)
- -Card Stock (white and assorted colors)
- -Hot Glue (3-4 mini sticks)
- -Photo Editing Software: Paint.NET, Photoshop, Gimp, etc. (I used Paint.NET - It's free and Powerful)
- -Small Binder Clip
- -Hot Glue & Hot Glue Gun
- -Pencil, Pen, Marker
- -Thin Sharp Poking Instrument or Drill
- -Masking Tape
- -Industrial Utility Blade
- -Ruler with a metal edge (razor blade is less likely to cut into that)
- -Glue Stick
- -Sharpie Poster Paint
Step 2: Setting Up the Card
First, find an image online with a good landscape and copy it onto your photo editing program. Change the image into a black and white image. Then, toggle the brightness and contrast controls until the image becomes a simplified version of the original image. (See the pictures for reference). Resize the image/template to fit the dimensions of the cardstock that you will be using.
Next, create a new layer onto of the background layer. This new layer will contain the dots. I’ve attached the full page of dots as a png. File.
Once the image is sized and edited to your specifications, print out the image WITH the dot structure on standard printer paper. Next, feed the cardstock into the printer and print the image this time, WITHOUT the dot structure. It should be pretty easy to punch through two sheets of cardstock at a time, so you can make two cards simultaneously.
*For my cardstock, it was not full size so I had to use masking tape to tape the cardstock (on the edges) onto the printed piece of paper and feed that into the printer. By taping the cardstock onto the printed piece of paper allows you to center the card where you want it. Then you need to print another sheet with the dot structure to place onto of that cardstock to have the template of where to punch all the holes.
*I’ve attached all the files necessary to create this project in the png. format. I am not the owner of the original image – I found that one through a Google Images search (see original image in the attached photo or the link below).
Original Image - Google Images Search Result Link
Step 3: Punch Holes and Add the Frame
Once the cardstock has been printed out, overlay the dot structure sheet over the cardstock and paperclip it in place. Next, take an empty cardboard box and use that as the hole punching surface. Take a thumbtack and attach a small binder clip to the “handle” (see images) and begin punching the holes. For my picture, there were around 1,400 holes that needed to be punched. I did two pieces of a cardstock at a time. It took around 30 minutes to punch 1,400 holes.
Once you’re done punching the holes, step back and admire your work. Then, separate the top piece of paper with the dots from the cardstock and trace a frame for the cardstock that you punched the holes for. I left around a 1” margin around for the frame. Cut out the frame with a razor blade and use some poster paint to draw in designs and use the glue stick to glue it to the cardstock card.
Next, use the hot glue and lay down a layer around the edge of the cardstock. This will be used later to hold down the plastic wrap in STEP 6. Then lay some more hot glue down around the tree area. That will help contain the Green LED light and keep it from spreading as much into the background.
Step 4: Setting Up the LEDs
With the frame stick glued onto the punched cardstock, it’s time to mount the LEDs. Once you figure out the placement of the LEDs, got glue them with the same orientation. (Negative all on the left & Positive all on the right-so that you don’t get confused when soldering them later)
You will be wiring the LEDs together in a parallel circuit. Keep in mind however that not all LEDs have the same current draw. Red/Amber LEDs have a lower current/voltage draw so they will not work in parallel with green/blue/white/pink LEDs because they require more voltage/current. If you do it this way, only the Red/Amber LEDs will light up because electricity takes the path of least resistance.
Cut the appropriated lengths of wire, strip the ends, and then solder them to the LEDs. This should be very basic soldering and you shouldn’t run into any difficulties doing this part. Once the soldering of the LEDs is complete, test them by hooking up a coin cell battery to one positive and negative end and see if they light up. If they do, go ahead and hot glue the connections to secure them. If they don’t work, check over the soldering and the wiring to make sure the joints are solid and are correct.
Leave one set of LED leads open for your switch and battery holder to be soldered onto.
Step 5: Switch and Backboard
The switch and battery holder will be mounted on the back piece. This backboard will be made from the foam poster board. Cut the foam board into the correct dimensions and then, if it doesn’t already have a nice backing, cut another piece of cardstock and glue it onto the back.
Mark the areas where the switches and battery holders will go and punch the holes for them. Then cut wires for the switches and battery holder and solder them on. Pull those wires through the backboard and prepare them for attaching to LEDs. (See images) Make sure these wires are long enough that both sides of the card can be laid flat when you’re soldering.
Remember you need two switches if you want to use simple parallel circuits for the different colored lights. (Red/Amber/Orange LEDs is one set) (Green/Blue/White LEDs is another set)
Attach the switch to the positive pole. It really doesn’t matter with these simple floating circuits if you do double pole (+/- together switch) vs single pole. I went with a single pole switch on the positive side. (See images)
Once you have soldered all the switch connections together, insert the batteries (Red LED uses the single CR2032 while the Green/Blue LEDs use the two CR2016 batteries because it makes them brighter) and test the switches to make sure they works. If all parts are functioning, hot glue the soldered connections to insulate them and also glue the switches/batter holders in place.
Step 6: Assembling the Card
It’s time to close up the card once the electronics are installed. To reinforce the card, add strips of the foam poster board on the sides of the card. Make the strips full strips that cover the entire length of the edge. Add double strips on the horizontal ends to give some spacing for the plastic wrap and LEDs so that the whole surface is even.
Take a 3 foot piece of plastic wrap and lay it crinkled up on the back side of LED filed piece. The hot glue applied on earlier will naturally stick to the plastic wrap so it will be held in place. The purpose of the plastic wrap is to diffuse the light.
Then, close up the card by hot gluing both sides of the card together.
To add finishing touches, take masking tape and run it around the border. A soft diffused light will glow through the sides where the two vertical edges which are not fully closed off by the foam strips, creating a cool appearance. Finally, I attached my logo, the product description, and the instructions and the card is ready to be sent off. A personalized message can be attached in the back as well, either with nice paper that is then taped to the back or directly written on the back.
Step 7: Thoughts and Future Applications
Each card costs around $6 to make if not cheaper if you make more. The process could be sped up if there was some type of more advanced hole puncher and more people to help. It took me about 3 days’ worth of time to go from concept to reality. (Parts procurement was a big part but I’ve finally discovered a store who works closely with the area MakerSpace that sells parts close to EBay prices so there will no longer be “long lead items” and buying overpriced parts from another local store.
I’ve attached a few of my other LED Cards from this season in the images. The concept is all the same for the electronics and hardware side. I used large note cards instead for the other cards because I ran out of white cardstock. The hole diffused light was an original idea. I haven’t been able to find anyone else who’s created a similar product.
There are so many other cool cards that can be done with this style…but you won’t see any cards from me until probably 2015…until then, make your own cards and share them in the comments below or create your own instructables!