Introduction: H U G E DIY LED Panel

This Instructables accompanies my website which can be found here.

We want to make a LED panel that is cheap, and big, and can show different messages based on if a button is pressed. To do that we need a power source, lights, a computer to tell the lights what to do, ping pong balls to diffuse the light, some wood to make a frame, a piece of aluminum to hold the lights and some buttons to change what is displayed.

Below is a list of supplies to get started.



Optional Materials (for protective cover):


  • Drill
  • Drill bit that matches the width of the LED Panel holes
  • (Optional) Drill bit that matches the width of the cover bolt
  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder
  • Nail Gun (or hammer and nails)

Step 1: Insert the Lights Into the Panel

Open the LED string boxes, and starting with the first light in the chain that we are going to make, put the LED heads through the holes. Start from the top left, go right, and zigzag down. Connect the 1st & 2nd, 3rd & 4th, and the 5th & 6th sets of lights to each other using the plugs.

Step 2: Making the Panel Frame and Button Box

For the panel frame and the button box, we will be using the 1 x 3 listed in the supplies.

Button Box

For the button box, we will need to cut 2x 6 1/2 in. segments of the 1x3, as well as 2x 14in. lengths. Then, those get nailed together with the longer lengths on the outside of the shorter lengths. This box will house the power supply, buttons, and Arduino.

Now we need to cut down the plywood to 14 x 9.5 in. Before we attach it to the button box frame that we made, we need to put the buttons into the plywood. Drill 4 pilot holes in the plywood, and then drill over those holes with a drill bit that will allow the buttons to slide in, but not fall through. Then, place the buttons through.

For the "Page" switch, we drill a pilot hole, then can use a jigsaw to make a rectangle for the switch to fit through.

With the buttons in place, we can solder the grounds together and solder the female Arduino wires to the other pins.

As aforementioned, solder the grounds of the buttons and the page switch together. Make sure to solder a "output wire" that we can attach to the Arduino's ground, otherwise soldering all the grounds together is pointless. (Note: this all is demonstrated in the button box soldering video shown in this step)

Panel Frame

For the panel frame, we will need to make sure that it fits inside of the flanges of the metal piece. So, we will need 2x 40in. segments and 2x 30in. segments. These put together fit perfectly inside the metal piece. We can screw the pieces together following the video embedded above, and the frame is done!

Step 3: Wire and Test the Panel

This video shows how to wire the LED panel for power and data, as well as attach ping-pong balls and create the frame.

The led panel is split up into 3 sections, the top middle and bottom. Each section has 2 LED strings attached, totaling 100 nodes, or lights. We use a 5v 20a power supply to run the Arduino and lights. First, we need to get power to the power supply. We can take a standard IEC or any grounded cable and take off the end and attach it to the power supply.

Now since the panel is in three sections, we need to use three separate power cables or runs. On the power supply, hook up each pair of two to the positive and negative terminals. On the other side of those cables, strip and twist them to the power IN on the sections. If the positive and negative are flipped, the section will not light up when everything is attached, so in the end, if a section doesn't work, try flipping the power

The other thing that we need to power is the Arduino. We can take the cable that came with is and cut off the USB-A side (this is the larger connector). Then strip it down to the red and black wires. All the other wires are not needed to run a cable pair to the first section and attach one of the strands to the positive of the first section. You may ask - I thought we already use the positive. Yes, we do but in this case, we are using the positive on the actual plug. Then attach that strand connected to the positive to the red on the USB cable. We will use the second strand to get the negatives from all of the sections. Cut the second strand about halfway up the panel, and run strands from each of the plug negatives to that strand. Connect all of the strands. What this does is not only power the panel, but provide a way for the data back to the Arduino.

Next, we need to get the data from one section to another without passing along power, which would result in an uneven distribution of power. To do this, we can take an Arduino cable and hook it up to the pin labeled D3 on the Arduino, which is the pin we set in the code to output the light data. The other end of this cable goes into the middle pin on the first connector for the lights. Note: this cable will be spliced and extended for the final project once the button box is made.

Since on power is also transmitted from string to string on the light connectors, we want to cut those off when we connect the sections together. Take scissors and cut a small section of all of the power cables using the diagram below.

| denotes a cut in the power cables

Section 1 |=======Sring 1==============Sring 2=======|

Section 1 & 2 are connected

Section 2 |=======Sring 3==============Sring 4=======|

Section 3 & 4 are connected

Section 3 |=======Sring 5==============Sring 6=======

Sweet! Now only the data gets passed on from section to section!

Step 4: Set Up & Upload Code to the Arduino

In my Code Overview video, I explain how to hook up the Arduino to the computer and upload the code.

How to set up the Arduino starts at 2:13