Instructables
Costumes rule. Glowing costumes rule even more. To make the king of glowy costumes - you gotta look just one place...inside your computer :). By following this instructable, you'll have the knowledge and ability to make an LED lit garment that looks just like the ones in the new Tron flick.

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.
 
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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!
In an effort to dodge these issues, I decided to use LEDs as a technology to light the suit instead. They are harder to implement, but the results are worth it.
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Toaafi1 year ago
Sorry , i need 2xAA Battery powered- EL wires..
Specs...
Colour: Orange/blue/green and white
Quantity: Two of each including each one's 2xAA battery case.
Driver: smallest multimode switch (eg.fast flash,slow flash you know what i mean...)
Hope this make it easier...
Cheers!!

Hi, there. You can get those info & prices from alibaba.com. They sell the cheapest! You order, they deliver/ ship it!

Oh man...I would really dodge alibaba. I've had many parts never show up from them even after paying, and there is no customer service at all on that site. I know it looks really cheap, but you get what you pay for, and alibaba is an avoid-at-all-costs website for me.

Really?! No kidding!?? Thanks for telling! I was about to order an e-bike kit for my mountain bike (downhill) worth $800 (bike not included) & an extra Li-Poly 48V battery! It's a good thing my phone's battery went dead on me (a blessing in disguise!). Thanks a lot man!!!!

I'm now into glowing bikes. looking for the cheapest "glo-paint" from the web. Visited Glo-nation already. They only sell 1 pint of ready paint or 5lbs of the crystals.

Nrgdragon2 months ago

Awesome

jsoto1311 months ago
Thank you for this. Made one for my son as a robot. He loved it.
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ovluces1 year ago
Gracias por el tutorial, me sirvió de mucho para hacer mi cosplay de tron legacy... Saludos
mi_primer_cosplay___tron_legacy_by_ovluces-d6pjerj.jpg
blackghost1 year ago
Great instructable !! I have always wanted a tron suit , but the EL wire was too expensive and I totally agree about how it looks unlit, as well as being only a thing line of light, Leds are def the way to go.

I was thinking about using the layers of plastic film from a laptops backlighting, the layers that diffuse and make an even lit surface, and maybe even mylar strips glued to the back side to reflect the leds back out. Think that would work/ maybe improve diffusion ?

THanks !
noobZ1 year ago
Thanks for the ible! I basically did the reverse to light up my "leather" jacket
DSC_0302.JPGDSC_0332.JPG
sheetmetalalchemist (author)  noobZ1 year ago
This is sweet! Nice man.
boston17981 year ago
Thank you for sharing. First off I am very interested in green tech, my wife and I have minimal resorces but we have a Mercury Cougar that we want to make GREEN that involves fitting the rear diff from a Ford Mondao/ Jaguar X series or even Ford Cougar, the diff would power an ex WD dynamo, give 'Engine Braking' and store energy for parking ect. We also want to fit solar paneling to the roof that can power the house. We are interested in also using HHO (Brown's Gas), But as I said we have minimum funds so using your idears with the TRON lit suit we can advertise the Green car, ie' when the solar charges the batteries a band down the side of the car glows blue. Sorry if this is somwhat winded but i hope that you may help, oh and um.. best wishes. Mike And Ruth Bolton, Uk, Europe
Hey sheetmetalalchemist: Your LED-lit Tron v2.0 suit is spectacular! I have two questions for you: 1. where would a person buy the clear silicone / water proof LED flat light strips you used in your Tron suit project? 2. If instead I decide to use EL wire, where can a person buy EL wire or flexible, small diameter, neon rope light and associated wiring components?
See step #8 for where I got my LED strips (http://www.instructables.com/id/LED-lit-Tron-v20-suit/step8/Picking-some-LEDs-for-the-lighting/). I'm in the bay area, so I have a tendency to use cool neon for my EL needs...they are good people!
Nikhil_1 year ago
"sheetmetalalchemist" bro can u help me in suggesting for our making of suits of tron for dance ... we are gonna use LED strips can u tell hw much battries we wolud nee.. and its placements its fixing can u help me plzz reply as possible fast _
- Nikhil studying in 10th
Toaafi1 year ago
Hey again
If you could send the stuff over that will be great, still need some help getting them...
sheetmetalalchemist (author)  Toaafi1 year ago
Um...you're going to have to be more specific. Is "the stuff" led strips? LEDs? El wire? Color? Quantity? Driver needed? There is lots of stuff...
Toaafi1 year ago
This is Toaafi
Hey Man, that awesome stuff !!!!
At my location (Pacific) its a bit hard to get access to EL wires..
Just wondering to see if it would be possible to send me some orange/green/blue wires..

please send me a quick reply so we could discuss the costs....
I am working on a project thats the lst key factor to completing it...
sheetmetalalchemist (author)  Toaafi1 year ago
Hey Toaafi -

Have you got this sorted yet? Let me know if you need my help getting this stuff over there..

SMA
Hi there! I sent you a message before, but I just wanted to send an update with what I ended up doing with elements of your tutorial!

I ended up using around 400 LED's for part of my costume, the glowing cloak. Thankfully, the entire thing didn't have to glow, just the bottom third.

I bought 2 strips of lights, one from Ebay and one from Amazon. I sheathed each strip of lights in sections, in 2 layers of fabric, stitched into tubes. The tubes hang from the inner most layer of my cloak. I originally tried to stitch the tubes to the cloak directly, but hot gluing the tubes with dots of hot glue allowed me better ability to space them appropriately and allow for flexibility. On top of that is layered soft interfacing, very loosely folded to help spread the light. on top of that is a blue translucent material that I painted lines on with fabric paint to block part of the light. I cut the strips into several sections to make the light spread evenly, and to make sure as many strips as possible faced forward (reverse from yours, but it works better for my purposes)

It was heavy as hell, but still not too heavy to swish around, and no worse than a thick comforter.

I found a portable lithium ion battery that performed beautifully, and is mounted in a sling on my back that I was able to access easily to turn off when not posing to conserve power. The battery has both a 9 volt and a 12 volt option, so I could set it to the higher output when I knew I wasn't going to be out as long.

I submitted this costume as part of a CNN ireport, and they had me pose for them at DragonCon :D

Thanks so much for your tutorial, I don't think i could have done it without some of your suggestions!
Midnazanttelma1.jpg
AWESOME! Well done, and thanks for the compliments!!
MaSe872 years ago
Great work! I really like the idea and are looking into building something similar. So how is the fake leather feeling on your body? I mean you have a shirt thats "breathing" but do you sweat underneath the leather? So do you think it is okay when you're dancing at a club with it.
ahunt73 years ago
so basically the led's are under the white shirt?
sheetmetalalchemist (author)  ahunt73 years ago
Not really - there's some subedlty here:

1) The LEDs are under the black leather pieces
2) The LEDs face your *body*, not the shirt

So, the glow is made by scattering the LED light off your skin. If you just put the LEDs under the shirt, you'll see a whole bunch of different points of light, not a nice, diffuse glow.
are they in between the shirt and leather or behind the shirt ?
yaly2 years ago
What about the pants?
jkco6132 years ago
This is a great instructable - highly detailed and easy to follow. I want to use this suit for a costume and need to turn it on/off easily, quickly and repeatedly. I figure the best way to do this is to add a handheld pushbutton switch. Can you advise me on the best way to do this, i.e. what type of switch and where/how to connect it within the circuit.
Mind you, I know very little about this stuff. Just trying to create a cool costume! Thanks!
nerd122 years ago
still like the suit though.
nerd122 years ago
you would look better in a half life HEV suit. you do look like gordon
alante12 years ago
Hey sheetmetalalchemist my name is alante edwards i have a very good idea for a league that i want to start. I like your tron shirts, and i think that your skill can really be a great asset to what i need, i wanna know if u can make that into a full padded body suit and hemets. If your intrested in my idea you can email me at alanteedwards@gmail.com. ps. do you or anyone you know, know there way around non-expanding recreational foam.
dansan1012 years ago
HI! im looking at replicating parts of this project.
I have a sheet of cloth backed vinyl and was hoping to attacht it to a cotton shirt, Will the iron adhesive be strong enough? or should i look at fabric glues?
sheetmetalalchemist (author)  dansan1012 years ago
Hello dansan! I think the iron-on adhesive stuff should work - it has been working for me. A lot of it has to do with wear and abuse - the iron on adhesives work great as long as you aren't wearing the garment every day. If you are wearing the item daily, you may need to look into something more robust (like a fabric glue).
THANKS! Also, i wont have access to a laser cutter and will be doing it VERY carefully with a craft knife. Im struggling with the scaling the pattern to suit my shirt, any advice?
or a program that i can use to view and scale the images?
yodead22 years ago
Hello sheetmetalalchemist. I would like your opinion on the led lights if you got a moment. Since I have no experience in soldering or electronics, I was going to go the led Christmas light route powered by AA batteries. I have the links for three different styles of led lights below ranging from wide-angle to droplet leds. I wanted to ask if any of them would be ideal to produce the diffusion effect you mentioned in your instructable. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

http://www.christmas-light-source.com/White-Micro-Drop-LED-Battery-Operated-Light-Set-_p_2039.html

http://www.christmaslightsetc.com/p/Battery-Operated-Micro-Fairy-LED-Lights-18-Blue-Lamps-4-Spacing-Green-Wire-40111.htm

http://www.christmaslightsetc.com/p/Battery-Operated-Christmas-Wide-Angle-Lens-20-White-LED-Lamps-4-inch-Spacing-Green-Wire--19256.htm
amirza32 years ago
Man,I love it.that gotta be cool.but it's a little difficult to do this
GlowWireGuy2 years ago
Nice. Very creative solution!
eecharlie2 years ago
This looks great, I really like the specific detailed specs that make it easy to reproduce (not that I have time to this halloween!). It would also be great to see what your total budget was.

A suggestion- has anyone looked into side-emitting waterproof LED strips? They seem to exist for indoor 'architecture' lighting, i.e. my first search result may have the LEDs a bit spaced out but still looks pretty good: http://aptlight.com/productsview.php?id=90&proid=118
sheetmetalalchemist (author)  eecharlie2 years ago
Thank you sir!

I actually looked at side emitters too :). They *might* work. You'd have to do some experimenting with how far away from the white sections of the garment they'd be placed. This was my problem - too close to the see through part, you'd see points of light. Too far away, you'd see nothing. There may be a happy medium that I didn't take enough time to discover.

BTW, the strips I used were made for cars, so waterproofness is easy: 
http://www.oznium.com/side-emitting-led-strip
tdees3 years ago
I love it man... I have been trying to come up with ideas for a tron costume and your method is both creative and refreshing.... thanks!
keast3 years ago
How do I get something cut with a laser? Can I take it somewhere?
sheetmetalalchemist (author)  keast3 years ago
You can take it somewhere! One option is to see if you've got a local hackerspace that has one: http://hackerspaces.org/wiki/Hackerspaces, or use these guys: http://www.ponoko.com/
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