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Adding Lights to Projects

Adding Lights to Projects main article image
Posted on October 14, 2021 by Natalie Ballard

Adding lights to projects can really brighten them up (pun intended) and it’s a great technique to use in winter crafting; whether you are crafting for Halloween, autumnal décor, and of course all the special projects for Christmas and New Year’s.

There are three types of lights you will want to use in projects: tealights (as in battery operated, LED ones), light strings (LED on wires rather than cables) and LED strips (these usually require a little soldering). Each one has a different purpose and usage ideas, along with limitations.

The Tealight

Tealights are great for larger projects such as tealight holders, jars, 3D projects like Christmas villages, pumpkins, etc. You need to include your tealight as part of your design process to ensure it not only fits, but also stays inside your project while having access to the switch.

Tealight holder

This project is made up of two main die cuts from Studiolight dies, but you could use any basic shape where you can add a simple scoreline to form the base. To include the light, you have to build a little tray into which your candle sits, and also punch a hole to line up with the switch.

You can do this with a simple strip of card scored in 3 so it can be folded into an L profile. Then, fold it into a square and snip inside each corner in a v shape so you get nice internal, mitred corners.

You then need some way of allowing the light to transmit through your project. In the above example, we used an aperture which then had a piece of pearlescent parchment inserted. You could also use pattern background dies, acetate, vellum, tissue or crepe paper. For longer lasting projects, you could use voile, tulle, net or even lace.

Another option is to build the project around your tealight so the project slides over the top of a lit tealight.

Tealight Tree

This project uses a combination of a reflective interior and punched holes to spread light throughout the project. It is useful to learn to do this whenever we need light to stretch in a project.

Decorative Tealights

However, if measuring and constructing just isn’t your thing (it’s not everyone’s cup of tea), then let’s keep it simple. This project is ideal for pretty tealights such as glitter covered ones.

Grab yourself a nice jar (a great upcycle project) and some fake snow. Fill a third (or a good layer if the jar is particularly large) of your jar with the fake snow, and pop in your tealights. OPTIONAL: you can also add 3D embellishments like mini Christmas trees.

This project can be a great base for vinyl designs or add pearlescent lametta scrunched up to fill the jar with light.

LED Jar with filling and vinyl decal

Light Strings

Light strings are fabulous for larger projects for diffuse light or smaller projects where you need a vivid, bright pop of light.

Multi coloured lights in a black & white project

String lights suit non-linear shapes and projects that have some movement or “give” in them such as gift bags. You can also use them to create a spot of randomness to your project by filling an area with a string. They are also available in lots of different colours, so match the light colour to your project. Warm whites look great with all white layered projects as well as winter “warm” projects (candle effects etc.). Cool whites look great with silver and blue based projects. Pastels look stunning in black and white projects (as in the sample above) but also with pastel toned projects or purples/pinks. Traditional multi-colours will go with traditional Christmas and gold based projects.

You want to consider the battery pack for these lights in your design process. You can create a pouch to slot the pack into and then punch a hole to feed the lights through; and/or, you could add a false back and punch holes to feed individual lights through so you can control the light placement.

Book nook design featuring LED wire string wrapped around a substrate of foam board

In more linear shape projects, you can use a substrate, such as foam board in the example above), to wrap your light string around. You need to make sure the bulbs lie in the centre of the aperture in this case. The wires will help hold the lights where you place them. You can then use an additional piece of foamboard as a buffer before adding a translucent background piece to diffuse the light through. This will give your project a halo of light around the outside of the focal area.

LED Strips

LED strips are for more advanced crafters and makers, they do need a little practice and a little soldering. You need a LED strip roll (cut at the dotted lines to fit your project), a controller (to control the colour in RGB strips) and a power source (can be mains or battery run).

LED frames

They are suitable for solid projects: MDF kits, box frames and pre-built boxes. This is due to them needing to adhere to a flat surface. With some strips you may also wish to strengthen this bond by adding red liner tape for better adhesion to your surface.

Most box frames allow for a cable entry, so then you need to decide whether to place your controlled inside or outside of the frame. For most projects, the controller can go inside, but always test the remote before making permanent decisions.

LED strips come in two main types: white and RGB. RGB can be changed to a range of different colours and are usually remote-controlled. You can now get advanced packs with Bluetooth and Alexa-based controllers too which may be more suitable for larger home décor projects.

Typically, the strip will either be applied singly around the inside of a box frame or in strips across a back plate. Two controllers will be needed for two colour designs and so forth. They are much more restrictive to work with than strings, but make up for this in longevity and power options.

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1 Comment
Nunzio Mancuso

November 11, 2023

this is brilliant

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