Electrifying Printed Pictures

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About: This author has not updated their profile. They might or might not get around to it sometime. If the kid wants a unicorn... Dangit, we're gonna make that happen. What little I know is dangerous, the rest I...

Shocking that you can do it, No? Make printed images come alive by animating them with light.

Paper makes a great diffuser so we can shine light from LEDs through to make it glow or light.

This instructable shows how to make a cool "working" DONT WALK - WALK sign.

Step 1: Make a Stand for It...

Print out the image that you want to animate with light. I want to make to make one of those DONT WALK - WALK signal lamps that displays something different in the text.

I glued that on a sturdier piece of cardboard because we are going to cut out the area we want to light up to make a display screen of sorts. It will also become a self-standing display sign.

Glue the image on to a piece of cardboard that is longer on the bottom. Fold the excess over to the front to create an L shape where the flap forms the front part of the base.

Glue another piece of cardboard to the bottom that is big enough to become the wider base front and back. Glue on more bent L shaped pieces on the back on the fold to keep the printed image upright or whatever angle you want it for viewing.

Add as many pieces as necessary to form a strong support. Layer cardboard with the internal corrugation or grain going in different directions for maximum strength.

I also filled in all the edges with glue. It helps to stiffen up the cardboard edges and gives it some resistance to wear when handled or bumped on the edges.

Step 2: Blinky Bling...

With the display area cut out from the main board, it will be used as the base form to make the enclosure for the lights.

Bands of cardboard strips are glued around to form the walls. It helps to glue on a bunch of tabs or short pieces first to the base piece. Fold those tabs over at the edges and glue to the bands going around the shape. 2 or 3 layers form the outside of the enclosure.

I added an internal piece made from thin paper cardstock to block light between the two sections of the display sign. I could have painted the interior white to help with getting the most light out but I just glued in some scraps of white paper.

When the light enclosure is dry and solid, use that as a base form to build the receptacle or frame around the display area on the display board. Glue banding strips of cardboard to form a light blocking rim which snugly fits around the light enclosure.

The gaping hole in the main display board is covered with a piece of blackout fabric(non-woven fabric similar to what is used to make those inexpensive grocery tote bags) and plastic canvas mesh(that stuff for yarn hook rug crafts) to act as the grid screen and dark outside bezel of the signal lamp.

I had my Adafruit Circuit Playground Express rigged up with a strip of Neopixels which was already used in another project. I am using Circuit Python to program the LED light animation so it was easy to make it flash the upper display section, go dark, light up the bottom section, go dark, repeat. The rainbow chase effect is pretty neat that it gives a 3D effect to the characters it lights up. You can use any microcontroller, LEDs and programming language.

I used an awl to punch a hole in light enclosure box and passed the wired Neopixel strip through. The Neopixel strip was snaked around the interior compartments. I added some fiberfill batting to further help diffuse and spread the light from the individual Neopixels.

Step 3: Technicolor Dreams...

Since this is essentially a slide projector or one of those X-ray photo lightboxes, we just need to print up some slides to display anything we want. Like this:

Since the color is provided by the Neopixel lights, we only need to print up some black and white graphics to mask out the light. White text on a black or dark background will be just what we need. You are not limited to just lighting up text either.

The printout is just placed over the light enclosure and mounted into its receptacle on the main display board.

I put some clear packing tape over the printout to prevent the toner from rubbing off the paper as it got scratched up in folding multiple times to fit and getting pushed in the receptacle. That was only a problem when I wanted to make several adjustments to how the image lined up after it was pushed in.

So you can experiment with making your own customized DONT WALK - WALK piece of art.

And a future Part II -

Using servos to add movement to printed images...

Enjoy!

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    3 Discussions

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    Treasure Tabby

    25 days ago

    What a cool idea. I'd love to make one of these but I suck at electronic things. :)

    2 replies
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    caitlinsdadTreasure Tabby

    Reply 25 days ago

    also this for cosplay
    Just a candle fade(flicker-self blinking) LED and battery - (LED Throwie) to start with essentials.

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    caitlinsdadTreasure Tabby

    Reply 25 days ago

    The cool part is you could do the electronics without doing electronics. Go get yourself a couple of electronic tea candles - ones that flicker or not, handheld flashlights in various shapes - the squarish one with the bright COB type LEDs, headlamps, bicycle flasher units, press switch-dome lights, anything you find at the dollar store... and embed them in things, just wrap up in towels to see how they glow. Build or make the art to fit around it. You don't need to jump in with a microcontroller and soldering to start out with. Make it work!