The Digital Light Wand!





Introduction: The Digital Light Wand!

The Digital Light Wand is a programmable RGB LED Light strip that is used in Light Painting (long exposure) Photography.  It is based
on the Arduino Mega board and the HL1606 RGB LED Light strip and was used to create the images shown here!  No photoshop or computer trickery here!  These photos are straight out of the Camera! :-)

You can find the complete detailed documentation on my website at
Photos using this tool can be found on my Flickr site at

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    Hi TxPilot,

    I will be posting on your blog also (have some bugs to work out, and could use input), but I wanted to post my progress in developing my own light wand.

    The new version is wireless, and has 16 LED's.

    Thank you for the inspiration to do this.


    TxPilot - This an incredible idea. I wasn't able to view your videos when I initially discovered your creation, but could not stop thinking about the potential it had for light painting. I managed to devise my own based on junk parts lying around my shop. A far cry from yours, my version has only 7 LED's in red and green. I'll have to built another with rgb LED's.

    Thank you for the inspiration! I can see that this will take a bit of practice to use.

    +5 *

    3 replies

    Thank you Huck! There are several LED strips on the market now that are addressable and can be made to work with this now. The newer ones even have full PWM color range capability. It was someone that created a tool like yours that inspired me to go this direction to start with actually. :-)

    I wasn't able to accurately count the number of individual LED's you have. By using rgb LED's, you were able to get a wide variety of colors and shades. Incredible. I do wonder, though, how you were able to send specific instructions to that many LED's using Arduino. What board was this built with? I'm currently downloading the tutorial from your website, and I'm extremely interested in the specifics of your project. I am glad that I used your work as inspiration to figure out a way for myself, as I think I have a deeper understanding of how to best utilize it. After all my planning, however, I am interested to see how you went about things.

    Thanks again. Outstanding.

    I have successfully driven 64 LED (2 meters long) versions as well as 48, 32, and 16 LED versions. I use them all for different types of light painting. There is nothing like the effect of a 2 meter tall PacMan chasing someone through the forest! Ha! ;-) Read through the tutorial, it is very detailed with high resolution photos. Also read through the DLW blog page on my website. The way these light strips basically work is that you send commands for the entire length, whatever that may be and then send commands to "Latch" the strip and all the lights will change at once. The strip sort of acts like a chain, so when you send a command for one LED, it goes to the first LED in the chain, then when you send another, it then replaces the one in the first LED and the one that was in the first now moves to the second LED. So if you have 64 LEDs in the chain, just send 64 commands and then latch it and you have control over the entire length through only a total of 6 wires.. and that includes the positive and negative wires to power the strip. I have been using the Arduino Mega 2560 by the way, it has the most memory so you can load longer running sequences for your strip that way.

    There are also links to a custom made program, written by a fellow by the name of Phil Write that you can use to import images, convert them to the arduino code needed for the strip and download it to the Arduino board. It is a snap with that! ;-) Let me know if you have any questions. You can post any questions you may have directly on that DLW Blog and not only will I receive an email, but others that have been working with the DLW will see it as well.

    Thanks again for the comments! :-) Cheers! :-)

    is this persistence of vision or what? I don't get it. how did the pictures of light show up if it isn't a wall of LEDs? could it be used with a wii -mote to play/interactive with? or use a microsoft kinect input device and the POV wand for portable gaming?

    2 replies

    Hi apender. I apologize for the confusion. This is a tool for use in Light Painting photography specifically which is a long exposure with a camera at night similar to the way night car trails are pbotographed on freeways. So I guess you could say it is POV to a camera only. I suppose it could be modified to do just about about anything like you described but it will not do any of that in its present form. :-)

    Oh. Because there are light wands that fit on bike wheels and can show images as the wheel turns by POV. So I thought that might be what was going on. I don't know how that all works and am not claiming to be an expert on the field but the instructible's presentation sparked imagination in me of the potential for night games that could be played with such a lighted interface. Of course people already play those games in some settings without need for silicon technology. It's called schmoozing. Nonetheless assistance by ICs may help people play more fair versions of those mental power struggle games and get some productivity out of them.

    Excellent job. Well supported and covered instructable. Must be placed also in a separate class for Arduino projects and must be learned by all Arduino, ATmega chip fans.....far more than 5*

    1 reply

    Thank you very much. I was trying to make this as detailed as possible so that even the novice DIY'er would be able to follow along. :-)

    hello! thank you very much for sharing it, when saw "the Inmaterials Wifi", I thought about RGB version, now is here, Congrats!!. A tutorial with many details, but didn´t find the Excel Spreadsheet, this is not included in your .PDF right? Could you tell me where I can get the Excel Spreadsheet? thank you very much ;-))

    2 replies

    I apologize for the delay in getting back to you . I have been out of the country for a few days. Here is a the Latest Excel Spreadsheet! It will work with 16, 32, 48, and 64 LED versions of the HL1606 Strip. Please read the HELP text since the use of this spreadsheet differs in its use than how it is explained in the written tutorial. It also has error checking to find the most common problems. Please let me know if anyone has an problems with it.

    Wow, thanks so much, after weekend i´ll try it , if have p let you Know!!!xD

    Amazing! I'd love to do this once I learn arduino.

    4 replies

    Thanks! It is a blast to work with. And no need to learn much about the Arduino other than I what I put in the documentation.

    It will definitely be one of the first Arduino projects I do, then!

    Great! Would love to hear how it goes and see what photos you make with it as well! And if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. :-)

    Alright! Thanks!

    Nicely done on the wand!
    Pacman eating space invaders, interesting platform cross, but I love it.  :)