Making illuminated costume items for late-night Pokémon hunting
Like many of you out there, I'm addicted to playing Pokémon Go in my free time. Evening Pokémon strolls are a great time to stay out of the heat of the sun, catch some ghost types, and model some light-up accessories to keep safe (and not-so-subtly announce your team alliances).
After working almost exclusively with LEDs for the last few months, I decided to switch gears and explore some EL projects for my Pokémon Go lighting needs. After seeing this animation on Reddit, I immediately thought "Ooh I've got to do this with EL wire!"
It would take a lot of wire and patience, but the Mystic logo has rounded edges that would cooperate with the limitations of EL Wire. However, I really wanted to make an example per team, and Valor would be near impossible to replicate with EL Wire on a small (wearable) scale.
The straight lines of Instinct's logo would be a little easier, but those sharp corners are tricky business with EL Wire.
Finally, after some consideration, I decided on backlit logos with EL panels. Not only would using panels save on construction time, they would be easy to implement into a variety of wearable projects, and would make a good addition to our wearables tutorial collection.
But wait - we only have white, red, and blue panels in the catalog! To represent each team, I'd need a yellow panel too. And why not a Poké Ball for the unaligned players? Here was another opportunity for a tutorial - how to create custom color EL panels by using lighting gels/colored plastic/or fabric layers.
After gathering up an assortment of costume items and accessories, I got to work creating fabric patches of each team's logo using iron-on patch fabric and our office laser cutter.
The process was surprisingly easy: Find vector artwork of the design, cut a stencil, and then iron on to the EL panel. I was initially worried about the panels melting, but a craft iron and some patience produced good results. If ironing onto plastic makes you nervous, creating a stencil pocket or glue would also work.
After spending the weekend creating a bunch of examples, I gathered up a crew of models and did a photo and video shoot showcasing the projects. We even managed to round up a Professor Willow at the last minute.
If you'd like to try making your own EL patches, here's the tutorial with more detail on the building and planning process:
And of course, some action shots of the final EL items I made:
This stencil technique would also work with Fiber Optic Fabric for a more subtle lighting effect. Skip the ironing step though; the fibers may melt. A Valor logo stencil over a fiber optic panel lit with a red LED would make for an interesting glowing embers effect. The fiber optic panel is subtle though, so use a super bright LED for the best results.
My initial idea for an EL wire Mystic logo jacket is still on my build list, so stay tuned for a future post about that project. Chasing EL wire would be a cool way to display simplified logos or team colors with some flare.
Here are some additional EL resources to help inspire future projects or as added features to the EL panel projects: