22 Ways to Light Up Your Life With RGB LED Strips
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LED lighting has never been more popular. It’s easy to see why, with the savings you can make by switching to LED bulbs Are LED Light Bulbs Worth Buying for Your Home? Are LED Light Bulbs Worth Buying for Your Home? The light-emitting diode bulb (LED) has only just started to become popular within the last decade. Here's what you need to know before deciding if LED bulbs are right for you. Read More in your home. Alongside saving money, there are smart systems like the Phillips Hue Light Your Home the Smart Way With Philips Hue Light Your Home the Smart Way With Philips Hue If you can afford the initial expenditure, you won't find a better-supported and more user-friendly smart lighting system on the market. Read More , or DIY setups using LED pixels Weekend Project: Build a Giant LED Pixel Display Weekend Project: Build a Giant LED Pixel Display I love LED pixels: bright, easy to control, cheap, and so versatile. Today, we'll be turning them into a big pixel display that can be hung on the wall. Read More . There are many smart lighting options Brighten Your Home With Smart Lamps: Here Are Your Options Brighten Your Home With Smart Lamps: Here Are Your Options What exactly is a smart lamp, and what's out there? Read More to choose from, affording you endlessly creative and colorful ways to light your home 5 DIY Home Decor Tips With LED Strips and Smart Lights 5 DIY Home Decor Tips With LED Strips and Smart Lights For centuries we've been living under the yellowish hue of incandescent bulbs, but no longer. Cheap, bright, multicolored LEDs has given us an entirely new visual dimension to play with home decor. Read More .

Today we will be concentrating on the humble RGB LED strip. They cost only $23 for five meters of RGB LEDS (or under $10 if you are willing to wait a little longer for them to arrive direct from China). Both of these links come with a power supply and remote control.

led strips

The strips are low power, easy to shorten, and easy to attach using their sticky back side. Many of these ideas are plug in and go, while some need a little more tinkering and a microcontroller (like Arduino).

Want some inspiration for lighting up your life? Let’s go!

Custom Ambient Lighting

LEDs make great alternative lighting, and with a little work you can make it look stylish too. YouTuber Great Scott! created this detailed guide to creating backlit wall panels.

In a similar vein, YouTuber DIY Perks has a tutorial video on creating wall hanging uplights.

Both of these projects use warm white LEDs, you could use RGB LEDS in their place to add a splash of color.

YouTuber techydiy created an illusion mirror using LED strips. His video shows how to build an elegant wooden enclosure along with the LED wiring.

Another great place for LEDs is in the kitchen. This video from DIGS Channel show the more practical aspects of how to install them, and how good they can look!

You can use LED lights to grow plants indoors. In this video, YouTuber RepensTheTurtle takes you through a simple build design.

Combine this and a monitoring system 6 Ways a Raspberry Pi Can Help You Prepare for the Apocalypse 6 Ways a Raspberry Pi Can Help You Prepare for the Apocalypse This article will cover a few simple ways a Raspberry Pi or similar microcontroller can help you survive an apocalypse. Read More for the ultimate automated growing set up!

Make It Smart

Using LED strips in conjunction with a microcontroller gives much more control. It also adds a level of complexity. Controlling LED strips make a great project for Arduino beginners Getting Started With Arduino: A Beginner's Guide Getting Started With Arduino: A Beginner's Guide Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to use hardware and software. It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. Read More .

In this video, YouTuber Gadget Addict explains how to control an LED strip using an Arduino.

If Raspberry is more your flavor of controller, here is a great simple guide for the Pi. Be sure to read our Raspberry Pi Beginner’s Guide Raspberry Pi: The Unofficial Tutorial Raspberry Pi: The Unofficial Tutorial Whether you're a current Pi owner who wants to learn more or a potential owner of this credit-card size device, this isn't a guide you want to miss. Read More , too.

pi mosfet dodnungde
Image Credit: dordnung.de

It’s worth noting that you must use logic-level MOSFETs such as the IRL540N with microcontrollers.

With this extra level of control comes some cool options for projects. Using an Arduino and a PIR sensor, you can create an LED sunrise lamp Arduino Night Light and Sunrise Alarm Project Arduino Night Light and Sunrise Alarm Project Today, we'll be making a sunrise alarm clock, which will gently and slowly wake you without resorting to an offensive noise-making machine. Read More with motion activated night light.

sunrise alarm

The nightlight part of the above project has other uses too. Jazzcat123 used a similar circuit to add motion controlled LEDs to their pantry.

Make It Part of Your Media System

If you have a Logitech Harmony remote, you can control LED strips How To Control Your Custom RGB Lighting From a Harmony Remote How To Control Your Custom RGB Lighting From a Harmony Remote If you own a Harmony Remote, you're probably aware that they can now control the Phillips Hue "connected bulb" - a wifi enabled but extortionately priced $200 LED lightbulb set. But did you know your... Read More using it.

Using a computer or media center to watch shows is becoming more common. Using an Arduino and Processing, you can match screen colors Build Your Own Dynamic Ambient Lighting For A Media Center Build Your Own Dynamic Ambient Lighting For A Media Center If you watch a lot of movies on your PC or media center, I'm sure you've faced the lighting dilemma; do you completely turn off all lights? Do you keep them on full blast? Or... Read More with the LED strips to great effect.

Light Up Your Work Space

Alongside lighting your home, LED strips are useful in the workplace too.

This video from Darbin Ovar takes you through the build process for a simple writing Desk lamp

In a similar vein, Well Done Tips uses a piece of aluminium to create a little more light over a larger work area.

Illuminating the shelves in your workshop makes life easier. Instructables user Roey Leon created light up shelves for his bar. If you need it to be more rugged, try switching the glass out for thick clear acrylic.

bar lightup shelves
Image Credit: Roey Leon via Instructables.com

For a portable solution, the Natural Nerd channel has a guide for a tripod mountable work light

Instructables user Leviathan17 built a more permanent outdoor light for $15. The guide covers building the enclosure, along with adding motion activation.

led floodlight
Image Credit: Leviathan17 via Instructables.com

Light Up Your Life!

So far we have covered practical uses for LED strips. Now lets look into some of their fun uses!

This flashing multicolored dog collar covers both fun and practical. Instructables user out-of-the-box created it using basic components (namely, a 555 timer chip). No microcontroller required!

It appears they also faced the issue of someone not staying still enough for their photo opportunity!

dog collar led
Image Credit: out-of-the-box via Instructables.com

If you are a bike rider, this Instructable is for you. Tater Zoid mounted LED strips to their bike making it both safe and snazzy in one fell swoop.

If you are someone who uses their computer every day, why not brighten it up? YouTuber Jok has the guide for you:

Make Your Clothing Shine

Do you like your clothes bright? How about taking it one step further?

This guide by maker SexyCyborg takes you through the assembly of an underlit skirt.

underlit skirt
Image Credit: SexyCyborg via imgur.com

It works through Bluetooth and a battery pack, though you could modify it to use the IR receiver in your LED strip’s kit.

Autodesk University made interactive Lab Coats, using LED lights and sensors attached to an Arduino.

The project includes code to help you make your coat reactive to whichever sensors you choose to attach.

Along with your new jacket, how about some shoes? Créative-Mélina has a simple to follow guide to shiny shoes. Perfect for the adult that wishes they still could buy light up kids shoes!

diy led shoes
Image Credit: Créative Mélina via Instructables.com

Taking it up a notch, sheetmetalalchemist made a Tron suit, using a simple but brilliant leather and LED strip design. Great for a fun night out stuck inside a computer fighting for your life.

tron suit led
Image Credit: sheetmetalalchemist via Instructables.com

Finally, we couldn’t go through cool things that light up without including a Lightsaber.

Eric Nieto created his own Jedi light sword using an LED strip, and some machined parts.

While Eric made most of the body of his saber with metal, you could create something similar using PVC pipe at home. A perfect project to keep you occupied while waiting for the next Star Wars 10 Geeky Ways to Celebrate Star Wars Day 10 Geeky Ways to Celebrate Star Wars Day With Star Wars back in business, we felt now would be a good time to think of the wackiest ways geeks can celebrate Star Wars Day. May the 4th be with you! Read More movie.

What Will You Make?

These 22 ideas are just to get you started. Now is the perfect time to experiment given how cheap and easy to set up these lights are. Any article on LED strips is only going to be the tip of the iceberg. The only limits are your imagination, so order some today and have some fun.

Are you going to make your own home lighting? Are you planning any projects with LED strips? Let us know in the comment section below!

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  1. Fixitmanarizona
    October 1, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    Or as the classic, basic, undercabinet lighting, or to replace those damn tube fluorescents in a kitchen ceiling box (using the same fixture, look for the way to adapt that on YouTube.) Works great in bathrooms with those box fixtures over the mirror, too. For those you'll just want to use the warm white strips.

    • Ian Buckley
      October 2, 2017 at 9:59 am

      Yes indeed! They make for great underlighting. I remember back in the day all of the boy racers would have them on the bottom of their cars.

      As to replacing strip lights, it's occurred to me too. It would be fairly easy to DIY,though of course I would check that A) You know what you are doing with power as mains power can kill you and B) Your insurance company are cool with you messing around with your electronics.

      The last thing you want is to be either dead, or not covered in case of a fire because you did your own wiring.

      In principle though, you could wire up a 12 volt power supply to the mains outlet for a normal light, and connect the LED strips to that. You could take it a step further even by using a Wi-Fi activated controller (like an Arduino with Wi-Fi shield, or a NodeMCU) and have colored strip lighting you can change from your phone!

      This is - of course - just a vague plan. I'm not condoning poking around in your ceiling electronics!

      • Fixitmanarizona
        October 2, 2017 at 12:58 pm

        Easy enough to install a ceiling box to plug into *(USA) or have an electrician add one. Or, if it's a standard screw in light, there are adapters you screw in to the light socket and make it into a simple 2-prong (120V) outlet. Friend of mine did it that way in his bathrooms at my suggestion. No need for the third (grounding) prong, as the adapter doesn't use one.
        US 120V isn't likely to kill you, as the circuit breaker outside in the box will trip if you short it out, (it should be off while installing the outlet anyway) and the insurance company will never do an inspection on lighting here. (Never could understand why anyone would wire a house with 240V and put the breakers IN THE OUTLET.)
        I've done several kitchen conversions, simply adding an outlet (I'm a handyman so I DO know what I'm doing) for the 12V adapter for the lights to plug into, and many under cabinet installations of the strips, with the plug-in adapters. I take the "shop light" housings for the 4 ft fluorescent tubes and simply stick the LED strips where the bulbs had been (after gutting the wiring & removing the ballast and then just plugging in the 120V>12V converter to the outlet. Several people have YouTube videos on how to do that.
        In my own kitchen I have the 12V under cabinet lights tacked up (they come with tape, but if it fails, thumbtacks at the edge of the strips (NOT through them) come in handy, and the converter simply plugged in to remote 120V switches with the battery-run controllers at each end of the room. These were designed for things like desk lamps.
        As mentioned, yes, the 12V strips are also good for automotive applications, I've wired up my camp trailer to use them off battery, and my stepson even just has a lithium battery he runs several strips from in a TENT. Much nicer than the simple solar lights that have their own batteries in them, in that case (and brighter.)
        For those instances, the 12V strips aren't likely to ever need dimmers as they are being used as additional lighting or primary lighting in dim spaces, and few will want them as decorative lighting so the color strips probably aren't needed. Most of the devices you mentioned operate on the 12V side anyway, so it's just a matter of plug & play, as it were.
        I've also seen some 120V strips that simply plug straight in to the wall with no power adapter something like a string of Christmas lights, and you can get those in long lengths (164 feet/ 50 meters.) 12V need much shorter runs, 16 ft (5 meters) is about the limit.