Introduction: RGB LED Mood Lighting

Picture of RGB LED Mood Lighting
Here we have a RGB mood lighting system, this is made to hang on your wall and give you something to zone out on and give the room a nice little glow of changing colors. I had no idea how this was going to turn out, BUT I am happy with the outcome!

Step 1: Parts Needed

Picture of Parts Needed

Alright so below are the parts and the tools I used... I encourage adapting this project into your own style, so you can follow it step by step or use it as a reference to make your own creation!


Poster Board (found at Micheal's arts and crafts)

5mm RGB LED's (I bought at, also at Fry's Electronics)

Resistors for my project I used 330 ohm 1/4 watt resistors, but whichever kind you need for your LEDs, how I have found out is by going to which is a LED calculator, you plug in your information and it tells you the array and what resistors to use. (I bought at, also at Fry's Electronics)

Copper Tape (found at Micheal's arts and crafts)

Wire (found at Fry's Electronics, but I am sure Radio shack has them too)

9 volt battery harness (found at Fry's Electronics, but I am sure Radio shack has them too)

9 volt batteries (found at Fry's Electronics, but I am sure Radio shack has them too)

Choice of wood 1x4x8 (Home depot, Lowe's)

L shape metal Brackets (Home depot, Lowe's)

Screws fir Bracket (Home depot, Lowe's)

Fogged Plexiglas (or clear Plexiglas sanded with medium grit sand paper) (Home depot, Lowe's)


Wire Cutters
Soldering Iron
Hot Glue Gun
Skill Saw, or Chop Saw
Screw Driver
Carpenters square or Ruler

Step 2: Deciding and Starting on Layout

Picture of Deciding and Starting on Layout

Well to get everything started and to figure out how much of everything you need, you need to figure out the amount of LED's and the size of boxes to get your full dimensions of your project. Once you figure all that out you can collect all your materials and get started, I will go through the process of what I did, and you can either copy exactly or use it as a reference to create your own!

I decided on 25 RGB LED's

Each square 4 inch's X 4 inch's

25 squares, 5 squares X 5 squares, which makes the main board 20 inch's X 20 inch's

So measure out a 20" square piece of Poster board and start cutting, MAKE SURE IT IS A PERFECT SQUARE!

Step 3: Building Frame

Picture of Building Frame

After I cut out he size of the poster board, I made the wood frame to go around it. I wanted to go for more of an industrial look, so I mounted the brackets on the outside instead of the inside... I also did not sand down the wood to keep the rough look... but you can do it however you want! even make the frame out of sheet metal!

So the poster board is 20 inch x 20 inch, so I cut two of the boards 20 inch long, and then two of the 22 inch long since the boards were 1 inch think, and the longer ones cover two ends of the 20 inch boards. Once you have the boards cut simply butt them all up together in a square, Lay in the poster board and make sure it fits! Then layout out the brackets, and screw it all together!! Easy as that.

Step 4: Prepare Board

Picture of Prepare Board

So we want to start the layout out with a bunch of guide lines on the main poster board. I first made a grid for the main boxes, 4 inch x 4inch. Then you need to make sure that the LED's are centered in each of the 25 box's. So draw an X in each of the boxes, which if all is laid out correctly you can draw the lines down the length of the board in a X pattern... Kinda hard to see in the pictures, sorry.

Now that you have it all laid out, grab a drill and drill bit. Choose drill bit size that is a little smaller then the end of the led itself, example: if you are using 5mm LED's then maybe go for a 3 or 4 mm drill bit. Now in the center of each box you should have an X, and at the cross of the X should be the very center of each box. So that is where you need to drill the holes!

Step 5: Making the Boxes

Picture of Making the Boxes

So you can make the boxes many different ways, but the most important thing is to make sure the boxes are nice and straight. So the route that i did was to cut out cross members out of poster board and then little notches out of them on the opposite side so they all fit together.

Cut 8 strips of the Poster board, 20 inch's in length and 3 inch's in width. I choose 3 inch's in width because that gives you enough room behind the main board for wires and batteries, but also enough on the front for a thin piece of Plexiglas.

Once all those are cut, now measure out and draw a line every 4 inch's. Then another one down the center, which in my case is in 1.5 inch's. For example take a look at the pictures below.

Next you want to cut notches into these poster boards, cut the notches half way down each of the four lines. Cut each notch the width of the poster board. See pictures below for examples.

Step 6: Preparing the LEDs

Picture of Preparing the LEDs

So you need to make sure that the LED's are nice and diffused, there are many ways to do this, some people sand the whole LED, others have cut the tops off to make the ends flat. But for me I went a different route, I just covered each LED in Hot Glue, and it seemed to work out pretty good!

A trick I figured out is to put the LED on something and then pour the Hot Glue onto the LED while rotating the LED so it doesn't drip.

Step 7: Putting It Together

Picture of Putting It Together

Well now that we have Prepared all the parts it is time to put it all together and start wiring... so start out with putting all the cross members together. Once all of those are together you can place them into the wood frame, then slide the main board in the wood frame too. Layout how much room you want on the top of the cross members so the plexiglas will fit, then mark where the main board is on the wood frame. You can Glue it all in place right now or take out the cross members and glue in the main board in place, let it dry, and then glue in the cross members (which is what I did).

When all of the poster board is in place and the glue dried, you can slide all of the LED's in the holes. It might help to bend the leads (the two wires) out a little bit so when you flip the board over they will not fall out.

Step 8: Wireing It Up!

Picture of Wireing It Up!

Lets start wiring and soldering!!

Start off by flipping the whole thing over so you can see all the LED leads sticking up out of the main board. Take a look at the LED leads, bend all of the positive leads (longer leads) one direction, and then all of the negative leads (shorter leads) the other direction. It is very important that this is correct or else some of the LED's will not light up.

For Junction points or soldering points I used copper tape, you don't have to do this. Rather you can just solder the wires and resistors straight together, I did this because for me it was quicker and cleaner.

You will want to place one copper strip under the Positive lead so you can solder the positive lead to the strip. You can look at the image below.

The Negative lead will have a resistor soldered to it, so I placed the copper strip at a right angle to the right of the lead. This was so I could solder the resistor to the negative lead, then the other side of the resistor to the copper tape. You can see in the images below.

Once that is set up, you need to decide on how many LED's you want to put on the power source(s), I choose to use two 9 volt batteries. So that makes it 13 LED's on one battery, and 12 LED's on the other. You could use a plug in power source if you like, then you could put them all on one circuit.

Then just start throwing in some wires connecting all of the positive copper tapes together, and all of the negative copper tapes together. Figure out where you want the switch, and where to mount the batteries, then solder the negative end of the battery holder to one of the negative copper tape tabs. And solder the positive to a positive copper tape tab.

At this point you should be able to plug in the batteries, or your wall plug and see the beauty of 25 little boxes changing colors lighting up a room!

Step 9: All Finished

Picture of All Finished
Alright, I hope that everything worked out with this instructable... if you have any questions, thoughts, and or ideas please post them up so everyone can see and learn. Also if you have any pictures of your variations please post those too!! Thank you for your interest, and best of luck!!


thotho90 made it! (author)2014-10-28

I did mine , built-in coffee table from Ikea

seligtobiason (author)thotho902015-07-06

Looks great! Awesome to see the pictures, thank you for posting!

thotho90 (author)seligtobiason2015-07-07

Thank you for your comment :)

the table is still used for the cocktail hour and it always pleases guests

laupnod (author)2014-12-15

I dunno if this is the right place to ask but I have all but made this instructable and it looks great. problem is the batteries last less than 15 min the only difference on my project is the use of a switch with two on positions and an excessive use of aluminium tape to hold everything down

Much thanks

seligtobiason (author)laupnod2015-07-06

My batteries did last much longer then 15 minutes, but I ended up switching it over to a plug so I could just leave it on and not worry about wasting batteries.

UgniusR (author)2012-03-22

Nice instructable. How did you secure your plexiglass on the front? Glue? Also, where did you get a 20 x 20, or whatever size you used, sheet of plexiglass? Did you go to Ace or something? I looked on the Home Depot website, but there were only precut pieces and they were pretty exensive. How much did your's cost?

seligtobiason (author)UgniusR2012-03-26

Thank you for your compliments! I attached the fogged piece of Plexi glass with some double sided tape, you can also use hot glue instead. I used double sided tape just in case I wanted to show someone the insides of the project, the tape makes it a little less permanent then gluing it. I used this thinner fogged Plexi glass that is intended to diffuse fluorescent shop/kitchen lights (I actually not sure if the fogged plastic is technically Plexi Glass, but may just be thin fogged plastic). I bought it from Home Depot, but can't find a link for it from their website (sorry), but if you look in the fluorescent light section you should be able to find sheets of it. The plastic is pretty thin so I was able to score it with a pocket knife and then just bend it really carefully and it will snap along the score line. You can also cut it with scissors, but doing that you get these little cracks along the edges, so I would suggest scoring and snapping the plastic. Hope that helps, let me know if you need anything else!

Hello Seligtobiason

I see your panel mood ligthing its very cool , I'm from Mexico and I'm looking this kind of panel.

But Until now I couldn't be able to find where it sell by someone

I would like to know if you know where I can find it this panel

Where are you from?

Do you sell it? I hope you can help me look friend I design and install sensory room its a room special where the therapist work with special needs people

I hope you can write me, its my email:

Best Regards


techwolf0 (author)2014-03-28

So i started to test my LED's starting with the setup from the top of battery one and i can't seem to figure out why when i only use two lights that one of the lights won't work. Can you give me any suggestions?

techwolf0 (author)techwolf02014-03-28

I'm using rainbow LED's

arturo_mc (author)2011-12-21

I've finished building the frame and putting it together! This is a very nice instructable, i will surely post pics once its finished since, well it is all thanks to you! :), but one quick question, did you sand the plexiglass? the LEDS are already dimmed with the hot glue, so did you sand the plexiglass as well? or is it crystal clear plexiglass?

seligtobiason (author)arturo_mc2012-01-09

The pexiglass is actually already fogged when I got it so no need to sand, but if you have clear, then you should probably sand it. The plastic that i used is actually a diffuser from a fluorescent kitchen light that I got from Home depot.

philgainer75 (author)2011-12-18

Since each LED cycles through the same pattern... this is entirely red when turning on... then green, the blue, etc. Correct?

How long after powering on does it degenerate into a random pattern? Any chance of uploading a video from the moment of powering-on so we can see?

I'm working on something similar, but plan on turning them on at different intervals. This way there is a clearly defined pattern at power, but then degenerates into the randomness as your box does.

You are right, they do all start out red, and fade from each color. But I don't think that there is a need to have them power on at different times, it only takes 10 seconds or so for the randomness kicks in so it would be more or less a waste of time.

The LEDs' themselves are not regulated that well when being made so when they fade from one color to another the timing is off a little bit, which quickly makes them off pattern, then leads to the randomness. I hope that helps!

Thanks for the reply!

10 seconds? Wow... that's much faster than I am seeing with mine so far. I've got a lot of 500 here, and in my testing, they seem fairly consistent.... 20 slapped on a breadboard sees about 10-15 of them hold a decent sync for upwards of a minute. Although time-consuming, and if need be, I could test, sort, and group out the ones that appear to have similar timing. Im using 121 (11x11) of my 500 for this project, so I've got more than a handful to pick from.

Like stated above, having the pattern at power-on is one of the main points of my project (through tinkering with adjustable delay circuitry) ... seeing it degrade is part of the goal, but doing so in under 10 seconds will be disheartening. I guess I'll find out more as I progress.

Again, thanks for the reply!

acarballo (author)2011-11-22

So how do you turn it on? i i have to get my hands inside of it and clip the batteries or does it have a button or something?

seligtobiason (author)acarballo2011-11-28

In the Instructable it is just setup to pop the batteries in and out, but that did get annoying so I just put in a switch to the side to turn it on and off.

acarballo (author)seligtobiason2011-11-30

Im kind of new to electronics, if i wanted to add a switch for both of the circuits (top RGB and bottom RGB) where should i put the switch?

seligtobiason (author)acarballo2011-12-12

Hey there, sorry about the delay in response. So since there are technically two power sources you can't use a standard switch, BUT they do make a switch that has two inputs and two outputs so it really is two separate switches connected together! That would be your best bet, so for a switch just attach the positive wire from the battery to the input on the switch and then a wire from the output of the switch to the positive of the LED! Easy as that!

arturo_mc (author)seligtobiason2011-12-15

Hello, its me "acarballo" from before, i changed my email account with facebook and my instructables accounts got screwed, but anyway, thanks for the fast responde, and i repeat, im fairly new to electronics, so maybe you could help me out a bit on this please.

Since my local electronics store only had 16 chameleon Leds (RGB's), i bought 16 and im gonna make it 4x4, but the question is, im gonna have 2 arrays, of 8 chameleon Leds each, Should i use 150 ohms resistors and power each array with a 9V battery? or what resistors should i use? Thanks in advance for your support!

seligtobiason (author)arturo_mc2011-12-16

Hello again, if you are ever in doubt of what kind of resistors to use, you should check out any LED Calculator, my favorite is this one:
It is nice, simple, and easy to use.  On that note, if your LED needs 3.4 volt 20mA and is being pulled from a 9volt battery you should use 330ohm 1/4 watt resistor for eachLED.  I see I wrote 150Ohm resistors in the instructable, but that would be if you wired two LEDs to each resistor, but in the case of working with "flashing" LED's you do want a resistor to each LED.  Sorry for the confusion, and I fixed the mistake in the instructable (oops!).  Hope that answered you question, and let me know how else I can help!

arturo_mc (author)seligtobiason2011-12-16

Hmph, using the calculator you provided, and using, 9v as source voltage, 3.4 diode forward voltage, 20 diode forward current mA, and 8 Leds, it tells me i should use 120 ohm at 1/4 Watt for every 2 leds... im kinda lost then since you said i should use 330 Ohms for each Led D:

seligtobiason (author)arturo_mc2011-12-19

Since these LED's are not one solid color they are considered "Flashing" even though they are just fading from one color to the next. So with "Flashing LED's" I have read that if is best to have one resistor per LED, which in this case of 9 volts would be the 330 Ohm 1/4 watt resistor. The confusion of the 150Ohm vs 120Ohm is that 120 Ohm is what is suggested, but I had 150 Ohm on hand so that's what I used, and you can go with higher resistance for a substitute but you should never use less resistance!

I hope that clears up everything, and again, trust the LED calculator, when in doubt with anyone's projects use the LED calc. You never know what the circumstance is with whoever is making the project, my 150 Ohm resistors is a prime example!

arturo_mc (author)seligtobiason2011-12-16

Oh sorry, i just read the part where you said that using 150 ohms is for 1 resistor every 2 led, so with that current information i should use 330 at 1/4watt for every led then right?

nmartindale (author)2011-12-13

if you're buying all the stuff, except the soldering equipment and stuff, about how much would it cost?

totally loving the project though!!! It looks epic, and I'm totally going to try to do this! Been looking for a long time for a good LED project, and this looks like fun! ^^ Thanks for making this tutorial!

Thank you for your compliments! This is a really fun and entertaining thing to have hanging on your wall! I think the whole thing cost me around $20 bucks, but I think you can get it cheaper, the thing that cost the most is the RGB LED's, so if you can get them cheap you can make the whole thing cheaper! Also when you buy things at Micheal's make sure to look online for the %50 off coupons, helps keep the price down. Hope that helps!

rbartels (author)2011-10-23

so does this automatically change colors too?

seligtobiason (author)rbartels2011-10-26

Yes! Each LED is what they call a "Flashing RGB LED" which really isn't flashing as you can see but fading from one color to another. There is a super small chip inside of each LED so it fades at its own pace automatically when it has power.

daop19 (author)2011-08-25

what´s the voltage of the leds that you use????

seligtobiason (author)daop192011-09-01

The RGB LED's that I bought have a forward voltage spec of 3.0V-3.4V Typ, 3.8VMax. which seems to be a standard for the RGB, but when you buy your LED's just make sure to take a look at the specs, because every LED is a little bit different.

hamidogreen (author)2011-04-21

Hey do you have a drawing or something to show how you wired the whole thing to a 9V power supply?

I don't have a drawing, but it is a really simple circuit. There is just a common positive and a common negative going to each LED. Each LED has its own Resistor.

So essentially for each LED you have a Positive wire coming from the positive side of the battery to the positive side of the LED. And then a negative wire coming from the negative side of the battery going to the resistor which is attached to the negative side of the LED.

If that is not clear enough I can sketch something out, hope that helps!

placatecj (author)2010-04-17

 Wow man that looks great.  Question how long will one battery power that many LED's?


seligtobiason (author)placatecj2010-05-11

I haven't timed it out, but for me it lasted a while, but not as long as I wanted, so I ended up changing it to be plugged in.  To do that just find a 9v power source and connect all the wires in back so that it is one big circuit, then wala!  Never have to worry about using up batteries!

If I wanted to hook up, say, 20 of these boxes together (400 leds in my specific design) . Would a 9v power supply work for the whole thing? I assume not, but I am trying to research the way around it. Would I just need a 9v supply with a high(er) mA?

I guess I am just wondering what an experienced person would do. I am just getting into the LED projects myself. I did make this box already, with great results! Now I want to take this concept and expand. I appreciate the time you put into this! Definitely falling in love with this new hobby.

I am really glad that you like this, and even more that you are loving LED's! They are so much fun to make things with!

As far as what you are wanting to do, you can use any voltage that will power the LED's. And then like you said just make sure that you have enough amps to cover all the LED's and that you are using the appropriate resistors for the voltage you chose.

When hooking up that many LED's I am sure there is a more efficient way to go about it, I just am not advanced enough in the electronics to know how. But this will work for large amounts of LED's! When you get it all done please post a video, I would love to see it. If you have anymore questions please let me know!

kctess5 (author)2011-03-15

I did something very similar except I used slow change leds and have the squares spaced out and cut them out of a piece of sheet metal with a dremel. Looks super cool with the metal between the leds and also as a frame

CThoma031 (author)2010-11-15

I would like to install this into my car and not have to run off 9 volt batteries, is there a way to hook it up to the car battery?

Ive never worked with individual LEDs before, any change to the resistors or anything else needed for hooking it up to my 12v car battery?

Thanks for your time!

CThoma031 (author)CThoma0312010-11-15

In more detail I would like to do an array of leds that are 9x7 so 63 total. From what i can tell from different calculators and such online its not possible to do that many. Is this true?

seligtobiason (author)CThoma0312010-11-15

Hey there, so I like your idea I am a big fan of lights in and on cars! It is totally possible to run 63 LED's off of your car battery. Your battery is a 12 volt source so you just need to find out how many LED's you can put in sequence/array, and also find out the appropriate resistors for that.

Hooking up the LED's to your car is the same thing as what I made, just using a higher voltage, let me know if I can help you further!

CThoma031 (author)seligtobiason2010-11-15

Thanks for the fast reply, going off what you said I think Im just getting the same slow flash ones from

Is there somewhere like a tutorial that you know of that would help me to figure out how many I could run in sequence and the resistors?

I tried looking at other articles on here and everything was like how to hook up 1 or 2 LEDs not quite the big scale Im going.

I also tried using the LED calculator you referenced but the array it shows is only 3 and 4 wide I need 9x7.

Thanks again sorry for the long reply.

seligtobiason (author)CThoma0312010-12-07

Well you can put as many LED's as your battery can handle (don't want to run the battery dead though). But 63 LEDs really should not be a problem. And I would use the LED calculator that I referenced, this is what I came up with when I looked up what you want to do:

Solution: 3 x 21 array uses 63 LEDs exactly

So you can put 3 LEDs in a row with 1 - 100Ohm 1/4 watt resistor, and just duplicate that 21 times and you got your 63 LEDs! Hope that helps!

if you are going to run it from your car i would use 12v RGB LED Modules then you wouldn't have to use any resistors or diffusers but you would have to put brain/controller in it to make it change colors but you would also be able to change the patterns

CThoma031 (author)usLEDsupply2010-12-11

That would actually be a great idea any idea where I could get those or how much ? Someone else made a great point that the charging voltage of the car is 14v so that would only work safely if I had it running when the car was off but I really want it on when the car is on. I might use this for my next one I'm pretty much done with it I'll post pics in a couple days when installed in the car!

kctess5 (author)CThoma0312011-03-15

Honestly just set it up like you were going to use a 12 volt transformer, add the correct resistors (easy calculation) and plug the whole thing into a power outlet in the car. If you want to get fancy you could use a voltage regulator like the lm317 and regulate it to avoid fluctuations (but remember 1.5 volt drop)

amish (author)2010-11-21

Hey guys! :) I have been looking at this project and IMO, it's just what I need. Would you recommend these LED's? Also, will these LED's start off all being in sync (same colour) then gradually start going out of sync? Thanks for the help! :)

seligtobiason (author)amish2010-12-03

Those look like they will work fine! Pretty much every LED will go off sink with time, unless they are being run by an external connection that is changing the RGB Colors.

brl60 (author)2010-04-05

can you please post a link as to where i could find these on frys thank

seligtobiason (author)brl602010-05-11

Well you can do a search for the materials... not really sure if you are asking me to give you a link for every part, or if you are having trouble finding something specific?

Munchys (author)seligtobiason2010-10-01

It would help and also help if you told what size the leds you used were

About This Instructable




Bio: Well, I feel like I am a pretty regular guy... I work in the Entertainment industry, right now am working for Lucas Animation on a ... More »
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