Introduction: LED Strip Back-lit Canvas Art

Want to spruce up your home or room with an interesting piece of art? Want to add some unique lighting to your space? Using an LED strip, an Arduino, Canvas and paint, you can create your own wall art that's not only unique during the day but also at night.

The following electronics/technology steps are based off of a tutorial on adafruit, Digital RGB LED Strip, with only minor modifications. Refer to their tutorial for more in depth information.

This project was inspired by Pinterest.

Step 1: Supplies

Here are the supplies I used:

  • Electronics ( I used Adafruit to order the following parts)
  • Art (this is up to what you want to design)
    • Canvas (size is up to you)
    • Acrylic Paint/Cardstock
    • X-acto knife
    • Masking Tape
    • Cardboard (fits the back of the canvas)
    • Command Velcro Strips
    • Newspaper/tarp (to minimize any mess from paint)
  • Tools
    • Soldering Iron
    • Heat shrink or hot glue
    • Paint Brushes

Different supplies can be used, however, this project is based on using digital RGB LED strips not analog strips.

Step 2: Wiring: Identify the "In" End of the LED Strip

Identify "In" end of LED strip

  1. Look at the end of each strip- there are 4 solder pads. They are either labeled DI & CI or DO & CO. This stands for "Data In" & "Clock In" or "Data Out" & "Clock Out."
  2. NOTE: Some strips come with plus pre-wired for testing at the factory. This might NOT be the right connections, so it is advisable to check them before you continue.

Step 3: Wiring: Soldering

If your LED strip does not come with the appropriate wires already attached:

  1. Cut away a little bit of the plastic covering to allow access to the soldering pads on the IN end
  2. Solder:
    1. Red wire to the +5V power line.
    2. Yellow or Blue wire to the CI pin.
    3. Green wire to the DI pin.
    4. Black wire to the ground (GND) pin

Step 4: Wiring: Secure Wire Connections

You can use heat shrink or hot glue to provide a secure cover for the wires.

Step 5: Wiring: Connect to the Arduino

  1. Connect the Black Ground to any ground pin on the microcontoller.
  2. Connect the Yellow or BLue CI wire to digital Pin 3
  3. Connect the Green DI wire to digital Pin 2
  4. Connect the Red +5V power wire to the 5V power supply

The Yellow/Blue CI and the Green DI wire can be moved later; however, the LED Library is set up to use pins 2 & 3.

Step 6: Wiring: Power

  1. Screw a red wire into the (+) port of the female power adapter
  2. Plug the black wire into a ground port (GND) on the Arduino board
  3. Connect the red wire with the red wire from the +5V from the LED strip

Step 7: Arduino Code

  1. Download and install the Arduino software
  2. Download:
    • Arduino LED strip library
      • extract and rename LPD8806
      • place inside your Arduino libraries folder
        • Might need to create:
          • Windows: (home folder)\My Documents\Arduino\Libraries
          • Mac/Linuz: (home folder)/Documnets/Arduino/Librarie

Step 8: Test Your LED Lights

  1. Connect the Arduino to the computer using the USB cord
  2. Open the strandtest sketch
    • strandtest- written for 1 m LED strip attached to pins 2 & 3
    • change the following line to the number of LED's (32 LED's/meter)
    • LPD8806 strip = LPD8806(32, dataPin, clockPin)
  3. Upload the code to the Arduino
    1. use the arrow on the top left corner as seen in the photo
  4. LED lights should start to run through a series of test codes
  5. For a basic rainbow effect:
    1. in the "void loop()" comment out every line except the rainbowCycle line
      1. comment out by selecting lines and pressing crt + / or typing // at the beginning of each line (shown by the highlighted lines in the photo above)

Step 9: Design Your Art

The most common back lit canvas art uses card-stock on top of a canvas as demonstrated here and seen in the photo. This creates the best contrast between light and dark and the cleanest lines in your art.

Other ideas include painting or spray painting the canvas as seen by the Aspen Tree piece. This allows more light to come through and creates a softer look.

Its important to look at other examples online and determine what you want your final piece to look like and whether you want the harsh contrast as seen with the card-stock, the softer look of paint, or a mix of the two.

Step 10: Attach LED Strip to Canvas

Attach the LED strip to the canvas as desired. One easy way is to hot glue it to the inside of the wood frame. You can also glue it directly to the back of the canvas if you want stronger light to come through.

In addition, glue the the aduino board to the back of the canvas.

I used hot glue to glue the LED's and the Arduino to the canvas. This is not the most secure and can easily pop off. For a more permanent solution I would recommend super glue.

Step 11: Attach Cardboard to the Back of the Canvas

  1. Measure the cardboard to fit the back of your canvas so that it can rest on the wood frame.
  2. Cut an opening to allow access to the Arduino and allow power cord through.

Once again, I used hot glue. This works decently and would allow me to remove it in the future to mess with things but will likely come off if handled too much. If you are certain in your work and want it to be permanent, I would use super glue.

In addition, I used thin poster board so it does not stand off of the wall as much. Standing off of the the wall is better to allow for the power cord to come out the bottom but makes the canvas harder to hang.

Step 12: Plug in and Enjoy Your Masterpiece!

Plug the power cords in for the LED strip and the Arduino board and enjoy your lovely artwork!

Check out my art!