Introduction: Halloween LED Light Boxes
Halloween is a fun time of year at our house. We greet somewhere close to one hundred kids at the door on Halloween night. Our neighbor across the street sets up a large display with skeletons and a graveyard which takes up his entire front yard. Although we can’t compete with him, we do put up a handful of decorations to make the night special for the kids.
Last year I made a few Halloween themed lights to hang around our front door to dress it up. I really liked the results so this year I am going to share with you how to make some for yourself.
Tools & Supplies:
3D printer or access to one - I have a Dremel 3D20 Idea Builder that prints in PLA
Clear/White filament and Black/Dark filament
Wire cutter/wire stripper
Hot glue gun
LED light properly sized to run off the correct voltage of your battery set up. I am using a slow flash RGB which I bought from www.Sparkfun.com
Electrical tape (optional)
There is very little risk of injury with this project. I recommend that you don’t breathe 3D printer or solder fumes and be careful not to burn yourself with the soldering iron or the hot glue gun.
Step 1: Finding and Preparing the Design
First decide what kind of image you desire. This of course does not need to be a Halloween theme although that is the goal of this project. You could make Santa in his sleigh or a silhouette of your favorite child instead.
I chose not to design my own picture, but rather to find a suitable picture on-line and use it for my purpose. To find the pumpkin picture I searched for “Halloween Silhouettes”. In a search what you are looking for is artwork that is really simple and shows not much more that an outline. Decals, Logos, Tattoo artwork and similar designs work well for this process. Just make sure that it is a basic two-dimensional design.
Chances are that the image you find is probably going to be a jpg file, but you will need to convert it to a svg file so that it works with your design software. To do this I use the free program found here: https://image.online-convert.com/
The goal of this conversion is to change the JPG file you already saved to a SVG file that works with your design program. To convert the file first click on “image converter” on the left side of the page. Then click on “convert to SVG” from the menu on the left side. Next click on “chose file” and select the image that you saved as a JPG. Then click “start conversion” and then save your new SVG file. This saved file can now be loaded into your design software where it can be sized, changed and added to your design. In this project I am adding the pumpkins to a thin white backing plate so that the light from the RGB LED can shine through just enough to silhouette the design.
Step 2: Design Time
Now that we have an SVG file of the picture we open the design software (Tinkercad) and import our picture; sizing it as desired for the build dimensions or intended purpose. I used 150mm x 90mm for this one. Mostly an arbitrary number on my part, but you do need to be aware of the size of your 3D printer’s build platform and your desired size. Too large and the LED bulb will not light it up enough and too small it would loose its effect. I made the pumpkins 2.5 mm high because I am going to two color print this design. I need to have time to get the filament changed over and still have enough thickness to fully block the light emitting from behind.
Because I chose a size of 150 mm x 90 mm I am simply going to make a backing plate, the white part of the picture, the same dimensions, but it will only be .75 mm high. This will make it thin enough for the light to pass through and will give 1.75 mm of pumpkins silhouetted above to give contrast.
Now that the dimensions are determined for the “photo” I can build the box (picture frame) to hold the photo, batteries, wires, and LED light. I make a box that is only slightly larger than the photo plate and recess the top a little to hold the picture plate in place. The box also needs to be deep enough to house the battery holder between the wall that it hangs on and the front picture plate. I used a battery holder that I designed to hold two AAA batteries in series thus giving 3V output. I then added a notch to the top and back of the box to hold it to a wall when hung on a nail or screw head.
Note: I have not included any of the design files simply because none of the original artwork used was my own design. I did alter the original photos and in some cases added or subtracted from them, but I am not comfortable sharing images that I am not the sole designer of.
Step 3: Two Color Printing
You will want to make your frame dark enough so that light does not transmit through. I am going to use gold for this print. I would prefer black for the frame, but I am out of black filament at this time. I will print the photo first starting with a translucent color for the base. This will print to a depth of .75 mm and then I will start to see the outline of the pumpkins forming onto the base. At this time, I will pause the 3D printer and change out my filament to gold. I will then continue this print through completion with the gold filament. Next, I will print out the housing (frame) and the battery holder in gold.
Step 4: Assemble the Parts
This is a fairly simple design with few parts to assemble. Begin by wiring the batteries to the LED bulb and then hot glue the wires and battery holders into place making sure the photo will fit into the recess in the frame. Next put the photo plate in place and add hot glue to the corners to hold it in place. Each design is a little different so before you permanently mount the wires it is best to play around with placement of the bulb behind your silhouette. For example, on one of my photos I have a RGB LED shining up from a which’s cauldron, thus giving the illusion of flames emitting from the kettle.
Step 5: Installation and Results
Install the batteries and hang your picture in a dark place. I have included pictures here of all the designs that I made last Halloween. The nice thing about this project is that after you figure out these steps the design work can be completed in under 5 minutes for most photos. If the artwork requires cleaning up, then it may take a little or a lot longer depending on what is needed. The SVG file used in this project converted over without any additional cleaning needed so this Instructable took about ten times longer to write than the actual design work took to complete. Total print time of all parts is roughly 2.5 hours. Assemble takes another half hour to add the wires and glue everything together.
I am happy with the results and look forward to adding it to our outside decorations. Next year I may toy around with making some that are two sided and then hang them from the tree out front like one would hang Christmas bulbs.
If you like this you might also like a similar project I did: https://www.instructables.com/id/Hedgehog-for-a-Party/
If I was unclear on anything please let me know, and I am always open to questions and feedback.
Participated in the
Halloween Contest 2019
3 years ago
What a fun project! They turned out great!
Reply 3 years ago
Thank you Schillie.
3 years ago
I love the way all of these light boxes came out! I like the gold because then it looks Halloween-y even when it's not lit up :)
Reply 3 years ago
Thank you Penolopy.