Make Liquid Light Table in 10 Minutes!




About: I am just a nature loving, fantasy cherishing, vegan & raw food eating, stuff inventing, junk hoarding, recycling, steampunking, staff spinning ..ordinary guy.

Want to have a table that glows under glass, cups, anything you put on it? Easy.

No hard to get components, no complicated's so easy that kids can do it. But they shouldn't! (really, ask your parents)

This is the cheapest and simples way to make this light table out of items that you probably already have. Feel free to improve what you want or stylize it as you want.. Use Your imagination..

Also remember that this a prototype. I´ll tell you what i can and how to make it, what to do or not to do, but always think twice before you do something.

i: You can follow me here on Instructables or Youtube for more stuff

.. cool. Here are the basic things you will need:
- glass tile
- light source
- a box
- plastic bag
- water
- colored plastic foils/sheets
- food coloring (best in dissolveable jelly form)

- long plastic paper clamp (or a piece of wood)

And like 10 minutes of your time (you'll probably spend more time by reading this tutorial:))

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Step 1: Where to Start? Grab a Box.

Yes, the first thing you will need is a box. Of course you can use anything to hold the top. But a shoebox works pretty well and who doesn't have it at home,right?

If it has a top, remove it. You need a hole on top.

Stabilize it as much as you can so it won't fall over and remember that you are building a table, so you need it to be strong enough. Maybe use two shoeboxes together for sure or something totally different (plastic box, a bucket, concrete, wood...)

Step 2: The Light

Second step is to put a light in the box. I have this ordinary lightbulb, but you can use many many things. Anything that makes light.
Do not forget to secure the bulb, so it is not touching ground or walls and it´s not too high.

* i recommend anything else than the one i´m using,you will know why in the next step,even though this bulb makes the best effects.

Step 3: Heat

This table can heat up really fast, specially with this type of lighbulb and since it is made from paper quessed it; This CAN CAUSE FIRE! Be aware of it!
So, cut some holes in the box. Hot air goes up, which means that the holes has to be higher than the lightbulb. To make it flow through the box properly, cut a hole also into a lower part. Make them big enough so all that heat can ventilate and it WILL go out. However, check it out time to time if it doesn't overheat.

* Make bigger holes then i did. Putting a ventilator there is a good idea also.

* If you choose LEDs or fluorescent bulb instead the one that i am using....that´s much better, because those make almost no heat,but still be careful and keep checking it. Even LEDs can get pretty hot.

Step 4: Cables

Waterproof you electric cables!

In case you get too much crazy about your new toy and tear the plastic bag, you certainly do not want to wet the cables!
Do it. Even if you think you have a tough bag and stable box,do it! You never know who is gonna walk around and stumbles on it.

* have someone who will plug it out fast at the source when needed,at least when you start experimenting with it.

Step 5: The Glass

Take a glass tile and cover the box. It needs to be bigger, because if it is the same size, it could rotate or slide and fall right on your lightbulb. You don´t want that! Good idea is to glue this glass right to the box.
Or as you can see, i´m using top part of a scanner that i found. I has nice plastic wall around,so it will be imposible to move it, only up. But this glass is thin, so test it first. You cannot expect that this thing will hold too much weight.

Step 6: The BAG

This is the main component that makes this whole thing work.

It's one of the most advanced technology available! What it is? Colored water in a plastic bag. Yep.

When you put onto the bag something and the water goes out underneath it, then all that light can go through.
Unbelievably simple, yet it makes really awesome effects.

So...mix water and food coloring in a bag....How much and how dark water depends on how big your table will be and many other things. Darker is better, it alows you to make thin layer, and that´s what matters the most. Thinner layer of dark water means better results. Just try it and you will see. But it´s up to you.

BAG - pick a tough one, it should be transparent and smooth (but not too much smooth). Do not use some cheap bag, rather don't even try to make this table without a proper, good solid one. Do not rush it. Choose wisely.

COLORS - what color to choose? well, i quess that this is up to you...choose the one YOU like. i have very dark purple-red-blue. (quick info: black water is going to heat up faster, just take it in consideration)

WATER - eehm, can´t say anything about that :) Maybe just... use clean water. Distilled water would be best.

*I´m not sure but think i have tried an acrylic colors once,but after dissolving they start to crystalize again and made little clusters.You have to use food coloring. Mine was in the form of jelly or something, that works very well.

Step 7: Ready to Shine

And final step!

Put the bag onto glass and use a sticky tape around the edges to hold it there tight.

Then i've used some plastic paper holder thingy (looks like a long clamp, here are links to some pictures, i really don't know how to call this..thingy)

and here

So..for this prototype i've just clamped the opening of the bag and roled it a bit. This way water goes up into that spiral, making it quite safe and secure and easy to work with. But guys, you should really really test it without electricity turned on first.

You can also use two pieces of wooden sticks or something like that to hold the opening higher and tape them together.

Then.. Check if it´s not dripping. Then check again the cables, temperature, all things you might consider that can be dangerous.

Last thing is optional, but it is what makes my table looks how it looks, and that´s... FOILS (or sheets? what you call them?). Colored foils that are placed under the glass tile or under the bag. They make a big difference. Light is spreading, mixing with color in water and you can change it, turn it, shape it, experiment with it and do crazy stuff.


- Do NOT seal the bag airtight, or pressure will build up! If you do, make sure that there is enough of air inside, because air can be pressed to some point, but water can NOT!

- Putting too many objects on this table also builds up a pressure and it can make water go out, so be careful. Warn your friends. Make them understand the concept to keep them safe .)

- When you are not using this new toy of yours, turn it off and unplug the cables.

- Keep it at a safe spot, where kids or pets cannot reach it.

And...I guess that's it! All you need to do now is to put any object on it and watch.

Tips & Tricks:
*skip all steps and just use LCD right away - no bulb, no glass, no box... only a bag of dirty water;)
*trigger the light by a button placed under glass
*use color from highlighter pen and ultra-violet (UV) light above to get inverted light effect
*LEDs on batteries means almost no heat, and minimal electric shock hazard
*glow in the dark water (might be toxic:/ )
*scanners can be hacked nicely for this project,since they have glass with a little wall around and also LED/Fluorescent light inside.
*you name it...:)

Feel free to post your photos, links to videos or your ideas in comments below. Enjoy!

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    30 Discussions


    6 years ago

    I'm thinking hand sanitizer gel would be a great medium, the clear sheet is the problem if you are considering a durable finished product
    Thanks so much for the very creative project love it


    6 years ago on Introduction

    What if the bag filled with fluid contained two different liquids so it worked like a lava lamp? When it heats up from the bulb there would be some cool effects.

    1 reply

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, nice effects, but I cant help but imagining one day it breaks during a party. Then it wont be so cool anymore.

    5 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    You are actually right. But this is a prototype, so no parties:D. I can make an instructable on much more luxury and durable table like this if you guys want to. But it will be propably expensive.

    Please do. I'd love to see how to make this more durable.

    (And, hopefully, pet friendly, because I could easily see a cat pouncing on this thing) :)

    i don't think this will ever be pets friendly. i know cats, they will tear it apart and then they will pee on it.
    sure you can use some really tough foil, but the effects will not be that nice and even then it still can be scratched. only thing you can do is keep them away from it.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Sure why not. It may be expensive but it costs nothing for us to read. :)

    The other day I saw someone here making a custom drink coaster out of Sugru. I thought it was cool, but I also kindly pointed out that the custom drink coaster cost $10 in materials. It was free for us to see and free to comment, but expensive to make :D


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    If you were to make a more durable version, the issue you'd have to tackle is what to use for the layer that transmits more light when flexed. Any ideas on how to do this?


    6 years ago on Step 2

    I like to call those "heat bulbs" instead of light bulbs since they make more heat than light.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    i'm just thinking; it works even without bag! :D
    if you have some hydrophobic spray and cover the base your glass cups, it will be almost like real magic!:)


    6 years ago on Step 6

    if you thickened the water using something like cornstarch it'd probably work even better


    6 years ago on Introduction

    love the effect , now i'm thinking ferro fluids , glass or polycarbonate (bag) and either magnets or speakers .


    6 years ago

    I like this. it has a lot of scope.