Sound Reactive Lightning Cloud




This is a DIY cloud lamp that flashes like realistic lightning if it hears a loud noise. It took me only 4 hours to make and my knowledge of coding NeoPixels and wiring is very basic! So if I can do it, then pretty much anyone can!

I followed this tutorial ( but had to make some adjustments due to having different resources. To do my version of this project you will need:

Paper Lanterns:

Hot glue and gun

A breadboard (small is better, but a normal-sized one will work. Just be sure it has the + and - strip on the side):

An Arduino Uno:

An A to B USB cord:

A cell phone charger block (5v, 2A sats work best; the one I used was a 5V, 1A iPhone charger)

A sound sensor/microphone module for arduino:

2 meters of NeoPixels:

What I used –

What I suggest using–

Pillow Stuffing (you can buy bags of this at Walmart or craft stores if you don't have any old pillows to tear open)

Spray Adhesive (you can find this at Walmart in the craft section)

(May also need soldering gun and solder.)

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Step 1: Solder (optional)

My NeoPixel strand came with wires a special connector on the beginning end so I didn't have to solder wires onto the LED. But, if yours doesn't come with a connector, you will need to do some soldering (honestly, I find this easier than trying to figure out which wire is ground, Din, or +5V). Also, if you're like me, you may need to solder two strands of NeoPixels together. Just make sure to solder the Din side of the LED to the Dout side of the of LED (on my strands there were little arrows on the strand to show the flow of information, so as long as all the arrows point the same direction than you're good.)

Step 2: Create the Structure

Open all the paper lanterns and then hot glue them together in a formation you think resembles a cloud. Then wrap the NeoPixel strand around the structure (the strand I used had an adhesive back to them, but if yours don't then you can apply copious amounts of the spray adhesive to the back of the strand). As you can see, I wrapped mine horizontally, but I suggest sort of wrapping them around in a sort of spiral-like pattern to have all sides (including top and bottom) covered in NeoPixels. Just be sure to leave an opening at the top to put the breadboad, arduino and microphone in the lantern.

Step 3: Add Fluff

Using spray adhesive, stick the pillow stuffing (or polyester fiberfill) onto the paper lanterns. Just be sure you can access the beginning end (the Din side) of the NeoPixels so you can connect it to the other components. I suggest spraying the structure in sections, as opposed to spraying the whole thing at once and scrambling to put the fiberfill on before it dries. and don't be too worried about evenly applying your fluff; the more unevenly the fiberfill is applied, the more realistic the cloud will look and light up.

Step 4: Wiring

This is where things can become a bit complicated. Let's start with the wiring. Do NOT have the Arduino connected to power while doing any of the wiring, EVER. There is a possibility of frying the LEDs if you mess around with the wiring and it's connected to power, so just to be on the safe side always disconnect from the power source when fiddling with the wires. With that said, I will now explain the diagram I have included.

The green and red wires have to do with transferring power and the black wires have to do with transferring information. The red wires are specifically related to the positive part of wiring, so any time there is a Vin, 5V, or +, it will need to be connected to the (+) column on the breadboard. Green wires are associated with negative or ground, so any time there is a GND port or wire used it gets connected to the (-) column of the breadboard.

On my project, I connected the Din part of the NeoPixels to the 7 on the Arduino. You can choose any numbered port on the side of the Arduino labeled "digital'', just make sure to change it in the code if you end up using the code I've provided for you.

Step 5: Coding

Here is the original code that I borrowed and adapted, if you want to modify it yourself:

However, if don't really understand coding all that well (like me) and have used exactly the same resources as me (including the use of 120 LEDs) and done exactly the same wiring as me, then this code should work without having to do any adjustments:

Step 6: Adjusting Sound Senor Sensitivity

Connect the cloud to your power source and adjust the sensitivity of the sound sensor. See the note on the image of the sound sensor. This step is easiest to do while playing a recording of a thunderstorm at the desired volume and having the cloud at the desired distance from the speaker. I suggest that when you find the perfect sensitivity for when the sound sensor is outside of the cloud, you should make it just a tad more sensitive as it will be surrounded by fiberfill which can muffle and dull the intensity of the sound reaching the microphone.

Step 7: Final Steps

Connect the Arduino to power and place it and the breadboard inside the lantern. Then attach fishing line to the the metal bar of the paper lantern so you can hang it. ( I recommend tying the fishing line to all of the lanterns, instead of just the center, so as to reduce the possibility of the lanterns separating while hanging; in other words, to evenly distribute the weight of the cloud to all parts of it.)

There you have it! Your very own sound reactive lightning cloud lamp! Enjoy falling to sleep with your own simulated storm :)

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    63 Discussions


    Question 5 weeks ago on Introduction

    It sounds like you recommend different Neopixels than the ones you used. Any particular reason for the different recommendation? In any case, this is a nice project. Thanks for sharing.


    2 years ago

    in the code i noticed using of IR receiver and moods that could be changed by IR remote control. where is that? you didn't use remote control?

    3 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    I actually ended up frying my IR receiver because the pins on it weren't labeled and I accidentally hooked it up incorrectly. So I ended up not having mine remote controlled


    Reply 1 year ago

    Do you happen to still have the original code that included the IR receiver section of the code? I would like to try implementing an IR remote for the moods. I've been looking over using the IR-Remote library and it doesn't seem too complicated. However, if you still have your original code that included the IR setup, that would be very helpful.


    Question 5 weeks ago

    I´ve been searching and i found that digital leds need more ram. so i NEED to use arduino uno or can i use a nano?


    Question 1 year ago

    When I upload the sketch, the LEDs continuously cycle through the 3 thunder variations rather than respond to sound. Firmata test shows that A0 is getting sound through the mic. I've tried adjusting the mic sensitivity, but it doesn't seem to have any effect. Do you have any tips for solving this?


    1 year ago

    Great build, any chance if you can add internal speaker to your build? I would like to play thunderstorm music and flash the different parts of the led strip so the clould looks like going through a storm.


    2 years ago

    Cool project. Seen a few of these but this is one of the better ones.


    2 years ago

    Question about the wiring section. You have an image of the breadboard, the Arduino and the microphone with what looks like small speakers also wired to the breadboard. Are those in fact speakers? Are they needed for the project? I ordered all the materials on your list and just saw that in the image and was wondering if that is also necessary to complete the cloud.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    A speaker is not needed. The program I used to make the diagram didn't have a microphone so I had to use a distance sensor (which looks like a speaker) as a representative. The only things you need are the ones listed in the materials section. Good luck!


    2 years ago

    I am a total novice with the Arduino but the power to both the sound sensor and the pixels seems to be the VIN. I though that was input voltage?

    8 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    You are right. It should be connected to "5V", and not Vin!


    Reply 2 years ago

    Not necessarily. Both pins 5V and Vin can be used for output voltages. The main differences are that the Vin will output slightly less than 5V (due to diode), but potentially can output more current. Vin can probably output 1A whereas the 5V is limited to about half that.
    Either way the neopixel strip is way under powered. You're probably looking at 5A at full brightness (for 2m). I always connect Neopixels to an external power supply to guarantee the colours work - After a few metres, I find the blue pixels tend to lose power and appear dim.
    Nice project though :)


    Reply 2 years ago

    Just NO! That's an absolutely no-go to connect the LEDs to Vin.

    As it says "Voltage INPUT", not output.

    Vin is for 6-20V. So, if someone builds that and connects the Arduino to e.g. 12V (as common and described in the specs) this will fry all other electronics connected to this Vin which have a max of 5V.

    Just don't do such things.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Do you have a reccomendation on how it should be done then? I want to do this project but I want to make sure I do it right.


    Reply 2 years ago

    As mentioned above, you can connect to Vin, but you shouldn't (in most circumstances). 5V can be used if you are running a few LEDs - maybe up to 10. If you are using any more than this, you need an external 5V power supply - I use a 120W supply per 5 m of strip (or 300 LEDs).

    If you don't have enough current (or the voltage drops at one end) then the colours start to go funny. I've noticed that blue starts to fade first.


    Reply 2 years ago

    I don't know who's right lol but my cloud is still working


    Reply 2 years ago

    Yeah. I need more amps for sure. I was just on a limited budget and tried to use as many products that I already had laying around the house. The cloud doesn't always flash the same colors but I just say it looks more realistic haha