Mood light? Night light? Party light? This project could be any of these things, but I think the coolest thing it can do is make rad 3D-ish, multi-color shadow art.

This idea came from the Trippy Night Light published in Make by Charles Platt and the "Trippy RGB Color Mixing Night Light" by e024576.

It uses pulse width modulation to "randomly" "fade" the intensity of a red, a green and a blue LED so that they mix in endless combinations of colors.

I'd like to point out that you can get similar color changing functionality at about one-fifth of the cost and one-tenth the work by simply using one RGB Slowchanging LED. But you couldn't customize the program, it wouldn't be as bright, and you wouldn't get any cool shadow effects. What fun would that be?

The shadow picture was made seconds after I successfully powered the project straight from my laptop. I pointed the light at the ceiling and discovered a 10-ft wide psychedelic light show!

Step 1: Parts and Tools

  • Soldering Iron and stuff for soldering - If you don't have one yet go buy it! Mine has already paid for itself with the simple repair of broken audio cables.
  • Programming cable and software for PicAxe microcontroller
  • Computer
  • 3 x Picaxe 08M microcontroller - Sparkfun
  • 24 hole IC socket - I actually used a 16 and an 8 because that's what I had. You could use 3 x 8 if that's what's available - Local Radio Shack (this is what they look like). When I look online it seems cheaper to buy 3 x 8-pin sockets than to buy 1 x 24-pin. If you don't have an extra $1.50 for this part you could skip the sockets altogether and solder directly to the chips, but be careful not to burn, melt or brick your chip!
  • Resistors!
    • 3 x 10k
    • 3 x 1k
    • 3 x 330
    • 1 x various (optional for a totally superfluous¬† power indicator LED)
  • Red, Green, and Blue LED - 1 Each - I got mine on Amazon
  • Some insulated wire - Thickness and flexibility isn't terribly important. Solid core may be easier for soldering.
  • Tiny Red LED (Optional for a power indicator) Totally unnecessary since the power will already be indicated by the other lights. I just had this one handy and it cried out to be included in the project.
  • Junk USB cable OR Dollar store/thrift store equivalent - Please don't spend more than a dollar on this. You just need one with one end that can fit in your standard USB charger. The other end will get cut off. I nabbed mine off an old device I disassembled a long time ago. You probably already have this in a drawer somewhere.
  • Any USB charger - such as for iPhone, Kindle, etc.
I think that's it. If you are an electronics hobbyist you probably have all the parts except maybe the Picaxe chips. I'll wait here while you go order those and wait for them to come in the mail. If you have a pile of Picaxeci (plural) just sitting there then let's get going! You should not spend more than $15 on this project ($9 is more likely).

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