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LED Light Drawing Pens: Tools for drawing light doodles

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My wife Lori is an incessent doodler and I've played with long exposure photography for years. Inspired by the PikaPika light artistry group and the ease of digital cameras we took on the light drawing art form to see what we could do.

We have a large gallery of drawings on our website: LightDoodles.com. There you will also find a description of how we draw and a brief history of light drawing.

Any light source can serve as your creative implement and we shopped for every keychain flashlight, gimick pen and light wand we could find.

But we finally sat down and asked what manner of flashlight would accomadate Lori's most natural and comfortable hand posistion while drawing in mid-air. The answer was to hold the light just like a pencil with instant on/off control directly under the index finger.

Since we wanted to complete each full drawing in one exposure, she needed to be able to switch between different colored pens quickly. We also found that when drawing a large picture we needed the light to be completely exposed on all sides to minimize fading around the edges.

With these parameters, I went hunting for parts at the local electronics and hardware stores and came up with what turned out to be a simple and versatile tool that resulted in some incredible art.
 
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Kyw Yw Yw1 year ago
and how much is the time limit?
Kyw Yw Yw1 year ago
quick question, if this is using LED, how can I see my light drawings?
Dark Light1 year ago
Thanks for posting this! I loved this instructable and made several of these tools. I made the tubes a little longer so I could put 2 springs in and use AAA batteries with them. My wife and I really enjoyed them! Thank you.
beautiful art :-) I love your led-paintings
mlavery854 years ago
 The aluminum foil dose not stay on!!!  Why do we need it?
unklstuart (author)  mlavery854 years ago
You are right, the foil is poor engineering and the lights stop working while drawing. I need to figure out a better system or buy something pre-made.
Sugru perhaps? Or maybe one of the other conductive putties. I would kinda like to see a version where instead of wire, conductive paint is substituted.
I left about an inch of wire exposed and wrapped a layer of foil around the lower 1/2" of it.   Then I folded the remainder of the exposed wire down over the foil and continued wrapping the foil around it.  It stays really well!!

Unrelated: I'm a teacher, and I did some light-drawing with my students for their classroom book.  Would it be okay if I included a picture of your light pen collection?  We have this explanation we wrote at the beginning of what light-drawing is, and your picture would help greatly!
unklstuart (author)  abbeynormal424 years ago
Thanks Abbey. Feel free to use the pen picture!
samalert2 years ago
This is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo CLEAN tool loved it !
unklstuart (author) 2 years ago
Thanks for the feature! We have received some great feedback. One fellow used the pens to create a marriage proposal. (She said yes!) We are now available for hire for your event, a photo booth from the dark side. See lightdoodles.com. Here are some recent pictures.

light doodles-5460.jpglightdoodle-5466.jpglightdoodle-9112.jpglightdoodle-9122.jpgtrombone-5482.jpg
SO COOL!!!!
TxPilot2 years ago
Awesome Instructable! I have sent a few people to this over the last few years. Also wanted to note that this type of photography is also known as Light Painting Photography or Light Graffiti. Picaso did a bit of this himself back in the 40's. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
how do you see the product? Im confused... you cant drawin the air... so how do you see it?
unklstuart (author)  bakedicecream2 years ago
It is confusing. You can draw in the air. You can not see it but the camera can. Drawing in the dark is like drawing with your eyes closed.

Picture the image in your mind and when you draw, the camera captures all the light from the pens and creates a complete picture.

Hope that helps.
unklstuart (author) 2 years ago
I received a thank you email yesterday from someone that used this tutorial to make the tools for a marriage proposal video drawn with lights.

Quite an honor.

Check it out: http://vimeo.com/31670713
sunshiine2 years ago
Thanks for sharing all your hard work! So impressive, unique, and fun! Have a perfect fall day!. Sunshiine
mayzskee3 years ago
hi, how much are they to buy in australia ?
ah-el3 years ago
THANK YOU MERCI THANK YOU
pepelepew4 years ago
Really cool 'able and awesome doodles! I'm trying to build some of these for my brother who's a big fan of long exposure photography. I'm wondering if I have to get the super-bright LEDs (the ones that say on the package "do not look directly, can cause retina damages"), or if the standard 8 or 10mm will do; I thought that by tweaking the picture's luminosity it would make the leds "artificially" brighter, in my case it's way cheaper (Radioshack doesn't exist here, so I can getby mail order 7 or 8 standard 8/10mm LEDs for the price of one super-bright LED), I'm also a total noob in electronics so I wouldn't be worried about burning a 5€ led. Any thoughts?
first i like to say sorry to have post here as a reply. for some reason i can use the add comment function.

second i would like to say this is a great project and i love your art

third i would like to recommend some of my idea for you to think about meaning:
a) why not for the light you can dim or make the led brighter for you to make a sense of depth in the picture. my recommendation is to use PWM using 555 ic.that way you can change the intensity of the light.

b) instead of having multiple light pen why not just build 2 light pin 1 being just white and the other one is using the RGB Led that could make almost any colour in the spectrum except for white. if you try making white with it, it would just turn its self so dim it would become off

there this one web page that give great tutorial about this led
but it use a microcontroller. but u can easily change it to use multiple 555 PWM

http://www.mbeckler.org/microcontrollers/rgb_led/
tiriosh4 years ago
This looks awesome! I definitely want to try to do this. The problem? Choosing a camera. I've been doing some research and I'd like a camera that isn't too expensive, but that works well for regular pictures, not just exposure photography. One that caught my eye was the Nikon d40. Would that work as well? And do you have any recommendations for cameras?
unklstuart (author)  tiriosh4 years ago
Thanks. All you need is the ability to control the shutter speed and that can be done with almost any camera. The D40 has a manual contol mode. You should be able to get at least 30 seconds of shutter time out of it, if not unlimited.
Oh, okay. Thanks for the advice and for getting back to me so quickly! :)
zack2474 years ago
would a samsung digimax 101 work? im not sure how to change the exposure, but would it work?
unklstuart (author)  zack2474 years ago
I bet your camera will work. It does not appear to have any manual settings for shutter speed but you may be able to fool it. (I found the manual for the digimax 101 at amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Samsung-Digimax-101-Digital-Camera/dp/B00008KIW6 Scroll down to "Product Details".)

First, turn the flash off (see page 37). If the room is dark enough, the camera will leave the shutter open for several seconds, trying to gather enough light to make a decent picture. That is when you can do some drawing. Put the camera on a tripod or on the edge of a table for stability. Try it with the flash on too which will let you see who is drawing.

You may also get a few extra seconds by going to "Exposure" mode and cranking that setting to +2.0EV. That might force the shutter to stay open a little longer.

Good luck and thanks for your question.
wow u have to move like super fast to draw those in the air tolatly amazing
 They do it by setting the camera to stay open and sensing light for a really long peroid of time. So it captures all the movments of the light pen in one image. CReating the drawing. So they can move as slow as they like. :)
kcls4 years ago
I made these a couple months ago and forgot to comment. Great instructable, one of the most highly detailed yet still relatively easy to make I've ever seen! Drawing is harder then it looks, especially because my Canon PowerShot A540 can only leave the shutter open for 15 seconds! It turns out my mom and younger sister are better at them then I am! They were also a big hit with my cousins. They loved them! Thanks!
marc40754 years ago
do you have to use the resistor ?
unklstuart (author)  marc40754 years ago
Hi Marc,

If the voltage is close enough, you can get away with not using a resistor. There is some resistance in the wire and internally in the batteries. And the components are fairly forgiving at these voltages and currents, but there are limits. There is lots of discussion on this here in Instructables.
tjmax1394 years ago
i got bored so i stoped
This instructable was my first dive into the world of soldering.  They were a complete success!!

I used 2 3V batteries and a 220 ohm resistor, but other than that, they're pretty much the same.  The pictures came out great!  Thanks so much for these!
djlewis7254 years ago
how do you get a good picture? plz help!
unklstuart (author)  djlewis7254 years ago
Well, first put the camera on a tripod or some stable platform, set the shutter to a long exposure and then experiment with the other settings (f-stop, ISO, focus), oh, and do this at night or in a dark room. For more details, check out this tutorial.
KnexFreek4 years ago
cool!
 5 stars
MjPadfoot4 years ago
 ummm... there is no way in hell i could ever make this! for one, i was probably drooling and lost in dreams when we took ohm's law in high school. for another, well.... 

but im a big fan of long exposure photography, and my modified flashlight isnt helping any. anyway, can i buy this somewhere?
 btw GREAT instructable! and ur wife is talented! its not easy drawing in air.
so kudos to the both of you:P
zixx654 years ago
this is an awesome light up pen... i made alot of colors out of this idea and it made me think of new ideas to add to this................ YAY!
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