Enchanted Forest Mushroom Lights

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About: Hello! I'm Matt and I love making things. I'm always thinking of new ideas and how to make them as awesome as possible, always with a mind to share the process online. Take a look at my profile and see if th...

Welcome to this Instructable on how to make an awesome-looking mushroom light! I had this idea after taking part in last year's Make It Glow contest with my Shard Light instructable, and I'm excited to be taking part again this year with these mushroom lights.

If you think this Instructable deserves a chance in the competition, don't forget to vote for it by pressing the vote button up top. Cheers!

As you can see, these mushroom lights are really charming. They're powered by three AA batteries, are easy to make, and are - above all - FUN!

Ready to build one? Let's go!

Step 1: Materials and Tools

You'll need the following tools:

  1. Scissors
  2. Wire cutters
  3. Soldering iron and solder
  4. Cling-film (plastic wrap)
  5. Power drill

And the following materials:

  1. Battery box for 3x AA batteries, with built in switch
  2. Thin electrical wire (red and black)
  3. Driftwood (or dried bark etc)
  4. LEDs
  5. Resistors (their value depends on the LEDs you use. See step 3 for more info)
  6. Watercolour paints
  7. Clear silicone (can be found in most DIY stores)

Step 2: Getting Inspired & Choosing the Right LEDs

There are so many possibilities with these lights. You can make them any colour, size, or type you like!

It helps to have a look at pictures of actual mushrooms for inspiration. Take a look at how they grow, and their formations. Because of the technique we'll be using, our mushrooms should look quite varied and organic.

When choosing the LEDs for the project, choose colours that are close to the colour your final mushrooms are going to be. For example, if you're making a red mushroom, go with a red or warm white LED. If you're going with a white mushroom, go with a pure white LED etc. Once you've selected your LEDs, move on to step 3.

Step 3: Choosing a Resistor for Your LEDs

This project uses 3x AA batteries to power the LEDs. As they're connected up in series within the battery pack, the voltage ends up at 4.5v (each battery being rated at 1.5v). This is too high for most LEDs to cope with, and would probably burn them out after a short time if we were to attach them directly to the battery pack.

So, what we need to do is drop the voltage down so that it's within the safe voltage range of the LEDs. To do this we're going to use a resistor in series with each LED. The value of the resistor depends on the type of LED, but typically, using a 4.5v power pack, the values are as follows:

RED-----------150ohm
YELLOW--------120ohm
GREEN---------120ohm
BLUE----------56ohm
WHITE---------56ohm
WARM WHITE----56ohm

Want to know how I ended up at these values? Well, the topic is actually a little complex if you're new to it, so I'll try to explain as clearly as possible. Skip to the next step if you know this already, or are happy going with the values noted above.

So, why does adding a resistor help stop the LED from frying? Well, adding a resistor stops the power from flowing through the LED quite as easily. This means that the voltage drops. How much it drops depends on how much power the LED uses - the more power the LED uses, the lower the voltage goes.

The formula for working this out is:

R = (Vs - Vl) / I

We can of course just use a calculator. But that's boring. Let's learn how to do it manually instead so we have an understanding on what's going on.

Basically, R stands for the resistor value (which we're working out), Vs stands for the power source voltage (4.5v in our case), and VL stands for the LED voltage. Lastly, I stands for the LED power draw (current).

So, let's assume we have an LED which is rated at 2.5v and draws a current of 20mA (mA stands for milliamps, and must be converted to plain old amps (A) by moving the decimal three places to the left).

So we substitute Vs with 4.5, VL with 2.5, and I with .02

R = (4.5 - 2.5)/.02

R = 2/.02

R = 100

For those of you who don't like equations:

4.5 - 2.5 = 2

2 ÷ .02 = 100

So we need a resistor rated at 100ohms. Simple!

So, with this you can work out precisely what resistor value you need, depending on the voltage and mA rating of your LED, which should be listed by the store. If not, just assume the LED uses 20mA and use this chart to find out the voltage:

  • RED ----------------- 1.8V
  • YELLOW ----------- 2.1V
  • GREEN ------------- 2.1V
  • BLUE ---------------- 3.4V
  • WHITE -------------- 3.4V
  • WARM WHITE ---- 3.4V

So you've made it to the bottom of the page. Well done, here's a digital high-five:

*high-fives*

Step 4: Wiring Up the LEDs

So now we've got the resistors for our LEDs it's time to wire them up.

First we need to trim down the legs of the LED using a pair of scissors, and solder a resistor to the positive leg. The positive leg is the one that goes to the smaller plate inside the LED, and is called the anode. The larger plate is the cathode, and is negative.

Don't trim down the resistor legs, as their stiffness provides support for the mushroom stem, and means you can bend it into different positions when it's finished.

Lastly we need to solder a black wire to the negative leg of the LED (the cathode), and a red wire to the other end of the resistor. When done we can twist the wires together to keep things neat.

Step 5: Broadening the Beam

The round domes on LEDs focus the light into quite a narrow beam. This isn't great for this project because it would mean that only a small circle on top of the mushroom would be lit up.

Thankfully it's pretty easy to broaden an LEDs beam by simply chopping off the end of the lens with wire cutters. Be careful not to chop it off to close too the plates and damage them, however!

An alternative is to use wide-beam LEDs, which already have flat heads, or even surface mount LEDs (like in the last picture). The latter do require a little more soldering skill, and the LEDs can be a little hard to find, but they do give a superior result, so I do recommend them if you're up for it.

Once you've got all your LEDs soldered up, it's time to mix some silicone!

Step 6: Mixing the Silicone

We're going to use clear silicone for the stems and mushroom domes, which means that they'll be flexible and partly transparent.

The silicone I chose was just multipurpose contractors silicone, and it's intended for sealing edges in bathrooms and kitchens etc. It's extremely cheap at around £1.25 ($2ish) and there's enough in the tube to make a whole forest of mushrooms!

When working with it be careful not to get it on your clothes or on the carpet. It's not water-based so you'll only be able to get it off using white spirit. Also, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly after you've finished working with it.

So, what to mix it with? Well, I recommend just using a flat head screwdriver, as when dried the silicone can be peeled off it easily.

So blob a bit of silicone into a plastic container, and mix it with a tiny bit of watercolour paint of your choice. Try not to add too much paint at once, as the more you add the less transparent the final result. Just add in the paint gradually, and feel free to mix different paints together to get the colour you want. Be creative!

Step 7: Making the Stem

So after you've mixed your first batch of silicone, place one of the LEDs onto a piece of plastic food wrap and then splodge some silicone on top of it.

Now you can fold the plastic wrap over, with the LED on the folded edge. Use your fingers to mold the silicone around the resistor and wires. Because it's on the edge of the fold it should be pretty easy to get a smooth finish.

Leave it to dry for around 2-3 hours (though this will vary depending on the silicone brand) and then peel off the plastic wrap. You now have a mushroom stem! Because of the resistor inside, you can bend it and it retains its shape. Very cool!

Now let's make the mushroom domes...

Step 8: Making the Domes

Making the domes is very similar to the stems. Mix some more silicone, and then splodge it onto more plastic wrap.

Now place another piece of plastic wrap on top, and use your fingers to again mold the silicone into a mushroom dome shape. Pinch from the outside inwards to get a good defined edge.

To help get the domed shape, place it upside down into a cup and press downwards a little. Alternatively, you can try wrapping it partly around a small bouncy ball.

Once you think you're done, hold it up to the light to see how the light transmits through it. As you can see in the fifth picture, mine has a curved bright patch in the middle. If there's something similar on yours, just mold it some more with your fingers until you're happy with how it looks. Above all, don't make the dome too thick or else the light from the LED won't be able to shine through it.

After leaving it to dry, peel off the plastic wrap and use some scissors to clean up the edges. Note how the plastic wrap leaves creases on the surface. It's looking very organic! It almost looks edible... but then, not all mushrooms are good for you, so don't.

Now let's prepare the base so we can 'plant' our mushrooms!

Step 9: Planting the Stems

For the base you can use anything you like really, as long as it can be drilled. I'm going to use some driftwood, as it should look quite pretty with some mushrooms growing out of it.

All we need to do is drill some holes into the base that are big enough for the stems to slot in to. Positioning is quite important, so try and mimic now real mushrooms grow by making clusters, and drilling the holes at different angles. Make sure you drill all the way through!

Once you've drilled all the holes, thread the stem wires through and follow it with a blob of silicone. Push the stem and silicone down into the hole, and wipe off any excess.

Step 10: Gluing on the Domes (method 1)

Mounting the dome too close to the LED results in a bright spot in the center of the dome, so we need to make sure there's sufficient space between the dome and the LED for the light to be distributed more evenly.

There's more than one way to do this. For small mushroom domes, you can simply put a blob of silicone inside it and place it carefully on top of the LED, without pressing it down. The silicone acts as a spacer between the LED and the dome, and means that the light is distributed evenly. It also sticks the two together.

Step 11: Gluing on the Domes (method 2)

Another way to mount the domes, which is my personal favourite, is to use thin tissue paper in conjunction with silicone blobs. This is best suited for medium sized domes, and it also looks great when viewed from underneath, mimicking the underside of a real mushroom.


To make it, simply use a single layer of tissue and bunch its corners inwards so it is the same shape as the dome. Then glue it in place with a large blob of silicone so that it's just slightly concaved. Leave it to dry and then glue it to the LED with, you guessed it, silicone.

Not only does the tissue help you to fill a larger space, but it also helps to distribute the light more evenly, and reflects some of it down onto the stalk and base.

Step 12: Gluing on the Domes (method 3)

The third and final method to mount the domes is to shape some wire into a support. This can be a bit fiddly, and doesn't look very good if you ever glimpse it from underneath, so only use it if your mushroom domes are particularly large.

The wire can be crimped onto the top of the stalk to keep it in place, while the dome can be glued to the outer edge.

Step 13: Wiring Up the Battery Pack

So the last step is to wire up the battery pack. As the battery pack has a built in switch, we don't need to add one ourselves.

So trim down the LED wires, and twist the all the positive wires into a set, and all the negative wires into a set. You can then solder the positive set to the battery pack's positive wire, and the negative set to the pack's negative wire.

The polarity of the battery pack's wires should be marked with either a white line (meaning it's positive) or by colour (red being positive). After they're soldered together, use some electrical tape to first wind around the solder joints to prevent shorts, and then to bind them together making it nice and neat.

Now it's time to try them out!

Step 14: Completion

As you can see, they look great! Remember, the sky's the limit with these mushroom lights. You can make ghostly white mushrooms, or luminous green ones. You can even mix in glitter and make a magical one!

Have fun making your own mushrooms! Feel free to share your creations by posting a photo in the comments section!

Remember, if you liked this Instructable and think it deserves a chance in the competition, don't forget to press that 'vote' button up top! Thanks!

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16 People Made This Project!

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146 Discussions

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SteveL254

Question 7 months ago

When purchasing the LEDs from amazon and such, how do you know what the current and voltage is of the individual lights in the string to do the calculations for the resisters? For example, I've found it very easy to find 12 V led strings, but would I use 12 V in the calculations then, or are the individual lights different? And, a lot of led strands don't have the current information? Finally, if I wanted to change the equation to use a microUSB cord to plug the lamp in with, how would that change the calculations?

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deeyou

11 months ago

Hello

Very nice instructions for building a mushroom lamp. Thank you.

One question regarding the resistors.

Is there any reason why I couldn't use a battery holder for 2 AAAs (=3V) and also 3V leds. That wouldn't require a resistor at all? This would make it a little simpler.

Or is there a reason for a 4.5V solution with resistors?

Best regards from Switzerland (sorry for my English)

deeyou

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SandB2deeyou

Reply 11 months ago

You DEFINITELY need the resistors. They act as a current limiting function. Without them you will blow the LEDs

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EmilyL113

1 year ago

Hey guys,

I made those 2 times already and now I'd like to make them with 8 LEDs. Has anyone experience on how long the batteries will last?

Or has anyone an idea for me, so the batteries won't drain too fast?

Thanks!

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D4nnyF3nt0mEmilyL113

Reply 1 year ago

Hi Emily! You can calculate how long the batteries would last. Read the capacity from the batteries (in mAh). If you follow the instruction exactly, you would have 3 AA batteries to get a voltage of 4.5V. Thus, the capacity of the batteries cannot be added up. Each LED will use 50 ma current. Then you can divide the capacity by the used current of 8 LED's; Amount hours = (capacity of one battery in mAh / (50 * 8). With capacity 2000 mAh, this should be around 5 hours or so?

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Mousepotato01

1 year ago

I had asked a question back in February, 2017. Concerning the use of RGB SMD 5050 LEDs if they can be used. I found they can be used and work brilliantly with your design Sir D4nnyF3nt0m. I found this wiring and copper tape to run along the artwork to eliminate the spaghetti from clusters of mushrooms on 1 piece. The tape can be applied then solder the wire (305M 30AWG 0.25mm Tin Plated Copper Wire Wrapping Test Cable Colored), to the copper (eBoot 1/ 4 Inch Copper Foil Tape with Dual Conductive Adhesive 21.8 Yards for EMI Shielding, Slug Repellent, Crafts, Electrical Repairs, 2 Pack). You can use 3 wires for the red, green, blue led then 1 wire solely for the common cathode or ground or common anode depending on the diode you purchase. If just making this project then purchase the LEDs with a power supply if creating a large number to work together then continue reading. The tape can be can also be used to repair traces on PCB's or create pcb's for this project if you make a large collection of them to run around your entire garden. I made a 48" x 24" Diorama signage picture type artwork using your Mushroom invention as decoration in it. The theme is Alice in wonderland, Through the looking glass. I also used black light and neon colors to tint the silicone used in the artwork. I not only did the mushroom lights but your idea inspired me to make silicone houses and various other plants used in the movie. I also used in combination Glycerin, Corn Starch to thicken the silicone from thinning it with Glycerin,

Klean-Strip QKSP94005CA Odorless Mineral Spirits, 1-Quart

, (https://www.amazon.com/Klean-Strip-QKSP94005CA-Odo... to use in molds for other items found in the movie. I added animatronics to it to make the Mushrooms and characters come to life and move around a small amount as if shaking in the wind. I will provide a link to the materials used including silicone that works great and is priced no more than the GE silicone but hardens in 30 minutes to fully assembled cured hardness. The red Devil also has almost no odor to it when curing just a slight vinegar smell it is a RTV or AKA Room Temperature Vulcanising silicone that hardens quickly you have maybe 10 to 13 minutes working time from placed on mixing cup to cured time. That is plenty of time to work with. For the tinting I recommend looking up to find a chart of how much of what color to add for the water based inkjet refill kits. I found this chart that may be helpful to you as well, (https://www.instructables.com/id/How-To-Mix-Colors... The silicone is RED DEVIL RTV CLEAR SILICONE and accepts acrylic paints water based inks for a wide variety of colors if you use the ink the colors are only limited by your imagination. If you only intend to make the stems and caps then use only the median for tinting the silicone and the silicone (

Red Devil 100% Industrial Grade RTV Silicone Sealant - Clear,

https://www.amazon.com/Red-Devil-Industrial-Silico... or this one (

Red Devil 08260I Clear RD PRO Industrial Grade RTV Sealants, 10.1 oz. Cartridge,

https://www.amazon.com/Red-Devil-08260I-Industrial... ) I do not know about the tinted or ready colored silicone how they look but if you use the cheap refill ink kits like I did to tint it the colors are out of this world and you can use El Wire also to illuminate the stems. If you use the wire with inverters you can hook it all up to 1 wall outlet and power the wire and leds by splitting it the leds go to a buck convertor and el wire to the inverter supplied with the wire it makes for a very eye catching display. (

5M Neon LED LightGlow EL Wire String Strip Rope Tube + 12V Power Inverter Kit - Blue, https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01IOKPPKM/ref=... ).

Good luck and many many thanks to you sir, You have no idea how inspiring to me this was and is with your instructional technique on the Enchanted Mushrooms. You are my hero. I will return with pictures and a video of the Dioramasignageicture this is the name I created for the artwork because it is 1 of a kind so should the name be. I made this by and from reading this Instructable at a later date so far I have placed 340 hours into the artwork just in manufacturing of pieces to incorporate into it. I do have a deadline it is April 27th the artwork is a gift so it will be completed before then and I will return with proof of my work in images and videos of the artwork I created all over Enchanted Mushrooms. You really are my hero and Inspiration D4nnyF3nt0m Thank you from the bottom of my twisted heart from going down the rabbit hole to many times lol. I truly apologize if my post is overboard I had to share with you and others how greatly you inspired me to make this artwork and another piece that uses your Enchanted Mushrooms in it. The Entire piece of art I am making has ran me just over $487.00 so far in USA funds with all the electronics I used to control the lighting and animatronics I have over 175 Enchanted Mushrooms alone in it not to mention the UV blacklight DIODES and other items in it. The artwork will be a animatronic movie in itself brought to life with ARDUINO UNO, TINY, and other microcontrollers. Bless you SIR , D4nnyF3nt0m and

DIYPerks

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D4nnyF3nt0mMousepotato01

Reply 1 year ago

Great to read how big of a project this has
become for you! Im looking forward to some pictures, and maybe a nice video on YouTube?

For the past weeks, I have been struggling with 2 arduinos to
animate some mushrooms as well, by using self-written animations controlled by
an IR remote. I have almost finished understanding all coding. Once I do, I
will start wiring the LEDs. If it works out ill upload some pictures as well.

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Mousepotato01D4nnyF3nt0m

Reply 1 year ago

I have had my own issues with nano Atmega328 boards myself. I have tried to upload the uno bootloader to them to make tremendous amounts of room in the mem but it keep failing to sync and recognise pins. I hope I did not damage them during assembly. I do not think that is the case other codes and ATMega328 program works fine and is recognised in the program itself when I plug them in so it must be so simple it is stupidly overlooked as a mistake lol. I am very new to the code world myself with this type of use but maybe we can work out the issues together if you want to give it a try. I look forward to posting the how2 instructables it is just so much work I have recorded I work on this 5 to 6 nights a week from 7 AM until I fall asleep it is very large board 48 inches by 28 inches to install all the silicone and leds with servo's to bring them to life and working out all the bugs is mind numbing to put it nicely lol. I have over 150 RGB leds installed in mushrooms attached to fine cables through small tubes at various locations embedded in silicone to make them move as the servos turn to wind and release the cable I used and all the uv leds and EL-Wire incorporated in the mushrooms to get all of it to work nicely together is just too much to handle on certain days lol. I have issues with timing and voltages for colors on the leds to obtain 16 million colors with the rgb's. I decided to use the TLC5904NTG4 to run the rgb's and UV leds. good luck with your project by the way. I will be posting mine soon I hope after the editing is completed I must complete it by April 27th it is a gift.

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Mousepotato01

1 year ago

can I use RGB LED 5050 SMD SMT Light Emitting Diode LED Chip in the mushrooms if so please tell me how to wire them for all colors

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D4nnyF3nt0mMousepotato01

Reply 1 year ago

Those LEDs require 6 leads right? Im afraid that 6 wires in a stem will be quite difficult. You can connect the LEDs as informed in the datasheet of the manufacturer.

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ekehlmann

3 years ago on Introduction

Wonderful project. I jumped right in last night. The issue I have is that the silicone isn't drying wrapped up in the plastic. It did this last night and neither the stem or two test heads I made are close to dry. When I peel back the plastic it's still very sticky. 100% silicone and just a dab of water color. Thoughts?

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DIYPerksekehlmann

Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

Hmm, strange. Are you using the same type of silicone that I used? Does it dry faster when open to the air? I can only think that the silicone you're using has a longer drying time.

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ekehlmannDIYPerks

Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

It's just regular 100% silicone by GE. "Rain-Ready in 30min" And I'm using little tubes of watercolor paint. I see it just takes the littlest drop of paint to tint. I'm going to do some more experiments including mixing a new batch and seeing what it does in open air. Thanks for the fast response and I'll let you know how it works out! Need to get this done in time for Valentine's Day <3. Luckily I have a bit of lead time :D.

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tardistrekkieekehlmann

Reply 1 year ago

Hey! So I had the same problem, and it turns out you have to use the GE Silicone I, *not* the GE Silicone II. The difference is that the Silicone I cures via acetic acid, and the Silicone II cures via methanol and ammonia. The Silicone I will cure just fine (and much faster) wrapped in the plastic wrap, while the Silicone II didn't cure at all unless it was in the open air.

hope this helps!

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michaelrbellistardistrekkie

Reply 1 year ago

I think we had the same problem as you with the mushroom cap silicone curing very slowly compared to the stems when covered in cling film. We had tended to add more paint to the stems meaning they were darker and think this had an effect on drying, it might also have been the shape in which the cling film was made, a tube with open ends, that meant they dried quickly, but for the caps we tried to added them to a solution of water and baking powder and it did seem to speed up curing time, though we didn't do it scientifically so couldn't say for certain. I was using the Acetoxy Silicone, next time I'll try to find the recommended stuff.

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ekehlmanntardistrekkie

Reply 1 year ago

Thanks tardistrekkie maybe it's time to try again this Valentine's Day :). I'll see if I can find that "Silicone I" at my local Home Depot.

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Thunderlips36

2 years ago

how many LEDs can be connected to the 4.5V box? With more LEDs connected does that mean less ohms per resistor since there are more lights sharing the voltage?

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kluzzThunderlips36

Reply 2 years ago

That depends on how you connect the LEDs. If you connect them in parallell, here's no difference in the resistance; the batteries just get drained quicker.

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Dreamchronic

2 years ago

Love it, just love it!.. btw: My friend and i were talking about this years ago, he saw glowing mushrooms in the movie Avatar (i think).. and wanted glowing mushooms everywhere in his house. So ï've send him this link to your video. Guess he's buying gallons of silikone right now :D :D And so will do i! THX!:)

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AmberK19

2 years ago

These look truly magical! :) I hope to make them some day soon :D