Intro: Bedazzled Mosaic LEGO Sprite Lamps
Want to create a simple mosaic mood lamp to accent your home? Check out this little tutorial for building a mosaic LEGO pattern with an illuminated sprite design!
I've created a much more elaborate version of this tutorial a few years ago, but in this version, I'll streamline everything for the novice builder to easily recreate a simple concept. Also, that previous Instructable was created before I had a thorough understanding of electronics. Since 2013, I've improved my skills with electronics, and also I've found better improvements with lighting. Think of this edition of my tutorial as rebooted and simpler edition of my previous one!
Step 1: Background
I've been building bedazzled mosaic LEGO projects similar to this since 2013. As you may have seen previously, I created an Instructable for mosaic sprite cube lamps back then.The particular images seen in this section are from a cube lamp I've built and photographed in early 2015. This 2015 edition model use a SNOT (studs not on top) design for allowing the roof of the cube to illuminate as well.
Aside from making cube-lamps based on video game sprites, I've also used this technique of adding transparent LEGO tiles/plates to Technic bricks to make such projects a functional traffic signal lamp and a portrait of my deceased cat Tiggs.
Step 2: Basic Design Principles
The general idea is to simply place transparent LEGO tiles and plates into the holes of LEGO Technic bricks. In this method, the lamp's mosaic design will remain visible with the electrical lights turned off, and when turned on, the little multicolor dots will glow. For instance, you can clearly see the Goomba and Fire Flower designs with the lamp's light turned off, but when turned on in a dark room, you can stills see the vibrant colors of the base design.
With a wide array of available colors and pattern concepts, you can create endless possibilities with your creativity. The basic principles of bedazzling Technic bricks can be used in conjunction for many other design concepts which require light output.
If you want to make your artwork with video game sprites as I traditionally have done, here's a great resource for finding sprite sheets of vintage games. I've also previously made a thorough Instructable in 2013 which covers everything you'd need to know about making a vertical mosaic LEGO portrait using video game sprites: this can definitely help you with understanding design principles and color schemes.
Step 3: The Box Design
Traditionally I've created mood lamps with a simple cube-shaped layout. Although this tutorial contains photos and digital instructions for the cube shape, you can build any sort of shape you'd like: for instance, in the past I've created a triangular Legend of Zelda sprite lamp, and a flat portrait of Luigi which has a music box installed in it.
The LEGO Digital Design file in this section shows the basic layout for the traditional cube shape. This is the standard layout I've used in my mood lamps in the past, but feel free to deviate from the layout to make any shapes of your own -- e.g., triangular, flat, hexagonal, et cetera.
The 3-D build guide shows the frame, base, stanchions, and lid. The yellow Technic bricks on the sides are purely placeholders to give you an indication of how to build the side mosaic panels. The design of course would be for sprites or patterns of your own choosing. Some of my lids have been completely solid, whilst others have also contained sprites with light output. It's up to you to choose a final design pattern for your box's lid.
Step 4: Electrical Work
First, you can easily find an E12 candelabra base lamp cord from most hardware stores and electrical suppliers. Generally I like to assemble the LEGO base around the lamp base, and then slide the cord through the hole in the bottom. I then add pieces around the lamp base to hold it in place. Make sure the cord with the flicker switch comes out of the bottom of the cube's base.
For the light bulbs, I use either LED or CFL bulbs -- E12 candelabra base. The LED bulbs are a bit hard to find at stores, but I've found them for sale on eBay from U.S. suppliers. I've seen them listed for sale as "corn bulbs" due to their cylindrical shapes. The CFL bulbs cost usually less than $10 USD, and I've seen some of these for sale at Home Depot and some smaller hardware stores.
Never use incandescent bulbs, since they produce excess heat, and cast a dull, yellowish glow.
Step 5: Additional Tips to Consider
I purchase most of my LEGO pieces online from bricklink.com, which is a website for buying/selling individual parts by color, type, and year.
You're not limited to making only video game sprite designs: I've mainly used these in the past due to their square pixel patterns for making mosaics, as well as because of their ubiquity with nerd fandom. You're free to make pattern designs based on anything you choose.
You can mix colors and create shading effects, as seen in example photos:
- Different shades of transparent green LEGO plates on different shades of green Technic bricks can give you different effects for tones, such as the example images of the Kokiri Emerald.
- Using red or orange on brown bricks will make darker shades of red -- as seen in the Goron Ruby.
- Different shades of transparent blue on blue bricks will of course make darker/lighter blue, as seen in the Zora Sapphire.
- For skin tones, you can mix transparent clear, yellow, or orange pieces on tan or yellow Technic bricks, as seen in the sample images of the Link sprite.
It's to my knowledge that green and brown Technic bricks are hard to find, so you can substitute these bricks with 1x1 modified headlamp bricks. This comes in handy for mimicking earth tones: usually I add transparent orange or red on brown bricks.
Step 6: Play Well!
After you've acquired sufficient pieces and mapped out your design, it's time to get work!
Although I've mainly shown off my cube-shaped lamps at this point, in this section I've attached some additional photos of custom illuminated LEGO models I've built which incorporate the bedazzled method. You can see my triangular Legend of Zelda Spiritual Stone lamp as my musical Luigi portrait. The Luigi portrait was a super smash success, and at a video game convention in 2015 I traded it for an autographed Donkey Kong arcade topper!
Feel free to leave any questions or feedback in the comments, and I'll be glad to help out with any design tips and further instructions.