How to Solder Wires Onto a Common LED Strip




Introduction: How to Solder Wires Onto a Common LED Strip

This is a very quick and simple primer on how to solder wires onto a common LED strip.

You will need:
Scissors or wire cutters (available for use at TechShop)
Wire strippers (available for use at TechShop)
Soldering Iron (available for use at TechShop)
"Helping hands" or clamps (available for use at TechShop)
Any length of LED strip

LED strips have two common features which are important to this Instructable.  First, LED strips are divided into segments.  The strips can be cut at any length provided the cut is on the line usually indicated by a small scissors icon.  LED strips that are severed or cut between these lines will not function to the fullest.  Second, LED strips have a positive (+) and a negative (-) soldering hard point that is on the strip.  The convention does matter, since they run from DC power.  There are a pair of these points at the beginning and the end of each segment.

Step 1: [photo1]
Cut the LED strip along an indicated line to give you a length close to the desired length.  If you cut too long, you can always cut again, too short and you may have to do more soldering.

Step 2:
Remove the waterproofing or plastic covering, if applicable, so that the soldering hard points are free.

Step 3:
Pre-tin the hard points.  Some LED strips have this step finished for you already!  Pre-tinning refers to the procedure by which you solder a small blob of solder onto the object in question.  In order for this to work the best, you must heat up the element so that the solder wicks onto it...not just lays on top and cools.  This works best with a conical soldering tip and a small amount of solder for thermal conductivity.  Once the desired temperature is reached, you will see the solder wick onto the surface.  Add more in necessary.  You should have enough to cover the hard point, but not be at risk of melting through the strip or reaching the other hard point, causing a short.

Step 4:
Cut and strip the wire a desired length.  Again, cut longer than you think you will need.  Strip only a small length of wire, like 1/8" or less.  If the wire is stranded, twist the strands together to keep them from separating.  The best wire will be thin enough to move around tightly, I prefer 22-24 AWG solid core.

A quick word about current.  LED strips sink current and depending on the length increase the amperage of current in the circuit.  Wires can extend the reach of your LED strips and do not count towards the drawn current (measured in amperes, A or milliamperes, mA).  Please refer to the manufacturer's documentation for the specifics.  Most segments take somewhere between 20 and 100 mA.  For example, my five foot section from the hardware store totals 250mA...which is 1/4 of the total my DC adapter puts out, which is 1A or 1000mA.

Step 5: [photo 2, 3]
Pre-tin the end of the wire.

Step 6:
Using helping hands or a vice, mount the wire and the strip so that it takes minimal or no effort to get the wire and the hard point to touch.

Step 7: [photo 4]
Quickly touch the soldering iron to the wire and the hard point at the same time.  If we pre-tinned our connections, they should quickly form a solid contact.  Remove from heat.

Best of luck,

~Zack @ TechShop San Francisco

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    8 Discussions


    3 years ago

    What kind of welding wire you used Amigo??


    4 years ago on Introduction

    You can use a hot glue gun to apply a protective coating for the soldered wires. The glue will provide electrical insulation and should help out a bit with strength and stability.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    help this is my second set of RGB strips, the first ones I destroy them thinking they were bad but now with the second ones i got the same problem, i got this proyect where i cut the strips on threes and sixes and rewired them but when i solder them back they stop functioning and not responding to the pattern, let say the first piece ok but the rest of the pcs stay one color and not flashing the way I want to.

    pls help


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Hmmm... It's hard to troubleshoot without seeing.

    Do the strips have solder pads, and are you cutting them along the lines? Also make sure that when you solder, you don't make a "bridge" between two pads.



    7 years ago on Introduction

    Random questions for you, if you don't mind: Is this procedure much different from the 4-wire that RGB LED's seem to require? I've ordered a battery pack and LED light strip, based partly on the Tron Instructable that exists around here somewhere. I plan on wearing the lights secured in a costume, separated from my skin by at least one layer of fabric.

    Most of the videos I've seen are using just 2 wires.

    I need to waterproof them as much as possible, just in case, and they will need to turn corners, so I'll have to make at least 4 or 6 cut strip connections. I'd like to split the strip in half so I can mount the battery pack behind me at a discrete point and have the LED strip go off in 2 directions.

    Can you possibly help me out with a few answers? I'm guessing it just means more soldering, sealing the connections somehow and finding the right splitter - at least, I hope that's all there is to it.

    I'm looking at some solderless strip-to-strip connectors on amazon, and reviews aren't great for them. I'm wondering if I can skip those and just buy, cut and strip wire and find another way to close it than the little plastic things that come with the low-star rated connector strips.

    Thanks for your time :)


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    This step is the same for a 4-wire RGB. I haven't used the solderless connectors, but I imagine they wont be very good on something that is moving.

    You can use wires as a splitter since you can hook up the two different directions in parallel to the power source...meaning positive from power source goes to positive on the first direction and positive on the second. Same for negative. This will also work with RGB.

    After you are done soldering, waterproofing the joints can be a pain. I recommend using a potting compound or resin.

    Just for fun, check out the following:

    These guys are in Oakland CA and are amazing to us. They have great resources, but you need to contact them before they go to burning like a week...or wait until they get back.

    If you are building a Tron suit, I might even recommend EL wire. My friend, Sean, has built one out of EL and love it. There are some great tutorials on this website about using them.

    Let me know if you have any other questions. Best,


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I wasn't sure if I should purchase 'solderless' connectors and plan on soldering them anyway, or just buy lengths of 4-wires RGB plus sealant and caps. I found a place that specifically sells LED waterproofing sealant plus caps that fit over the cut and soldered ends of LED strips.

    I'm not making a TRON suit, actually, for my first foray into LED/costume usage, I'm actually going to make a cloak glow in the inside. I need the LED strip to settle into the bottom edge and face upward, come up either edge and come back around mid level to distribute light more evenly - all under another semi-transparent layer of fabric, the lights won't be directly exposed. I got a 5m RGB reel, which should be more than enough, with a power pack that should theoretically last at least four hours, more if I don't use all of the wheel. I picked a battery pack that will prevent over charging, so yay.

    The light strip will only be moving around a little bit - the cloak is fairly heavy.

    I have supplemental EL-wires in other places of the costume, as well. For what I wanted to do, and I did HOURS of internet research to do it - I need an even, constant glow over a large area - can't be done by EL-wires - and fiber optics was WAY too expensive to even consider. so I think the LED strip is the way to go.

    I'll check out the link as well, thanks again!