DIY LED Stick Figure Costume

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About: I love combining software, electrical, and mechanical engineering to come up with unique and fun projects. I'm not a chef, but love to cook. Follow me on http://manganlabs.com and http://twitter.com/@mangan...

I'm going to show you how to build a simple LED stick figure costume. This project is super easy providing you have basic soldering skills. It was a huge hit in our neighborhood. I lost count of how many people said this was the best costume they had seen that night and how cool they thought it was. It seemed like every single house we went to had something to say about it.

I've seen other tutorials on how to do this but none detailed the LED connections the way I felt they needed to be detailed for beginners. Hopefully this makes it easy enough for anyone to complete this project in just a few hours.

Video of the final product can be seen above. Bonus video at the end of this Instructable!

Enjoy!

Step 1: Gather the Materials

The following materials are all that you need for this build:

  • Roll of LED lights (Amaz on)
  • Wood Embroidery Hoop (A m azon)
  • Male / Female "JST" Connectors (Am azon)
  • 12V Rechargeable Battery Pack (A mazon)
    • Note, if the power pack does not come with a DC jack as mine did, you can buy one from Amazo n here .
  • Toddler Sized Hoodie & Sweatpants (A mazon)
  • Electrical Tape for electrical connections

The power supply is the most expensive component. It is rechargeable and can be used for many other projects. If you want to go a bit cheaper, you can substitute the 12 VDC supply for a standard 9V battery. The 9V won't be as bright or last as long but it is still quite good for most needs. Note: The 12 VDC supply shown here was tested for 5 hours straight and was still shining bright!

The Embroidery Hoop helps to keep the head clearly "defined" as a circle.

Step 2: Gather the Tools

You need the following tools for this project:

  • Soldering Iron (and solder, flux, etc.)
  • Hot Glue
  • Wire Strippers / Cutters

Step 3: Cut the LED Strips

Cut the LED strips for the suite. You will be making a total of 5 strips which will eventually turn into 6 (will explain why later).

The length of your cuts will vary depending on the size of the outfit you have. The most important thing to remember is that LED strips have a "cut line" that is typically every 3 LEDs. It is clearly marked on the LED strips as a line or may contain "scissors" indicating the place to cut. You may have to cut your strips slightly short or long depending on where your cut-lines fall.

Cut the 5 strips to length using the hand drawn diagram. The longest strip will be the one that extends from the torso area up and around the head.

Step 4: Build the Pants

  1. Solder a wire to the positive connection on each of the two LED strips
  2. Twist and solder the two positive leads together
  3. Repeat the process for the two negative leads
  4. Attach a male or female JST connector to these leads (It doesn't matter which you use. You just need to use the opposite on the hoodie side)
  5. Secure the LED strips to the pants using the peel off tape from the LEDs and hot glue at the top where the wires meet the LED strips. The hot glue will pretty much ruin the pants unless you're willing to invest a lot of time getting it out. That said, it does an amazing job keeping the LED strips in place and attached to the suite. You might be able to get away with using just the LED strip tape, but I would be willing to bet that it won't hold up for long.

Step 5: Build the Hoodie

  1. Lay the arms in place on the hoodie
  2. Lay the center LED strip in place
  3. Cut the center LED strip where the arms meet (see photos)
  4. Solder the LED strips as shown in the hand drawn diagram
  5. Attach the LED strips using adhesive tape and hot glue as shown in the photos
  6. Insert wooden hoop to ensure proper fit. If needed, using hot-glue to hold hoop in place (I did not need to do this as it was a pretty tight fit)Wood
  7. Attach both the opposite JST connector AND two wires for power at the waste level point as shown in picture. Note: The DC power jack shown in this picture comes with the LED strip purchase.

Step 6: Power It Up

Connect the 12DC power source to the DC power jack and fire it up! If your connections are all good, it should immediately light up.

Step 7: Have Fun!

Once you're done have a blast! This costume was the hit of our neighborhood this year. Check out the reactions from the people in my video. Every house was like this! We had bus drivers and a pizza delivery guy stopping to say how great it was. Parents wanted to have their picture taken with him. It was so much fun and well worth the effort!

4 People Made This Project!

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29 Discussions

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TheFrankTurk

4 years ago on Introduction

This is one of the great minimalist costume ideas of all time, and this is a great implementation/build.

Maybe I am the only one, but to me this is infinitely creepier than a zombie because it is so unreal and other-worldly.

6 replies

I can't take credit for the original idea (saw it on YouTube last year) but I agree that for such a simple costume to build it can have a huge impact. As mentioned in my tutorial we had people stopping their cars when driving by (including a public transportation bus and pizza delivery guy) and constant comments of "that is the best costume I have ever seen!". Watch the videos with audio and you'll see what I mean. Thanks for the feedback!

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PeteGriff65siliconghost

Reply 1 year ago

Hi, am doing this for a party in the U.K. & have purchased all the parts, but just need clarity on how to connect the strips to the power once it's all connected. The pic isn't very clear, thanks.

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siliconghostPeteGriff65

Reply 1 year ago

I didn't realize that photo was so low quality. I will update it tonight with something that is easier to understand.

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PeteGriff65siliconghost

Reply 1 year ago

Did you manage to get a better pic of the connection to the wires for the top/battery pack? Thanks

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PeteGriff65siliconghost

Reply 1 year ago

Great, thanks. Great idea by the way & thanks for the tips. nearly bought this on Glowy Zoey site all made, but at over $200 including shpping to UK, it's an expensive outfit!

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otto1007siliconghost

Reply 3 years ago

hi, I bought all the items on amazon, but the battery pack does not have anything to attach those male/female connector . I have no idea how you went from the little black and red wires into the battery pack- any help please...My son just loved your idea- he found it :). But I'm better with the sewing machine then wires :)

Thanks

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jimcathers

4 years ago

i love this idea. Adorable, and it looks like it worked really well too! added to my favorites and following you now. I hope I remember next year when my baby boy will be walking by halloween! Thanks for the instructable!

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pattyricks18

2 years ago

Can anyone explain the powering aspect a little deeper to me? It seems like the bottom legs are powered in parallel while the torso piece is in series. How does that work with the battery?

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RyanL258pattyricks18

Reply 3 months ago

Im with you.. having the same issue... top shirt only lights the first segment, from waist to neck, wont light the other three (2 arms and head)

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ChristianR178RyanL258

Reply 7 weeks ago

Check your pollarity on connections. LEDs on the strip are parallell anyway, so hooking up multiple strips in parallell or seial doesn't matter. You can in fact also connect them in both ends, as long as you don't confuse + and -. In some cases it can improve power distribution and give more powerfull lights when power can travel in better wires rather then just the thin ones on ths trip itself.

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BarbaraB254

3 months ago

Purchased all the necessary stuff and realized that it requires 2 battery packs???? One for the top and one for the bottom?

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BarbaraB254BarbaraB254

Reply 3 months ago

Actually I figured it out after talking it through. I got the pants part done and I’m super excited! Thank you for posting your instructions. This is fun.

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siliconghostBarbaraB254

Reply 3 months ago

No, just 1 battery pack. You connect the top and bottom together once they have the outfit on. Let me know if you need a hand

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lgershen

2 years ago

What size embroidery hoop should I get for a 4T hoodie and for a Mens Size Large Hoodie?

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RitaM123

2 years ago

Do i need all 20 pairs of Male/ female connectors?

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lgershen

2 years ago

Where did the leads come from? Did you simply cut off the connectors
of the male/female connectors to twist together or did you use a type of
gauge spiral wire?

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alcurb

3 years ago

That is so funny. I love the concept and the impact of the illusion; your eyes are drawn to the stick figure and you can't see the person behind it ; you simply see and accept this animated figure walking along.

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otto1007

3 years ago

My battery pack did not come with the plug/connector in picture 6. Do i order that extra? My son loves your costume, but I'm better with the sewing machine :) Hopefully somebody still reads this thread

Thank you