Introduction: Wiimote Whiteboard IR Pen

Picture of Wiimote Whiteboard IR Pen

How to build a IR pen for use with a wiimote whiteboard-style project, or anything else you need an IR pen for.

Step 1: Assemble the Materials

Picture of Assemble the Materials

For this project you will need:
1 IR LED - i got mine at radioshack, apparently Mouser has good ones also. Make sure its forward bias is <= to 1.5 V, or you wont be able to drive it with a normal AA battery.
1 momentary switch, the smaller the better
1 Sharpie marker/highlighter
1 AA or AAA battery
and some wire, both regular battery-pack-connector style wire and optionally some thicker gauge wire for making the springs on the end of the battery compartment.

Step 2: Prepare the Highlighter

Picture of Prepare the Highlighter

We need to do two things: remove the internal guts of the highlighter and create a hole for the momentary switch. The easiest way to remove the internals of the pen is to use a pair of pliers (I used my leatherman) to pull the bottom end cap off of the pen. The internal highlighter part can then be removed.

To make a hole for the switch I used a cheap soldering iron to melt a circle into the side of the pen slightly smaller then the switch. Then, before the plastic had cooled, I pushed the switch into the hole ensuring the switch fit snuggle and eliminating the need to glue or otherwise attach the switch later.

Step 3: Layout the Parts/ Prepare the Springs

Picture of Layout the Parts/ Prepare the Springs

This part is useful to make sure you get the polarity the right way round on the battery. If its backwards, the LED wont light at all. The idea is to have one end of the battery attach to the switch, and the other end to a wire that will run the length of the pen (on the inside) and attach to the bottom stopper.

To make sure the battery has a good contact, were going to build some springs out of the heavier gauge wire, similar to the ones found on 'real' battery holders. The easiest way to do this is to use a pair of pliers to wrap the stripped heavy gauge wire into a series of coils, then pull the ends so that the coil expands into a spring.

Step 4: Final Assembly

Picture of Final Assembly

Now comes the tricky bit:
Solder the LED onto the wire going to the battery, and slide it into the pen so that the battery lead is coming out of the bottom and the wire going to the switch is sticking out of the switch hole you made in the pen. Attach this lead and the spring to your switch, soldering all of the connections to ensure a good contact. Then squeeze the spring into the pen and wriggle the switch into its hole. This part is fiddly - you dont want to kink the wires or damage the switch, and because the LED and spring are both stiff wires its easy to get stuff stuck. The trick is not to panic and not to force it - you have plenty of time to get it right. I found that reaching a thin screwdriver up from the bottom of the pen let me move wires around until I got the switch placed right. A small hook to pull the spring down the pen would be good too.

Once the switch is in place its time to deal with the other end of the pen. Make another spring from the heavy gauge wire, and solder it onto the wire coming from the LED. At this point you can glue or otherwise attach the spring to the end cap of the pen, drop a battery in, insert the end cap and test your creation. If you were able to use one thin wire from the LED to the end of the pen a AA battery should fit perfectly into this slot. If, like me, you had to combine to smaller wires to get the desired length its possible the joint between the wires will stop a AA from fitting into the pen. If this is the case, you can use a AAA battery, just make sure you attach the battery to the side of the pen with a little bit of bluetack to stop it rattling out of place.


-chase- (author)2017-02-20

It should work with the Crayola Light Designer as well, since it too uses an infrared light pen. Has anyone confirmed this?

ceci bot (author)2012-08-31

Can you use a regular LED light? Pleasr reply.

JaniduG (author)ceci bot2015-01-11


RonnieJi (author)2012-05-06

These infrared pens all work very well with wiimote whiteboard and are very easy to use:

cpinzon (author)2011-05-27

Where can I buy these ones?

lafeber (author)2011-01-27

I would have built one, but decided to get an infrared pen at instead.
Still, maybe in the future I'll build one myself and compare it to the one I've bought.

gimblegiil (author)2010-06-28

im having issues with the wiimote picking up ir IR signal...any suggestions?

shad0w88 (author)2010-01-03

which ir led did you use? a tsal6400? i can't find a tsal6400 what shud i do?

zack247 (author)shad0w882010-06-01

almost any ir led should worok. i made one of these with one from the source, but i haven't tried it yet

boonjin (author)shad0w882010-01-10

 You should get the Vishay TSAL 6400 as it would save you a lot of trouble from experimenting the different types of LED. Other types of LED may have other wavelengths, radiation angles and power.

You can purchase the IR LED from a nearby electronics store or buy it online from sellers such as

Boon Jin

jimtran93 (author)2009-12-27

just made this today. took me  ~3 hrs, not bad remembering that i had to learn how to solder while doing this. looks very nice. thanks for the 'able.

jimtran93 (author)jimtran932009-12-27

 sorry, forgot to click "upload." haha

dvnfntn (author)2009-05-20

what is an IR pen???

jahg (author)dvnfntn2009-05-26

An IR pen is a pen that produces infrared light, in this case using a infrared LED. It can be used as a pointer in projects that use webcams (or wiimotes) since digital cameras are generally sensitive to IR light.

dvnfntn (author)jahg2009-05-29

ok thanks

AT (author)2009-02-21

Very nice! I am trying to make something very similar. I started out with the same idea but it quickly turned into something looks more like a light saber! I am going to scrap what I have done and start over with something more like this. Nice instructable!

The Red Button (author)2008-11-22

made it today. i didnt use your instructable but i made basically same thing. and the cap still goes on =D

bumdrokstar (author)2008-06-25

I tried making my own using these instructions but I can't get my ir led light to shine like a regular light. Am I doing something wrong or do I have the wrong part? I have all the parts you suggested but my ir led light is blue.

munchman (author)bumdrokstar2008-07-13

Infrared is invisible to the human eye. You have to use a camera to see it. Also remember that LED's will only work when the voltage is passed in a certian direction.

HuggyBear (author)2008-05-31

HAHA!!!! You don't even understand. I was totally going to post my IR pen for the wii touch board. I searched it for fun, and came across this. It is exactly the same as what i did (highlighter(as a case my case is clear) and everything). I think mine is a little bit cleaner though. For the tip of the pen i bought some of those black LED holder things, that fit into the tip nicely (with a little bit of expansion with a drill bit). It adds a clean black edge to the tip while holding the LED firmly in place. Also the switch on mine is better. What you did was to stick it in straight from the outside. I bought the smallest button switch i could find from radio shack soldered everything together, drilled a hole where i wanted the button to be, and then slid it inside the tube. It took a bit more work, and was a little frustrating, but produced a button that doesnt stick out as much. Overall you had the same great idea, and utilized common household items. If I ever post my own, look at it and you can see how small details really can make a difference.

Gonazar (author)2008-04-23

Hey really want to try the project, but i was wondering where i might be able to get the IR LED. I'm trying to see if i can salvage it from another electronic, but i can't think of any off the top of my head. I tested some remotes but i actually found they're UV i think. It appeared blue when shone it into a camera.

jahg (author)Gonazar2008-04-25

Theyre probably IR. Most cameras will show IR light as a bluish-violet color on the LCD - they wouldnt be UV because its considerably more energetic so it takes a lot more energy to power it and it can damage you. I'm pretty sure there arnt any UV LEDs anyway; blue ones were hard enough to make. If you cant find any in existing electronics, Radioshack LEDS are pretty cheap. Thats where I got mine.

Gonazar (author)jahg2008-04-26

Thanks, really needed that cleared up. But really, why would InfraRED show up bluish on an lcd camera screen???

alexsolex (author)2008-01-20

hi I made one a week ago, looks like yours. But it does not work that good. In fact when you watch the setting panel of the whiteboard application, it looks like my wiimote catch 2 or 3 IR beam... But I only have my IR pen that is on... So I ve got a question for you, did you try it, and did it works good ? I think my IR beam is too 'narrow' and it is not catched everytime. I caught my IR LED on an old, directive, remote control

jahg (author)alexsolex2008-01-20

It works better then my previous attempts :) It sounds like your getting reflections off of another surface - are you using this with a screen? a wall? your desk? The wiimote is fairly sensitive; it will pick up reflections if its close to the surface or the LED is very bright. The IR LED I used (and most others I think) has a very narrow field of view, about +/- 25 deg. The whiteboard programs rely on the reflection of the LED off of the wall/screen to pick up the pen, since they are usually set up near the projector in front of the screen. I'd try moving the wiimote back, or building a small tube off the front of the pen to narrow the beam even more.

FrenchCrawler (author)jahg2008-01-24

Blue LEDs also seem to cause a disturbance cause we have rope lights hooked around the top of the room which seem to be picked up by the Wiimote (we unplugged them and the disturbance went away).

FrenchCrawler (author)2008-01-22

You beat me to it... ah well mines still different and still somewhat under construction/testing :P Perhaps once I figure out all the minor details, I'll post it with a link here :)

Here's my prototype... the cap on the other end can be removed to change out the two AAA batteries that power it.

poolshark162006 (author)2008-01-22

I have made one and this is what it looks like... i guess

zm634 (author)2008-01-20

Don't you need a resistor on there to not burn out the LED?

jahg (author)zm6342008-01-20

Depends on the LED. For just one battery and a 1.5V tolerant LED you dont, since AA and AAA cant produce enough current to burn it out. If you were using some sort of special battery (like the ones surefire use for their flashlights) then that might be a concern. In that case Id probably check the current draw of the battery using an ammeter to make sure it doesnt exceed the specifications of the LED.

gamer (author)jahg2008-01-20

AA and AAA batteries can produce enough current, its just that the led doesnt take more then it needs at the voltage of the battery (1.5).

zm634 (author)gamer2008-01-20

No, they definitely do need a resistor. LEDs current is an exponential function of voltage. The amperage jumps very high very quickly. You throw a resistor on there to limit the amperage, not the voltage.

It's OK for little projects like this, but it could be dangerous in other situations. Check the datasheet for the LED you're using and keep it within operational currents.

jahg (author)zm6342008-01-21

good point. however the internal resistance of batteries is very high -Im pretty sure for a small battery such as a AA its high enough to forgo the resistor. ideally youd want to construct a test circuit, measure the internal resistance of the battery and then determine if you need additional resistance to avoid burnout. For a large battery or constant voltage source that would be essential, for this I dont think it is (at least Ive never burned out a LED with a AA before...)

gamer (author)zm6342008-01-21

i know, leds work be amperage, but if a led has less voltage than it needs, it usually doesnt take up more than the amperage it needs

Alexizupinhea (author)2008-01-21

I made this exact thing the exact same way b4 seeing this instructable. I didn't think about posting it though. After I made this though, I made another one using a different method. The only downside to making it the original way is that you can easily and quickly change the batteries. So, I made a simple one using a popsicle stick and a AA battery holder. I may post a picture of mine later.


Alexizupinhea (author)2008-01-21

The pic:

GorillazMiko (author)2008-01-20

Awesome, looks simple, and small. Nice job!

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Bio: I have a wide range of interests, from woodworking to digital doohickeys and spaceships. At some point I'll get around to documenting them all...
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