Introduction: Fashion Sketch With Paper Circuit

About: ThunderLily is a group of artist engineers, founded and led by designer Clare Tattersall – who wanted to prove that high tech and high fashion can make the world a better place. She co-created a software to al…

Fuse fashion with electrical engineering. I teach fashion design and technology workshops and find this project is an easy entree into paper circuits for anyone who loves to draw and sketch. It can also be used to plan out an actual design of a garment that incorporates wearable tech and to test out setting LEDs in sequence vs in parallel.


  • Croquis (mannequin sketch -- see download)
  • Tracing paper (optional)
  • Pen
  • Copper tape
  • Coin cell battery
  • Paper clip
  • LED
  • Round-nose pliers or scissors
  • Scotch tape (optional)

Step 1: Sketch Your Design

Create your own fashion design from your boundless imagination. I have added a croquis (mannequin sketch) that you can download to draw your fashion ideas or create your own design from scratch. To reuse the same croquis you can make your sketch on tracing paper by placing it over your print out.

Step 2: Prep Your Sketch for Wiring

Map out where you are going to place your LEDs and draw lines for the copper tape. When connecting batteries you should always connect the ground first and then the +ve. To make this easier, connect the +ve when you fold over the corner of the paper circuit.

By placing your LEDs in parallel you will be able to run more from your coin cell battery, but it will drain the current faster. Be sure to connect the -ve side of the battery to all the -ve legs of the LEDs and the +ve side of the battery to all the +ve legs of the LED.

Step 3: Adding the LEDs

LEDs are light emitting diodes, and like all other diodes, the current travels only in one direction from the positive leg, through the diode (lighting it up) and out of the negative leg.

Which leg is +ve? The legs of the LEDs are different, the longer leg is the +ve, the shorter is -ve. You don't need to use expensive stick-on LEDs, you can curl the legs of these 5mm LEDs by using round-nose pliers or even a pair of scissors. Curling the legs provides a way for them to balance, add a drop of glue to keep them in place.

Be sure that all the +ve legs are lined on the same side, and all the -ve legs are lined on the opposite side. You will be connecting all the +ve legs and will separately connect all the -ve legs. Do not connect the +ve legs to the -ve legs.

Step 4: Add the Copper Tape

Add the copper tape by peeling the paper carefully off the back, do this a section at a time as the tape curls easily and will stick to itself. Start to lay it on your design, following the mapping you made in Step 2.

Note, that the sticky side of the copper tape is not conductive, so when you come to a corner fold the tape 90 degrees in the wrong direction, then fold it over itself in the correct direction, so that the outer sides of the tape are always touching. It is a good idea to add a bit of scotch tape on it to hold the fold in place.

Be careful to place the copper tape under the legs of the LEDs so that the non-sticky, conductive side is connecting with the LEDs. Again, a small piece of scotch tape pressed down helps ensure the connection.

Step 5: Add the Coin Cell Battery and Light Up Your Design!

Finally bring your design alive. Just add the coin cell battery so the positive side connects to the positive legs of the LEDs and the -ve connects to the -ve legs. Hold it all in place with a paper clip.