Making Light-Up Fashion: Introduction to LEDs for Wearable Tech
Whether for awe-inspiring high fashion, functional wearables, or costuming and cosplay: many DIY designers and makers are integrating LED lights into their garments. But for someone who is new to electronics, it can be confusing to know where to start. For the absolute beginner, here’s a primer demystifying using LED lighting for wearable tech.
Currents in LEDs only go one direction, from the positive to the negative. This is important to remember when working with LEDs, since LEDs with wires in the wrong direction won’t work.
Two pin LEDs come in a variety of sizes and colors. They are relatively inexpensive to purchase, and therefore a great starting point for beginners.
What I Use:
Some LEDs have more than two pins. These are multicolored RGB LEDs, or addressable LEDs. These LEDs can be controlled for a variety of functions, including lighting up and changing colors in a pattern or sequence written in code, or responding to sensors.
RGB (red green blue) LEDs have three pins powering the red, green, and blue elements The fourth pin is a return pin. Addressable LEDs have a “data in” pin, a “data out” pin, a ground pin, and a power pin. Both of these LEDs gather data from a signal that determines the brightness and color of the LED.
Most MakeFashion projects use addressable LEDs. If you’re just learning to work with electronics, I’d recommend learning with basic two-pin LEDs before moving to the more advanced ones.
Strip LEDs: Lights on a Roll
LED strips can also be used in wearables. These are convenient to work with since they are already wired together and can be cut into the length you need for your project. The lights on analog LED strips all act as one, and digital strips allow each LED to be addressed individually.
In wearables, use these when you want the effect of a strip or grid of dense lighting.