Introduction: Color-Changing Wall Art Activated by Heat. (Made With Loomia's Heating Panel)

About: Hi, I'm Yuchen, a designer who works across interaction, branding, and wearable design. She is currently one of the co-founders of Wearable Media and part-time lecturer at the Parsons School of Design.

Winter is coming!

To bring a little color and warmth into the coming gloomy winter in New York, I decided to make a color-changing wall heating panel to hang on my wall.

This heating panel includes a 7x7 inch square 3D printed frame with pleated fabric attached to Loomia's shelf-ready heating panel. When Loomia's heating panel heats up, painted with thermochromic pigments the textile will change from black to pink. When the heater stops, the fabric will gradually turn back to black if the room temperature is below 31 Celsius ( 87.8 Fahrenheit).

Why create a pleated fabric?

The thermochromic ink I am using changes color from black to pink when the temperature is higher than 31 Celsius. If I am applying this heat to flat fabric, we will get a heated grid of pink base on where the heating grid layout inside the heating pad.

However, if I create a little bit of dimension, the part of the fabric that is closest to the heating pad will become brighter pink than the part that is farther. Therefore I can create more of a gradient with pleated fabric.

Why using Loomia's heating pad?

Loomia has a series of soft e-textile components that are ready for makers from all levels to use.

  • It is flexible with one side of adhesive materials that make the components easy to be integrated with all kinds of materials.
  • It is safe. The heating pad is laminated and works with off the shelf 3Volt or 5Volt batteries and power banks. The only thing you need to make sure is your battery can supply 2Amp output safely.
  • It looks better than most of the heating pad on the market. As a designer, I like to keep my project neat and clean, even with components that people may only see when they look at the inside of your project. Loomia's components have a nice clean finished look that makes me happy when people look at the inside of my projects.


Materials Used

  • Loomia heating pad (works with 3Volt and 5Volt batteries) X1
  • Loomia LEL 4-channel bus (works with the heating pad) X1
  • USB power cord X1
  • Portable Power Bank with 2Amp or more output X1
  • Thermochromic pigment, black to pink with activation temperature at 31 celsius, at least 10 gram (you can also choose a color you like)
  • Golden Silkscreen Medium, acrylic tender with retarder for printmaking, or any fabric painting medium, at least 20 grams.
  • Paintbrush or silkscreen with screen printing squeegee
  • Pushpins X 2

Tools You May Need

  • Soldering iron X1, to solder the pins together on the heating pad
  • Lead-free solder at least 10 inches long, for soldering
  • Wire tripper or scissors X1, to cut the USB cord
  • Fabric Scissors or regular scissors X1, to cut fabric
  • Letter Sized Paper X 2 sheets, to create a pleating template
  • A Bone Folder, to score the paper to create the pleating template
  • A 3D printer, to print the frame, I used an Ender 3 Pro
  • A clothing iron, for pleating the fabric

Softwares You May Need

Step 1: Mix Your Thermochromic Pigment

It is similar to mixing most of the pigments.

The more you add the thermochromic pigment to your printing medium the deeper and richer the color will be. However, the more thermochromic pigment you have, it may also take more heating time to change all of the pigments on your fabric.

I have a general ratio of 1:10 of pigment to screen painting medium. Even this could become too intense. It is helpful to use a scale (I used a kitchen scale) to keep track of how much I am mixing together.

It will be very helpful to use a transparent container to mix your pigments. In this way, you can see how well they are mixing together from the side of the container. Make sure to mix your pigments well, otherwise, you won't have an even color across the fabric.

Step 2: Create a Pleating Template

In order to figure out how much fabric we need to cover a 7X7 inches square with pleated fabric. I decided to make a paper prototype/template.

You can decide your own pleat size. I started mine with letter-sized paper and then tapped an extra half of letter-sized paper to make sure the pleated area can cover the whole 7X7 inches.

  1. With the help of rulers and a bone folder, I scored my paper vertically with a half an inch distance in between.
  2. Then I folded my paper base on where I scored.
  3. I checked to see that the pleated area is big enough to cover my 7X7 inches frame. Then I know the fabric I need to paint is at least 17 X 8 inches.

Your fabric size may change depends on your own pleating method.

Step 3: Paint Fabric

Before pleating the fabric, we are going to paint it with thermochromic ink. You can achieve this in two ways:

1. Painting the fabric with a regular flat-headed brush.

2. Screen printing the thermochromic ink onto your fabric. You can even create a beautiful pattern and screen print the pattern.

I tried both of the methods. Both methods work fine. However, if you are very good at screen printing, this will be a lot faster and more even.

Step 4: Pleating Fabric

This one may be a little difficult if you are not used to working with fabric. Don't worry! The paper template we made will help you!

  1. Place your fabric on top of the paper template.
  2. Fold the fabric along with how you folded your paper.
  3. Hold on the fold with one of your hands and iron the crease with your other hand. Be careful. This could also be fun because you will see the color change while you are ironing your fabric.

Step 5: Build the Frame

If this is your first time building a 3D model, you can check out TinkerCad. It is a free online modeling software made by AutoDesk. It is easy to learn and use.

If you have used TinkerCad before and would like to try something more serious, you can use Fusion360. It is also an AutoDesk product. However, compare to TinkerCad, you can achieve with much greater accuracy with Fusion360.

I have attached a video here to show you how to build the model.

You can also download my model to print.

If you don't have access to 3D modeling or printing, no worries! You can use a regular embroidery hoop that fits the size of your design. They will look great too!

Step 6: Print the Frame

We need to use a slicing software to prepare your STL files in order for your 3D printer to read the files. I used Cura, which is free, easy to use, and compatible with my printer.

  1. Open Cura.
  2. Choose your printer type.
  3. Drag your STL files into the main Cura software window.
  4. Decide on printing resolution. To achieve faster printing, I decided to use thicker print profiles to decrease printing time. See image 2, the print time is about 4 hours with print profiles of 0.12. See image 3, the print time is 1 hour and 33 minutes, with a print profile of 0.28.

Step 7: Solder the Loomia Heating Panel

This includes a lot of little steps. I will try my best to list them:

  1. Solder the Loomia heating panel with Loomia 4-channel bus. Please note the heating panel is facing down while the 4-channel bus is facing up. See images 1 to 3. I taped the components down so that it is matched well and easier to solder.
  2. Cut a power USB cord. The goal is to use the USB C plug to plug into your power bank. See image 4.
  3. Strip the outer layer of the USB cord. You should see a black and red wire. Black will be connected to the ground and red will be connected to power. See image 5 and 6.

We will solder the USB wire with the Loomia 4-bus channel during assembly.

Step 8: Assembly! Combine All of Your Components Together!

The last step is the most exciting one!

We will see how everything works together.

  1. Place your pleated fabric on top of the inner Frame. Locate your most beautiful part of the pleat in the center of the frame.
  2. Place your outer frame on top of your fabric. Push down your outer frame like an embroidery hoop. Make sure the two frames are matched well. There is only a 0.5 mm gap between the outer and inner frames. So if you have used a thicker/heavier fabric, you would have to adjust your model.
  3. Trim off the excess fabric along the edge of the frame.
  4. Solder the USB wires to the Loomia 4 bus channel. See images 7 and 8.
  5. Take off the sticker on the back of Loomia's Heating Panel. Carefully stick the heating panel on the backside of your fabric.
  6. Use two regular push pins and place them inside your frame.
  7. Push the whole thing onto your wall.
  8. Plug your USB cord into a battery bank. you are all set!

Voila! You are done! Congratulations! In this project, you have practiced many skills including:

  1. Mix your own thermochromic medium
  2. Fabric manipulation - pleating
  3. Basic screen printing or painting on fabric
  4. 3D modeling (optional)
  5. 3D printing (optional)
  6. Soldering

If you enjoyed this instructable, please favorite. If you are curious about my other projects go to:

Yuchen's Portfolio

Yuchen's Fashion Tech Company, Wearable Media