Introduction: How to Make Two Daft Punk Outfits With Helmets

For my 30th Birthday I decided to have a D-Themed costume party, my girlfriend Kylie and I decided that we would go as Daft Punk. The costumes were quite involved to make, but we had lots of fun and they looked great!

We used a lot of resources from the internet, including a great article on how to stitch EL wire into clothes that I found here:

I also learned a lot about prototyping boards (particularly the Arduino, and its clone the Seeeduino) and really enjoyed tinkering around with LED Arrays, learning the difference between common cathode and common anode, figuring out how breadboards work, and just generally collecting heaps of post at work from various electronics and EL wire companies.

Here's a few videos showing the final result, so you can decide whether you want to bother reading any further:

Step 1: Ingredients

Quite a few bits and bobs went into the outfits, here's a list of what we used.

Before you start, I'd recommend finding a talented, amazing girlfriend who can sew 100m of fishing wire and 75m of EL wire into two outfits and have the result look just like the Daft Punk originals. You can't have mine though.


1. Two Pairs of Jeans.
2. Two Jackets.
3. One Black Fabric Dye Pack.
4. 65m of EL Wire, cut to different lengths and pre-soldered to order.
5. Four KL10 Power Packs for the EL Wire.
6. Four 1.5m EL Wire Extension Wires.
7. Four 1-3 EL Wire Splitters.
8. 100m of Fishing Wire.
9. Two Blunt Sewing Needles.
10. One Box of Plasters.
11. Four 9v (PP3) Batteries.


1. Two Black Box WIred Motorcycle Helmets.
2. Two Black Visors (not street legal in the UK).
3. Two 5m Lengths of EL Wire, pre-soldered to order.
4. Two KH4 Battery Packs for the EL Wire.
5. Two Seeeduino (Arduino clone) Prototype Boards.
6. Two Max7221 LED Control Chips.
7. Two Breadboards.
8. Two 8x8 RGB Common Anode (Cathode would have been better) LED Arrays.
9. Two Handfuls of Jumper Wires.
10. Four AA Batteries.

I will upload the code I wrote for the Arduino that controls the LED array so you can use that too if you like. Even if you want to change the display it's probably easier to start with something that works already.

Step 2: Suppliers

We were lucky that the suppliers we used were great, we ordered everything on-line and turned up in good time and good order.

Note, all the suppliers are UK based, which is great for me living in London, but might not be quite what you're looking for. They may deliver internationally, but if not I'm sure you can find something that delivers to wherever you are.

EL Wire and Accessories

For EL Wire, extensions, splitters and battery packs we used Surelight They're a friendly bunch based up north somewhere. Sheffield I think.

Surelight sell EL wire either by the metre, or in pre-cut and soldered lengths, which is fantastic if you don't feel confident cutting and soldering your own wire. (We didn't).

All the wire we bought was their Super Bright range (2.5mm) in Red (obviously..) and was very high quality. Also they delivered very quickly, within two days from memory.

In pre-cut EL wire lenghts we bought:

4 x 10m (Trousers and Chests, used all of it)
2 x 5m (Helmets, used all of it)
4 x 3m (Sleeves, used 3, one spare)
4 x 1.5m (Gloves, didn't end up using them in the end, maybe we'll wire them up for Glastonbury).

Electronic Gadgetry for the Helmets

We bought the two Seeeduinos, an Arduino, a couple of hundred jumper wires, the two LED arrays, some LCD displays which didn't get used and the Seeeduino battery connectors and so on from SKPang Again their service was great, pretty much for everything delivered next day.

Max7221 and Max7219 LED Controller Chips

We used the Max7221 LED Controller chip in the end, but bought a few of each variety just to play around with. We only had a short time to make the costumes before the party so I opted for a little redundancy rather than getting caught short.

We bought the chips from Premeir Farner Prompt delivery, everything worked nicely.

Cheap Black Shiny Motorcycle Helmets with Visors

By far the hardest thing to find. I didn't really want to spend several hundred quid on a helmet that I was just going to chop to bits and ruin. Luckily I found Nightingale Motorcycles in Rugby on Ebay (they seem to be quite a big ebay seller). They also have a site here:

After looking at a few of their products on EBay I gave them a call and ordered two Box Wired Full Face Gloss Black Motorcycle Helmets, plus two not-street-legal (as I was repeatedly told by the kind salesperson) 70% tint dark black visors. Again they turned up the next day, roughly �50 for each.

Step 3: Making the Outfits

Making the outfits was the most time consuming part of the whole project.

Kylie found an image of Daft Punk in all their glowing splendour on-line and then sketched out a copy of the pattern on a piece of A5. She then spent about two weeks (weekends and evenings) sewing the 75m of EL Wire into the Jackets and Trousers with over 100m of fishing wire. She used fishing wire so the EL Wire wouldn't be obscured at all.

Before Kylie started sewing she figured out how many/what lengths of EL Wire we would need by dummying the pattern she had designed on the jackets and trousers with a ball of string and sticky tape. I'm glad she thought of it, because that showed we needed about twice as much wire as I would have guessed.

We were planning on using two KL10 Power Packs per outfit, they run off a nine volt batters, and are recommended for up to 15m of wire. We used one 10m length of wire for the trousers, one 10m length for the jacket, and either one or two 3m wires for the sleeves (Kylie's Jackets was smaller than mine, so the initial 10m covered the torso and one sleeve).

We also decided that my jacket wasn't dark enough, so we dyed it in a bucket for an hour or so.

By the end of it Kylie had plasters on all her fingers and had just about lost her sanity. But it was worth it, the outfits looked amazing.

Note: You have to be careful not to bend the wire too sharply, otherwise it might have a little dark spot. The pattern Kylie came up with was very crafty and avoided sharp bends by going underneath the fabric in places. There is a great instructable on how to stitch EL Wire into clothing here:

Step 4: Making the Helmets

Attaching EL Wire to the Helmets

I stuck the battery pack onto the back of the helmet using some simple matt black electricity tape. It held just fine and lasted all night. I then cut a couple of small holes in the base at the back of the helmet and threaded the start of the El Wire from the inverted, through the holes, and then back out again, just to anchor it in place.

I then used sticky tape to temporarily hold the wire in place and copied the Daft Punk pattern on their helmets as best as I could. I used a little black masking tape in places to hide the fact that the entire pattern was one long piece of wire.

After the pattern was in place my Sister then kindly glued the wire onto the helmet with quick-setting superglue. It held really well and is pretty much stuck on permanently as far as I can tell.

The EL Wire on the helmet can then be switched on/off just by tapping the button on the inverter at the back of the helmet.

Making the LED Display that goes inside the Helmet
[All links to libraries, ide's etc are at the bottom of this page]

This was my main job of the project, and heaps of fun. I learnt a bunch about Arduinos, Seeeduinos, all sorts of electronics I haven't touched since Uni and the relative merits of different types of sticky tape.

This bit might look complicated, but it really isn't. The Arduino community is amazing, there is so much open-source code available without which making this display would have been so much harder.

Apart from Daft Punk, the helmets were inspired a little by Casey Pugh, I found his video ( when I was looking for ideas for the helmet. I'd never even heard of an Arduino before Casey pointed me in that direction, a very good call. He made his own LED Array, I bought an RGB Led Array in that was commercially manufactured.

The first thing to do is buy an Arduino Duemilanove or Seeeduino (it's an Arduino clone). I bought one Arduino and two Seeeduinos, they're about �20 each. I also bought a little backing mount with a battery connector from, that's what made the whole project portable.

Also grab a bunch of LEDs, resistors and most importantly heaps of jumper wires, male and female.

After that, download the Arduino IDE from (it's all open source). Programming for an Arduino is very straight forward, I think it's a language called Processing, it's grammatically very similar to Java - very straight forward. I didn't bother to learn the language to any great degree, I just to example code and melded it to do what I wanted.

Once you're familiar with how to use the IDE and have run through a couple of examples (getting an LED to blink on and off on pin 13 is a good idea), download the LEDControl library. Kindly provided by Eberhard Fahle, it allows the Arduino to control a MAX7221 or MAX7219 chip, which is itself designed to control an 8x8 array of LED lights.

At this point you'll also need to take a good look at the schematics for how to wire up an Arduino to a MAX72XX to an LED Array. The link to the schematics is at the bottom of this page, I didn't use the capacitors in the end, only the resistor. It's not as complicated as it looks.

I found the hardest parts to be:

1. Figuring out what the pins on the back of the LED Array did. You can see in the photo there are 32 pints (8 for a row, then 8 for each colour/column), they aren't marked with any numbers and the datasheet that skpang linked to had some of the pins reversed. I wrote a little test program for the Arduino that put two outputs high for one second, then low for the next, repeated continuously. I then just kept plugging wires straight into the back of the LED until I'd figured out what the different pins did.

2. Figuring out which resistor to use. I'm not an engineer or an electrician, and I'm also colourblind, so I found the resistor markings absolutely baffling. I just used trial and error until I found a resistor that limited the brightness of the array to a good limit and didn't blow it.

As for wiring it all up, I just stuck the MAX7221 chip on a mini-breadboard with an adhesive backing, stuck some jumper wires down on the Arduino with sticky tape, plugged them into the breadboard, and then stuck the breadboard to the back of the Arduino in one little bundle. I then used male-female jumpers to connect the breadboard to the LED Array, the female ends clicked onto the LED pins quite tightly so I didn't need to attach them with tape or anything.

I figure all of the electronic components of each helmet cost about �60.

I then cut a large chunk of the polystyrene cushion out of the top of the helmet and embedded the arduino in the top, just above the forehead. I then stuck the LED Array onto the inside of the tinted visor with some more electric tape.

That's it done! It looked fantastic, even if I do say so myself. The code that I wrote for the Arduino is attached to this page in a .zip file, you're welcome to use it, change it, share it as much as you like.

Arduino IDE
LEDControl Library
MAX7221 Schematics

Here's a little video of the Arduino running a little Hello World test app:

And another of it running through most of the final program, it's just missing the game of PONG and a couple of Space Invaders I put in later:

Step 5: Battery Timings

How long do the batteries last?

I couldn't find any real timings on how long batteries lasted with different lengths of EL WIre or a battery powered Arduino before I started. I was a little worred right up until the party that I'd be lit up like a Christmas tree for 15 minutes and then everything would go dark!

Our batteries ran for the following lengths of time:

1. One 9v battery running about 15 metres of Red Superbright EL Wire (2.5mm) on a KL10 Power Pack lasted about 2 hours.
2. One 9v battery running about 13 metres of Red Superbright EL Wire (2.5mm) on a KL10 Power Pack lasted about 2.5 hours.
3. Two AA batteries in a KH4B inverter ran 5 metres of Red Superbright EL Wire on the helmets for about 5 hours.
4. One 9v battery powered the Arduino, Max7221, and LED Array for about 4.5 hours running the program I attached to step 4.

Hope that helps, if you Daft Punk at Glastonbury this year be sure to say hello!