My goals in making this costume were to make a robust, easily washable, waterproof, Tron style suit which was energy efficient to minimize battery weight and hardware bulk. To do that, I had to dodge the commonly used EL wire implementations and switch to LEDs.
Even if you aren't interested in making a Tron suit, I would highly recommend reading the section on lighting implementation - I did not individually stitch each LED with conductive thread...instead I used a combination of silicone coated LED strips and faux leather to produce a beautiful, diffuse light without seeing those pesky LED points.
Step 1: Other Lighting Options - Why not use EL Wire?
Most Tron-ish garmets are made with this stuff called EL wire or EL tape (which is based on the same technology). Although EL technologies are great for a lot of reasons, I feel that they aren't very well suited to wearable apps. I built an old school Tron suit using EL wire, and found the following problems with it:
- EL Wire is super fragile! Bending it too tightly or repeated bending motions (i.e. wrapping around body joints or placing into a washing machine) will cause the EL wire to fail. And when you try to repair any EL wire damage, you quickly find out that...
- EL Wire repair isn't pretty! To repair EL wire, you splice in solid non-glowing wire to the broken sections...which completely destroys the effect of a single, unbroken line.
- EL Wire is pretty dim! You won't be able to see EL glow at all during the day, which leads to the next problem...
- EL Wire looks lame if its not illuminated! You can get fancy and do some work to hide EL wire, but in general, unlit EL wire looks like just that - wires on the outside of a garment. So, if its not glowing, its generally pretty ugly.
- You need an AC inverter for mobile applications! EL wire runs on AC current, and any battery pack you can buy will be DC. Therefore, you need to add more bulky hardware, and there are more things to break while wearing your creation!