Graphic 8 Channel RGB LED Panels With DMX Control

About: Designing electronic creations from microcontrollers, LEDs and anything else I can pull out of a dumpster and make use of. Check my Profile
These LED Panels were designed to decorate a stage for a music festival, they utilize a 24 Channel High Current USB LED Controller, a custom DMX-512 to Serial Adapter, and 4-5 meters of 12v RGB LED Strip. Some 44" x 30" wood panels were made out of 2x2's and hardboard, designed to fold in half with a pair of hinges on the back. The front was covered with diffused 1/8" acrylic. Some simple symmetrical patterns were created in Adobe Illustrator and laid out on the panels with 12 volt RGB LED Strip. The various RGB strips were arranged on the panel and wired into 8 separate RGB channels, so when the panels are controlled through DMX-512 or through ColorMotion Compatible Firmware, many patterns and effects can be created and displayed on the panels.

Kits are available for the 24 Channel High Current USB LED Controller and customized kits with all the electronics parts required available in The Store. The 24 Channel Controller's single-sided Eagle PCB and Schematic files are available free, download them on it's Instructables Page. The stand-alone ColorMotion Version 2 Compatible Firmware is available as a free Demo version or the Full Version can be purchased from The Store. The DMX compatible firmware for the 24 Channel Controller is also available for free download.

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Step 1: Parts and Tools

Electronic Parts: Custom Hardware Kits, with only the parts you need can be created, Contact Us
Hardware Parts:
  • Hardboard, cut to half the size of the final size, a 44"  x 30", each panel requires two pieces 44" x 15" boards
  • 2x2's, 8ft length per panel
  • 1.5" x 0.75 finished, Home Depot calls it Strapping, its a 2x2 cut in half
  • 2x Strap Hinges, 3"
  • 1x or 2x Barrel Locks, cheap ones

Tools: (Some Tools aren't required if you get your wood cut at the store)
  • Table Saw
  • Chop Saw, or cross cut saw
  • Power Drill
  • Drill Bits includign a 7/8" spade(for the XLR holes)
  • Paint and Painting supplies
  • Measuring Devices: Ruler, Tape Measure, Protractor
  • Masking Tape

Step 2: Design & Layout


The design of one of these panels can vary greatly, my panels needed to be 44" x 30" total in 2 different designs on 3 panels. The designs were created in Adobe Illustrator. The RGB LED light strip can be cut into sections with 3 RGB LEDs every 3.5" or so. So in Illustrator I created 0.5" x 3.5" increments(3.5", 7", 10.5", ect.), rectangles.  I then positioned the rectangles into my desired pattern, only half of the layout was done by hand and then copied, pasted and flipped to make the other half symmetrical to the first. The design could be anything but remember the strip can not make rounded shapes and wiring can be tedious so avoid using too many individual strips.

Electronics Placement:

Once the design is created, figure out where a good place for the controller to be mounted. My design has the controller on the inside, out of the way, that will make the panels easier to move and transport without worrying about the electronics getting damaged. But  there has to be room for it or if a LED strip is too close, it will cast a shadow onto the acrylic. On both my designs I found a decent spot, off to the side. Due to the height limitations, the controller could not be mounted on stand-offs and had to be screwed right down to the hardboard backing.

If you would like to interface it to DMX, you will also need a place to mount that circuit, the DMX circuit is a lot shorter than the controller with fewer wires. The two XLRs need to be placed near to the controller so factor that in when deciding it's location as well.

The 24 Channel High Current USB LED Controller draws a fair amount of current to run (200-400ma), either it requires a separate 5v input in addition to a 12v input, or a 12v to 5v DC/DC Converter, or a 7805 linear regulator with a good heatsink. So either find a place to mount the DC/DC regulator and/or the power jack, I prefer panel mount 2.5mm x 5.5mm barrel jacks, since it is easy to find PSUs in that size.

Step 3: Build the Frame


The frame is made out of two sizes of pine boards,  standard 2x2s (1.5" x 1.5" actual)  and 0.75" x 1.5" pine strapping(it is a 2x2 split in half)

The included diagram tells it all, each half is made up of two 1.5" x 1.5"x 14.25" boards and a 0.75" x 1.5" x 44" board the long way. 
With two pieces of 44" x 15" piece of 1/4" hardboard for the backing, it is most important to make it flush to the inside edge where the seem will be, don't worry about the outside edges as much.

Two halves are combined(each half is a mirror of the other, not the same) and connected on each side, from the back, with 3" strap hinges, for a total size of 44" x 30" x 1.75" that will fold into 44" x 15" x ~4"


The inside and outside were painted with a matte black enamel, so it doesn't reflect and wash out the effect. The front  edge, that the plexiglass will rest on, was painted a bright white. The white will help hide the edges better when the device is lit.


Strap Hinges were chosen over the standard rectangle hinge, since they are longer they will be sturdier.  They are mounted from the back once the rest of the frame is built and painted.

Barrel Locks were used to hold the frame up when it is unfolded for use. The cheap barrel locks from Home Depot were a little loose so they were squeezed and hammered in a vice to make them tighter. One is required but two would be better, one on each side where the two panels hinge. Both pieces of a barrel lock were attached slightly off center to each other so the barrel has to be forced in, that also helped to tighten up the frame when it is erected.

Controller Position:

The controller position should have been figured out with the design prior to this step. Usually metal stand-offs would be best to mount the controller, but height is a problem in this design because if the controller is to tall and is next to an LED strip a shadow of the controller will be cast onto the acrylic. I covered the bottom of the controller with plastic and screwed them down onto the hard board. 

Step 4: Place the LED Strip

Layout the LED Strip:

This can either be easy if you are doing a simple design or get pretty complicated if you have a complex design. There are many ways to go about this and some might be better than others. But I started by marking the center with masking tape, then used the marks on the LED Strip, such as a LED or strip cut separation point, to layout the simple horizontal and vertical strips. Once the easy ones were placed I used a square, tape measure, ruler, 45 degree ruler, and even a protractor to position and attach the LED strips in their place. There was a fair amount of estimating and guessing, but it all turned out close enough.

Attach The Electronics:

Once the 24 Channel High Current LED Controller is finished and any additional circuits are built, such as a DMX interface, DC/DC Converter, ect, screw the controller and any other circuits down to the panel. I used some VHB tape to secure the DC/DC converter to the side.

My panels used, a 24 Channel High Current LED controller, a 12v to 5v DC/DC converter, a DMX-512 to Serial Adapter, XLR In and Out, and a panel mount DC Jack. The circuit boards were attached first and the positions for the interconnects(XLRs, PWR) were marked and were installed last, so they wouldn't get in the way during wiring.

Shown in one of the images, but after the rest was constructed, I flipped the DMX-512 to Serial Adapter upside down, mounted on standoffs, with a cutout to reach the DIP switches from the backside.

Step 5: Wiring

3-strand twisted, Red-Blue-Green, tinned, 22 AWG wire is available for purchase, which is perfect for this type of project. Find it Here

LED Strip Anode Wiring: Note: it is easiest to work on one half at a time and connect them together last.

All the LED strips anodes(+12v) are all connected together in parallel (The Red wires in the first image) Doing so will simplify wiring and overall there will be a lot less wires. The color chosen for the anodes should be different from the colors used by the RGB Channels, I didn't have the Red-Green-Blue twisted 3-strand wire available when I built these panels, otherwise I would have chosen White for the Anode wires, but for the panels shown, the red wire are the anodes. 

Simple enough, start connecting all the anodes in parallel, try to distribute the power path so all the power is not going though a single strip of LEDs, even though the strip PCB can handle up to 20 meters worth of power going through it. Keep the wires to a minimum and be sure to try and keep the wires tight between points,  with very little slack.

RGB Channel Wiring: This is the bulk of the project, it can get tedious but overall it is not that difficult. Only wire one half of the panel at once, so each half has its own wires that connect to the controller, that will prevent the folding of the panels from tearing the wires off solder pads. The main idea is to start on the side of the panel farthest from the controller, solder wires on and run them to the next closest LED strip that is in the same channel, ensuring the wire can be out of the way later. And work your way across essentially daisy chaining multiple sections of LED strip together as you work your way towards the controller position.
  • Figure out roughly how your wires will travel across the panel for all 8 channels.
  • Go through and tin all the pads you think you will be using, plans will probably change once you get started.
  • Take the end of your 3-strand wire, strip all 3 ends 1/16" - 1/8" on insulation.
  • Solder the wires on correctly(wires R-G-B to solder pads R-G-B), make sure it is a good joint.
  • Without cutting the wire, run the wire to the next strip of the same channel's solder pads.
  • Make sure the wire is long enough so it can be attached to the hard board later and be out to the way of the other LED strips.
  • Leave a little bit of slack and cut the 3-strand wire.
  • Strip off a little bit of insulation off all 3 wires and solder them onto the strip correctly.
  • Work your way across the panel daisy chaining all the LED strips that belong in the same channel together. Leave the wires for the final connection to the controller til last.

Final Wiring: The only wiring left should be wiring the last LED strip in the daisy chain to the controller. Solder some 3-strand wire to the LED strip and run it to the controller, see diagram for terminal pinouts. Leave a very small amount of slack on the wire, if the wire is coming from the other half of the panel it will need more slack so the panel can fold in half. Cut the 3-strand and strip off 1/8" of insulation and insert into the proper terminal block and/or insert the wires for the same channel from the other side of the panel and tighten the screw-down.

Step 6: Secure the Wires & Interconnects

Secure the Wires: The wires need to be attached to the hardboard so they won't obstruct the light coming from the LED strips. So I used two methods.
  1. Larger bundles of wires, a 1/16" holes were drilled on either side of the bundle and a small zip tie was looped through and secured tightly.
  2. Single or a few wires were secured with a small piece of aluminum duct tape, not all of the pieces held as well as I hoped once humidity and transportation got to them, so I would recommend more zip ties then tape.
Interconnects: With all the wires secured and connected to the controller, the power jack and any data jacks(in this case XLRs) Find a good place for all your jacks and attach them. The XLRs require a 7/8" holes and the panel mount DC jack requires a 5/16" hole.

Step 7: Firmware, Software, and Control

For stand-alone(no DMX or USB control) the Full Version of the ColorMotion Compatible Firmware is recommended, you can create and upload user created patterns onto the device and it will run them by itself, without a computer.

For Live control over USB, either the Demo or Full Version of ColorMotion Compatible Firmware can be used. Each support Live Mode communciation between a PC and the device that uses a simple serial protocol, code examples available to write your own interface. A Panel Mount USB Type-B Jack to Right Angle Type B could be used to simplify USB connections.

For DMX-512 Control, the 24 Channel High Current USB LED Controller requires ColorMotion Version 2 compatible firmware or custom firmware(Free and Open Source, also compatible with the HID Bootloader) that is available for download.

Step 8: Finished

Front Diffuser:
After the correct firmware has been programmed and everything is working correctly, the front diffuser can be attached.  These were W2447(acrylic opaqueness value) cut to 44" x 15", same as half of the frame. Cut to size, pilot holes drilled and screwed on with some pan head style screws.

  • Edging for the outer edges of the acrylic
  • Hanging Bracket

All done and ready to be enjoyed.

For more details, visit these pages:

24 Channel High Current USB LED Controller
ColorMotion Software
DMX-512 to Serial Adapter

Thanks for Reading and Please View My Instructables Profile for my Projects or visit my main website at for more Projects, Kits, Parts, and Downloads.

A new 30 Channel(10 RGB) high current LED controller with DMX and LED display for interfacing will soon be available. Designed for LED strip and high-current LEDs. Please check back or contact for details.



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