World's First E-Ink Shirt (Ghetto Version)




Introduction: World's First E-Ink Shirt (Ghetto Version)

Or Maybe just The World's First E-Ink Name Tag (Only if your name happens to be 'The 21st Century Begins Now ;)' Eesh, that would kind of take the drama out of killing Count Rugen.)

Anyway, having just purchased Esquire's 75th Anniversary Special with the "World's First E-Ink Magazine Cover", I immediately commenced the deconstruction as soon as I returned to the dank depths of my luh-BOR-atory.

Fresh off my previous Sony/Kindle E-Ink screen transplant, I figured it would be cool to play with.

Various ideas entered my mind as I hacked the magazine to shreds, but why not see what I can make in a few minutes first?

Hence, the World's First E-Ink Shirt (Tank Top, in this case) was born- in under five minutes and only cost me the cost of the magazine. ($5.99, without Tax)

And yes, this whole build is a rather tongue in cheek joke ;)

Step 1: Gather the Tools and Materials

First off, of course, you'll need the 75th Anniversary edition of Esquire Magazine. I think something like 100,000 of them are out there (99,999, now).

I live in San Francisco, and the little Borders Newsstand I went to at Powell Street Station had about a dozen.

Next up, just some electric tape (or similar), safety pins, scissors, and...

...Umm, that's it. This is probably my simplest project to date (and boy, does it show ;)

Step 2: Deconstruct!

Ahh, my favorite Gadget Hack step- even if it is essentially just tearing up a magazine.

First you should remove the cover, sticking close to the spine when you cut. It's up to you what to do with the rest of the magazine.

Once the cover is separated, just pull the edges apart slowly and the glue will begin unsticking. The electronics are near the middle. Though the E-Ink screen is flexible, the circuit board is not, so try not to use too much force.

Step 3: Exposed!

There it is- the cheap PCB, and upper and lower E-Ink screen. There's a bit of light foam cushioning them, and a plastic sheet that lies on top of the screens. I removed these but kept them handy.

As you can see, the PCB has six button cell batteries, which should last about three months. They're easily replaceable.

The lower screen is simpler and ugly, so I removed it by pulling the flex cable from its slot on the board. That did not seem to interfere with the top screen and it still flashes normally.

Step 4: Play!

It's hard to resist the urge to play around with the screen a bit once it's free, and I indulged my id.

Most LCD's and similar displays that we interact with are rigid, so it feels really cool, and a tad weird, to have one rolled up in my hand.

It seems pretty durable, but I wouldn't bend it too far.

Step 5: Science!

Ok, let's keep going. Using the bit of foam that came with the magazine cover, cut out two pieces that will cover the PCB and stick out about an inch on both sides.

After that, just apply a liberal amount of electric tape to the foam, wrapping around so it keeps the PCB in place and covers up the glare of the foam. Everything looks better in black.

After that, just flip the Screen back so it rests on the PCB and use some more tape to keep it in place. If you want, you can also put some of the plastic sheet with pictures back on it, if only to liven the thing up a bit.

Step 6: Apply to Shirt

So I suppose the seamstresses in the audience could make a little 'Window' and 'Pouch' in a shirt to stick this thing in, making it look ten times better. So hop to it! Me, my sewing skills end with buttons, and I usually mess those up too. (Why do I need to learn to sew when I have Duct Tape?)

Anyhoo, I, in keeping with my self-inflicted five minute time frame, opted to just use a couple of safety pins to attach it. You should probably take the shirt off FIRST, Genius ;)

Step 7: Wear!

As I said, I had a few ideas that maybe I'll try later, and this was just a quickie to hopefully inspire smarter and more creative people than I into taking a crack at it.

Good luck, and for Goodness Sake, stay out of the Rain.



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    34 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Great instructable. You are so hot too.

    Let me quote Joe Martins quote from out of the story:

    "Joe Martin says:
    Hence, the World's First E-Ink Shirt (Tank Top, in this case) was born- in under five minutes and only cost me the cost of the magazine. ($5.99, without Tax)



    I can already see the advertisers and mass media brand merchants arguing over ad space ont he average shirt. maybe a shirt that has built in blue tooth that will change ads as you walk past particular businesses. Cool stuff Blakebevin. Keep up the good work.

    I think this would be a good idea for a weird-looking (as in it already looks strange before the e-ink) suit jacket.

     A few thoughts come to mind.  Isn't t-shirt material (Cotton) Relatively thin?  Could you project this from the back side?  Isn't that what this basically is, a t-shirt projector?  You could use longer wires and put the battery pack and mainboard in a different part of the shirt, allowing a flexible screen to be constructed because what I see is a flexible screen.  It would take some money or some skills at soldering, but it can be done.  You just need some ribbon (electronic ribbon), some know, and some dimensions.  You could do it like the old photo albums, securing each corner and securing the center of the image.  Pretty much what you have is a mainboard that has been set to flash wired to some LED's and a projectable unit on top of that, so with this, all options are endless.  You could move it to the heart, put a picture of a heart, and freak some ppl out.  Or is it like a calculator that has a glass insert?

    1 reply

    awesome thought about the heart... a beating heart... hmmm

    Have you played with one of the panels using a magnet? They should be as responsive as a magna-doodle. If you really wanted a custom nametag-shirt, manually switching the state of the E-Ink would seem to be fairly easy and could look good with some effort.

    4 replies

    The e-ink doesn't respond at all to a magnet. It's ionic charges that black and white ink inside a tiny bubble are charged with, and the circuitry dictates which bubble gets what charge. It's incredibly facinating technology. Everyone should look up how it works. See
    This is one of the most exciting technological breakthroughs in a while IMO. The esquire cover is way simpler than I hoped it would be, but panels like these without the stencils inside and more complex circuitry could actually play video I'm pretty sure.
    You can bet that 5.99 is way less than it cost esquire to aquire the panels, so don't miss out. Once they are available as programable kits, the potential for use is so exciting. But they will cost a ton more than 5.99, so if anyone can hack these ones so they can be reprogrammed to display images or even video, that would be the ultimate instructable. Thanks Esquire for this!

    yes the lowest priced E-ink screens that I have seen so far cost about 1500 dollars which is a tad too high for me.

    There was some cheap Motorola phone that you could get here in Aus (it was about $60AUD) that had an e-ink display.

     I have that phone (or at least, the UK version of it). Cost me 5 GBP. Definitely the cheapest E-ink display. However, it, too, uses the stencil tech and can't control individual pixels. Text messages display 8 characters at a time, looking like a digital clock. 

    Still, for 5 quid the phone is a great phone and the e-ink is cool.

    Hey, /great T-Shirt/. Wait a minute!?! I just read the mean there's a /screen/ there?

    Hey, shooby, chill, she had a good idea and you're jealous. I personally love the mods for clothing and what better than a flashing screen. Blakebevin i praise the work and curiosity it took to bend that thing knowing it was fragile. Great mod. ~Z

    Jealous! Chill, StoneCraf I wasn't laughing at the Instructable at all. What I was laughing at was the use of the word "cleaver". While it was an honest mistake, I noticed after correcting mrbob1000 that "cleaver" is a subtle mix of the words "clever" and "cleavage". This written underneath a photograph featuring cleavage, tickled my sense of humor.

    Hehe, maybe I should have done an instructable on the world's first E-ink bulky sweatshirt.