Introduction: LED Glasses and Costume

Do you like to be seen from afar in the dark? Do you want fancy glasses like Elton's?

Then, this Instructable is for you !!! You will learn how to make a LED costume and animated light glasses.


For the costume:

  • A dark costume, that you can sew the LED strips on
  • Color LED bands: you can find them on Chinese online vending sites. Choose 12V LEDs
  • LED connectors
  • 2 Battery holders and AA batteries (8 for each LED band)
  • Electrical wire and solder

For the glasses:

The total should be less than 20 USD.

Step 1: Make the Costume

First measure the dimension of the costume and cut the right lengths of LED bands. Always cut the strip at the center of the metal terminals. For this costume, I made 2 separate parts:

  • The pants are equipped with 1 strip going from one leg to the other. You can cut the strip in 3 parts and connect them with 90° connectors. The end of the LED strip is connected to the battery pack with a long cable, enabling to store the batteries in the pocket. You can solder the wire to the strip if necessary.
  • The upper part is more complicated: one strip goes to the connector which distributes the current to the 3 other LED strips. Here, a 4-way connector is required: choose 2 or 4 pins depending on your LED strips.

Please refer to the pictures.

LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are electronic components that emit light, which is cool. But they need electrical current to work and the current must flow in the right direction. This is shown on the circuit: the diode is represented by a triangle and a line. The triangle shows the required direction of the current, the orthogonal line prevents the current from flowing in the other direction. This is usually shown on the strip with an arrow. So be sure to connect all the strips so the arrows are correctly oriented (see the white arrows on the picture).

Prepare everything (LED, connections, battery pack) on your desk and when you are ready, place all on the costume and sew the strips with dark sewing thread. Be careful that the 4-way connector makes correct contact with the strips, as it is the main source of problems. Connection is made by inserting the strip beneath the metal tabs: be sure the metal terminals touch the tabs. If you're not sure or you fear the connection may be lost due to movements, just add a little solder point.

In case some LED strips stop working when you use it, first look at the connection between the lit and the unlit strips. The problem must be here.

Step 2: Assemble the Glasses

The LED rings used here are based on WS2812 LEDs. These LEDS are multicolor addressable LEDs, each dot is made of 3 or 4 small LEDs (one red, one green, one blue, possibly one white) and each LED can be controlled separately. This makes it possible to create very cool light animations, which will make your glasses very nice and attractive.

The circuit is very simple: a LED controller is connected to the LED rings. Both rings are connected in series, meaning that the second ring is connected to the first which is connected to the controller. Connections are done using electrical wires and solder.

First cut 3 short wires and solder them on the pads on the lower side of both rings. Pads are marked GND, DI & DO (I for IN, O for OUT) and 5V, so obviously you need to wire GND with GND, and 5V with 5V (see picture). Then wire the DI pad of the second ring to the DO of the first one. Then cut 3 longer wires to connect the first ring to the controller. The length of the wires will depend on the place where you want to put the controller: in your pocket, under a cap? Choose what suits you best.

You can see on the image that the controller comes with a connector and 3 wires, marked as VCC, GND and SIG. Connect VCC to the 5V pad of the first ring with your wire, GND to GND and SIG to DI.

The small yellow connector with 2 pads on the controller is for the battery: choose a battery with an adapted connector (which is mostly the case). Do not connect the battery until everything is ready.

The other bigger yellow connector is to put the ESP-01 microcontroller. Before pluging it, you must program it (see next section).

I cut out a holder for the LED rings, made of plexiglas, at a nearby fablab using a laser cutter. The CAD file (Corel Draw format) is attached. The temples are inserted in the holes of the glasses, and glued. Then the rings are glued to the glasses, and the wires are attached so they are not too much visible.

Step 3: Program the Microcontroller

The ESP-01 is a small module usually used to connect any microcontroller to a WiFi network for a very low cost (less than 2€). It is mainly composed of an ESP8266 microcontroller manufactured by the Chinese company Espressif. There are other ESP8266 based modules with more or less pins, but the ESP-01 is the smallest.

Here, it is not used as a WiFi modem, we use it because of its small size, and the existence of the LED adapter.

To program the microcontroller, you need:

Plug the ESP-01 on the adapter with the 8-pin connector, and the adapter to a USB port of your computer. I suppose that you are already familiar with programming an Arduino board. If not, please refer to a tutorial, there are many available on the Internet or on Instructables.

Load the ino file on the IDE and upload it on the ESP-01. The code periodically launches a random animation chosen among 11 preset ones. You will need to install the FastLED library to run the code.

When the code is uploaded, unplug the ESP-01 from the programming adapter and plug it on the control module (using the 8-pin connector as well, see picture for the direction). Plug the battery only after the rings are connected. Be sure to connect the battery correctly, usually the black wire is connected to GND. As soon as the battery powers the ESP-01, the animation will start.

Step 4: Enjoy!

I made 3 costumes with 3 LEDs strips of different colors. Sorry for the bad quality of the photos, taken at night with a smartphone... One of the costumes comes with glasses. Later, I made another pair of glasses for another costume.

It takes around 30 minutes to prepare everything, from cutting the led strips to programming the ESP-01. So do not hesitate.

My children went out on a few Halloween nights with their costumes and had some success, they were quite popular: people would stop them to chat and ask them where they got the costumes or how they made them. The cool thing is that they are spotted from afar, so people tend to gather and walk along with them...

If you made it, please share your experience... and if you like it please vote for me in the contest.

Wearables Contest

Runner Up in the
Wearables Contest