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.
This is RAD!!! GREAT tutorial. I know nothing of this type of tinkering, yet I feel strangely empowered to try, due to your instructions. Bravo.
<p>thx, nice guide, but the lego tech 1x1 or 1x2 are very expensive. have you a cheap shop, or a tip?</p>
<p>funny how they don't consider making this kind of stuff offical.</p>
<p>Way cool :D</p>
<p>how would you change the light bulb if it ever broke somehow??</p>
You would simply unscrew the bulb and replace it with a new one. The roof of the lamp isn't fixed into the cube: it slides right off.
<p>One quick question , how much money do you estimate to spend on this project ?</p>
It's hard to gauge, but expect anywhere between $20-50 USD, depending on the amount of rare colors. If you go with common Technic colors and simple sprite patterns, the cost would be somewhat low, like around $20.
Do you have an official list of parts? I want to order from pick-a-brick.
<p>Unfortunately, since this basic frame design is more of a general <br>suggestion (rather than intended to be copied verbatim), the only parts <br>list I have available is at the end of the HTML build guide (in step 2's bullet list). Since this is an artistic creation that can be made for your own design, there's no real specific requirement for the LEGO construction. I would suggest, however, downloading the LDD file and using that as a determination of how big your actual model will be, so that you can purchase parts according to it. Just for the record, none of my pieces were bought at the LEGO Store -- rather, all of the Technic bricks and transparent plates were purchased individually online after I designed my sprite artwork for the Mario mosaic. I'd recommend designing your actual artwork first, then eventually purchasing parts according to that.</p>
You can make a makeshift LED array for almost no money :)
Yes, but that would lack the magic of LEGO. . .
Nono i mean, you state that led bulbs are expensive. Instead of an led bulb, use a directional led array! :-) that will also concentrate the light in the right directions.
Wow. Why hasn't Lego made a kit for this yet? If they stumble across this idea of yours they will make a fortune. This is what Lite Brite should have been.
I'm considering submitting this as a kit for CUUSOO, albeit smaller, simpler, and with a harmless LED bulb. I'm trying to figure out how to simplify it enough that a kid between the ages of 8-12 could put it together without making it an overkill of engineering.
Ummmm....didn't they call this &quot;Light Bright&quot; back in the day?
A similar toy called Lite Brite was marketed by Hasbro back in the day -- in fact, I even address this in my opening paragraph.
Know you've heard it before, but those are really nice! <br> <br>At some point when I get time, I'm gonna make one of those w/ an MtG theme, but I really love how the flower looks so might have to do a Mario themed one too (all this coming from the person who believes it could be a nice summer project).
Go ahead -- and be sure to show me your results! Also, this particular model I've built is 18 pixels wide, whilst my previous Mario lamp was 16 pixels (16 LEGO studs); feel free to deviate by making it bigger or smaller as you'd please.
Where did you buy the Legos?
I got most of them from Bricklink.com, which is like an online &quot;candy store&quot; of new and used LEGO pieces (search by shape, color, year, and whatnot).
Voted for ultimate amazment!
The shops are where you buy things from
That should be in the make it glow contest it's awesome the master will be happy. As I said before OMG awesome when I first saw it i thought it was from the shops. It's so good that's why I repeated it.
Thanks! What are the shops, though? By the way, I did in fact submit this to the Make it Glow contest -- but alas, it's still pending review from the admins. I'm going to hopefully submit another illuminated LEGO project to the contest that's more elaborate and uses almost 2,000 pieces!
That's looks so beautiful
OMG awesome when I first saw it i thought it was from the shops
HOW do you have no comments or feature?! This is simple but awesome.. you can tell my childhood consisted of tons of legos.. as will my future childrens. Did you order the clear legos and technic/other pieces so you could make this permanent?
Initially for the first mockup, I used some left over Technic bricks and transparent dots as a test, then when the art was designed I ordered a ton of dots and bricks to build the mosaic pattern. As of now, I have no plans on dismantling this lamp -- and hopefully I'll sell it at a small gallery in my town!
How much did it cost once you ordered them? I bet a local gallery would display it!
Oh yeah. forgot to say I want to try this using minecraft as my inspiration.
Have at it -- and be sure to show me what you've created!

About This Instructable




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 »
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