Blending my fascination with shiny, glowing objects with my lifelong passion of making LEGO models, over the years I've tinkered with numerous illuminated LEGO projects that contained a variety of designs and electrical components. Starting with the light-up stained glass stern of my Super Mario 3 airship "The Fireflower" -- which used a crude DC circuit with a 9V battery, to the multiple Super Mario mood lamps I've built -- which used AC power and more sophisticated circuitry. The latter of which -- the LEGO mood lamps -- is what this current tutorial shall describe. This particular mood lamp uses "Lite Brite" individual dot designs to convey the illumination, as opposed to my previous light-up LEGO designs such as the first Super Mario ? Block Lamp and the Fireflower's stern, which had their designs using transparent bricks for a stained glass effect. With stained glass LEGO models, often times the colors can unfortunately all blend together when lit up, unlike this particular new design scheme I've designed, which has better detail and accuracy for the artwork -- as well as maintaining the intended design when the light inside is turned off. With stained glass LEGO models, when the internal light is off, the transparent bricks can look dull, but with this new "Lite Brite" system, the bricks that house the individual colored dots retain their colors, thus keeping the lamp looking just as elegant even when not turned on.

Since the particular LEGO mood lamps I've built are one-of-a-kind designs that I, the artist have made for himself, I shan't give instructions on the specific artwork I've made -- rather, I'll discuss the fundamentals for making illuminated LEGO lamps with the Lite Brite fashion, so that you, the reader can make your own design based on a color scheme and pattern of your choice. Like in my tutorial for vertical LEGO mosaics, I didn't provide any specific video game sprites nor patterns for my example project; instead, I explained how to make your own artwork (video game or not) using my techniques. The design you choose is entirely up to you -- as you're not required to copy my exact artwork, my exact sizes, my exact light bulb types, nor even using video game sprites at all. The artwork you decide to make is entirely up to you, and the actual size and specific electrical requirements are also for your choice.

With that said, in this tutorial I shall describe the following:
  • LEGO Technic bricks and transparent LEGO plates
  • Constructing a base
  • Choosing electrical components

Step 1: LEGO Technic Bricks and Transparent Plates

For those of you aspiring LEGO builders, Technic is a sub-brand of LEGO which uses more advanced and sophisticated parts for elaborate projects: these sort of models include functional machines with working gears, pistons, springs, pumps, and special LEGO bricks that contain drilled holes for holding axles, rods, pins, and whatnot -- these hole-drilled bricks are what we'll be using to build the design portion of the lamp. In particular, we'll be using two specific types of hole bricks: a 1x2 brick with two holes in it, and a 1x1 brick with one hole in it. You can technically use any Technic hole brick of your choosing -- which vary in sizes and holes, but I personally recommend using these two types, as you'll have more room for making details and providing individual light components.

Also in the LEGO product line are traditional 1x1 plates  -- square or round -- that are made with transparent colors. The studs of these plates will of course pop into place of the aforementioned Technic bricks, thus when arranged in a colorful mosaic pattern, you'll simply place a light bulb behind the wall of bricks/plates to create the illusion of individual illuminated colored dots -- just like an LED board, but rather like a Lite Brite set with colored pegs!

I tend to match transparent dots with coordinated Technic bricks, such as placing transparent red dots on red bricks, obviously, but again, feel free to deviate as you please. Be advised, though, that Technic hole bricks -- the specific sizes I recommend using -- are only available in limited colors, which means you have to be aware when designing your pattern, as perhaps your particular desired colors are unavailable. Some colors are available in 1x1 and 1x2 Technic hole bricks, but certain colors are rare and expensive. The same goes with transparent plates: only a handful of colors (mostly primary) are available. In the example Super Mario mood lamp I've provided here, I used the following colors for Technic bricks: tan, lime green, red, blue, white, black, light grey, dark grey, and yellow. For the transparent plates, I've chosen red, dark blue, light blue, clear (no color), neon green, dark green, and orange. I did a few techniques for substitution where necessary: for example, green Technic 1x1 hole bricks are rare and expensive, and 1x2 hole bricks are non-existent -- thus, I've chosen blue bricks, and when the transparent dark green plates were popped into place, the blue area of the brick was somewhat covered up, thus making a substitute "green" brick. You can do similar things like putting transparent orange plates in yellow Technic bricks, as there are no orange 1x1 or 1x2 Technic hole bricks available in the LEGO parts library.

If you're new to making mosaic LEGO artwork and need help making a design, please read my tutorial on vertical LEGO mosaics. This will explain the fundamentals and tips for creating a design based on a picture from the computer -- as well as understanding LEGO colors and how to better obtain parts en masse.

About This Instructable


753 favorites


Bio: Baron von Brunk: original creator of the LEGO/Transformers/Game Boy mashup - featured in Nintendo Power, CNN Geekout, Tokyopop, Discovery Channel Canada, Kotaku, Gizmodo, and ... More »
More by Baron von Brunk: Electronic LEGO Super Mario Bros. Mushrooms Electronic LEGO Super Mario Starman Electronic LEGO DL-44 Blaster (Light & Sound)
Add instructable to: