Stickman costume /w LED pixel strips

In some way, it’s more that I’m dressing up as my house for halloween and that it just looks like a stick man… but more on that another time… i digress…

DIY stickman made with LED pixel strips!  Yay!

I had a roll of LED pixel strip left over from Christmas last year and have been looking for a use for it lately.  It’s a rather expensive bit of kit to cut up into pieces and use for something like this but it was left over anyway.  And turns out I mis-judged lengths (and made a few mistakes) and had to order another roll.  But crap, I couldn’t just buy the same expensive one so I got a cheaper one…but double crap… it turned out to have RGB in a different order (at full green or full blue the light up as opposites.  luckily red was the same) and they’re half as populated (30 LEDs per meter, instead of 60) so…I just had to put my perfectionism on hold…it’s just a costume!

Anyway, you can use just about any type of pixels strips to make this work I’ll just note here what I used and what I found handy.  Your mileage will definitely vary.


Arduino – I used a uno but any will work. (sparkfun)

(1) Pixel LED RGB Strip 60 LEDs/m 60 Pixels/m Waterproof Tube (16ft-6in/5 meter Roll) – 12v / INK1003 (WS2811 clone) (holidaycoro)
(2) Pixel RGB LED Strip 30 LEDs/m 10 Pixels/m Waterproof Tube (16ft-6in/5 meter Roll) – 12v / 2811 / BLACK PCB (holidaycoro)

(1) Some sort of small button (sparkfun)
(2) Fun “gameshow-like” button found on Ebay (ebay)

(1) USB for Arduino (Anker)
(2) 12v battery pack for lights (Amazon)

Odds n Ends:
Electrolytic Decoupling Capacitors – 1000uF/25V (sparkfun)
Solder Shrink Sleeves Wire Splices / 18 – 22 AWG Wire / Red (holidaycoro)
3pin Connector Male Female Cable Wire for WS2811 WS2812B LED Strip 10pcs (Vozop)
Saftey pins…lots and lots…
~ 9″ hoop thingy from a hobby store

LED Strips
These lights are “smart” leds, meaning every single light is individually addressable in huge variations of red green and blue to produce….I don’t even many colors.  They are quite fun.   For this I’m not doing any fancy animations, just solid colors.  You could do this REALLY cheap when using just dumb single color LEDs, but what fun would that be…..!

The battery pack I used was nice because it already had the right size barrel plug on it for quick disconnecting and swapping.  I had wanted to use a rechargeable battery pack similar to the ones Anker makes but with a barrel plug on it that goes up to 12v but it didn’t have enough amperage.

LED strips come in either 6v and 12v. Also, some are 3 pin and 4 pin. Be sure you plan ahead all your parts.  Also, It’s best to separate the power for the Arduino from the strips for simplicity.  If you do it this way, be sure to connect the grounds together.

Also, to prevent the initial power surge from causing damage to the lights it’s best to wire in a capacitor, see that in the diagram.

Yeah I’m not a great circuit designer…..

Pretty simple.  You just need a 470k resistor in line of the data from pin 6.  I wanted two different buttons to control the lights, so I wired up the one I could hold in my hand, and if that failed for some reason I could still hit the button on the board.

Using some of the parts I linked to above, I created some diy splitters  to simplify the connections between strands.

I planned out the sections something like this:

The full code is here on github.  It’s really nothing special at all.   All it does is switch between a list of colors when the button is pressed.  I’m using the FastLED library with no animations, just solid colors.  Much could be improved here, but I just went for simplicity in this build.


I first thought it would be easier to use an off the shelf controller but the cheap $10 one I picked, while fun, was not ideal for this type of use.  But bonus, I learned the controller I got does indeed control pixels perfectly so I could use it for something else someday.


Would I would do different
If I was to do this again, I would use the cheap strips on black background for the whole thing for sure.  I got that second strip on sale for only $15!


Sources / Inspiration


RGB Stickman


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