LED art

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LED Based Sculpture in which LEDs are integrated within steel sculpture

LED Art is form of light art constructed from light-emitting diodes. Many artists that use LEDs are guerrilla artists, incorporating LEDs to produce temporary pieces in public places. LEDs are very inexpensive to purchase and have become a new way to make street art. LEDs are, among others, used in installation art, sculptural pieces and interactive artworks.

Infamous LED Art[edit]

In early 2007, there was a bomb scare in Boston, Massachusetts in the United States caused by a guerrilla marketing campaign. An advertising firm working for Turner Broadcasting System Inc. to promote Aqua Teen Hunger Force, one of the network's animated television shows, hired two artists to produce art for the ad campaign. The artists placed LED signs featuring a character known as a Mooninite in various locations across 10 cities. However, Boston was the only city that reacted by shutting down bridges and bringing in bomb squads to remove the LEDs. The majority of the light boards were removed and the artists were arrested.[1][2]

Artists incorporating LEDs[edit]

  • Jenny Holzer - One of the most well known artists who incorporates LEDs into her work. She uses familiar statements and reinterprets them to alter their meanings.[3]
  • Cell Phone Disco by Informationlab (Ursula Lavrenčič and Auke Touwslager) is an installation that uses the electromagnetic spectrum emitted by the viewer’s cell phone and creates a visual interpretation. The LEDs are attached to large grids and when a phone is activated in a section of the room, the lights turn on. They make the invisible environments around us visible.[4]
  • GreenPix – Zero Energy Media Wall – created as an environmentally friendly art space. It acts as a low resolution screen for artists to show their work.[5]
  • Liu Dao - an art collective in China that uses actors and filmmakers to make animated LED portraits. The group also combines traditional Chinese arts like papercutting with LEDs to highlight China's journey from tradition and modernity, and is directed by Thomas Charvériat to find originality through international collaboration.[6]
  • Titia Ex - an independent artist from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, achieved international acknowledgement for her installation 'Flower of the Universe' in which sensors and LED lights create a unique interactive play between visitor and object, resulting in a dynamic piece of art and space.[7]
  • Leo Villareal - his work combines LED lights and encoded computer programming to create illuminated displays.[8]
  • Jim Campbell - World renowned LED artist based in San Francisco. Jim's use of liminal imagery and custom LED electronics plays on our emotions and memories.
  • Craig Dorety - Picking up where Turrell and Irwin left off, he creates mind bending color effects through micro-controlled LEDs, math-based objects, and abstracted digital imagery.
  • Al Linke is a California based Maker who led a collaborative LED pixel art project called PIXEL. Pixel artists all over the world contributed 32x32 pixel art mainly in the form of animated gifs for the project. Al designed an LED display that allows the pixel art to be loaded on 1024 RGB LEDs from a smart phone or PC. More info on the project can be found at http://ledpixelart.com

LED throwies[edit]

LED throwies

An LED throwie is a small LED attached to a coin battery and a rare earth magnet (usually with conductive epoxy or electrical tape), used for the purpose of creating non-destructive graffiti and light displays. Artists use them by throwing individual LEDs onto metallic objects, like public sculpture or road infrastructure. By throwing LEDs onto an object, the object itself acts as a canvas. LED throwies were invented in 2006 by the artists Evan Roth and James Powderly the founder of Graffiti Research Lab[9] at Eyebeam Atelier open lab NYC. After Graffiti Research Lab posted the instructions how to make a throwie on Instructables[10] LED throwies went viral on the Internet and could be found in advertising, were for sale as DIY kits or further developed by other artists and hackers worldwide.


Animations of various Blinkies.

Blinkies are small electronic devices that make very bright light (usually flashing) using LEDs and small batteries. They are often sold by vendors at night-time events that have fireworks displays such as Independence Day, Canada Day, or Guy Fawkes Night. They are also popular at raves, New Year's Eve parties and night time sporting events.

There is no industry standard or official name for blinkies, but most common names use some combination of the terms flash, magnet, strobe, body, blink, light, and/or jewelry. Common examples are blinkies, blinkees, body lights, blinky body lights, mMagnetic flashers, or flashing jewelry.


Most often blinkies are used for amusement at raves, parties and night time events. But they can have other uses as well such as:

  • Blinkies imprinted with company logos at conventions.
  • Safety lights for children during Halloween, or night time events.
  • Fun and safety during camping trips.
  • Emergency flashers for disabled automobiles or lost hikers (most blinkies have over a 1 mile visibility range at night).
  • The term blinky is often used for bicycle lights which flash. In some countries, blinkies can be used as a primary light on a bicycle.
  • Blinkies also can be attached to mobiles (cell phones). When the mobile turns on, make a call, receive a call and during calls the blinky will keep flashing.
  • "Winky blinkies" can refer to stage and film props which display lighting effects, or "gags," during a dramatic production.[11]



A typical blinky is a small metal cylinder that has threads on one end and a very small etched circuit board on the other. The threaded end is open to accept small button cell batteries, and another cylinder that screws on to hold them in place. The circuit board can be round and inside the cylinder, or larger, shaped, and glued to the outside of the cylinder end. Common designs have a rubber gasket inside the front (between the batteries and circuit board). Tightening the base causes the gasket to flatten and allows the batteries to complete the circuit with the back of the circuit board.


The most common designs use a set of strong magnets, one at the back of the Body Light, and another that can be removed. This allows the body light to be easily attached to clothes, or stuck on any magnetic metal such as buttons or belt buckles. Clips are often used to make earrings, a loop can make a pendant, or a ring can be welded to the back to make a finger ring. Double sided adhesive pads are sometimes used to stick the blinky directly to the body, most often in the navel.

Circuit board[edit]

The circuit board typically has anywhere from 2 to as many as 25 micro-LEDs. LEDs that emit different colors within the visible spectrum are commonly used, whereas ultraviolet or infrared LEDs are less common in Blinkies. Blue, white, violet, and ultra-violet LEDs often require 2 or more battery cells, due to their higher voltage requirements. The visible side of the etched circuit board can be constructed to flash in a variety of ways, especially where there are multiple LEDs in multiple colours. A clear plastic conformal coating material such as silicone, acrylic or epoxy protects the fragile LEDs on the exposed front of the board. Shaped boards have literally hundreds of variations combined with imprinting. Common shapes (besides the classic small circle) are stars, hearts, flowers, flags, animals, holiday symbols (like Halloween jack-o-lanterns), and sports team logos.

See also[edit]

  • LED (Light Emitting Diode)


  1. ^ "Two held after ad campaign triggers Boston bomb scare - CNN.com". CNN. 
  2. ^ "Boston bomb scare - Cartoon Network devices - Turner ad campaign - Boston Globe". The Boston Globe. 2007-07-09. 
  3. ^ "Jenny Holzer | Art21". PBS. Retrieved 2012-10-06. 
  4. ^ "Cell Phone Disco". Cell Phone Disco. Retrieved 2012-10-06. 
  5. ^ McDermott, Mat (2008-06-26). "Big Solar LED Art in China: Interview with Simone Giostra, GreenPix Media Wall Architect". TreeHugger. Retrieved 2012-10-06. 
  6. ^ "The fantastic light at Louis Vuitton". The China Post. 2010-04-07. Retrieved 2012-10-06. 
  7. ^ mondo*arc - International magazine for architectural, detail and commercial lighting. "Flower of the Universe". Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  8. ^ Tan, Lumi. Biesenbach, Klaus, ed. Greater New York, P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, 2005, p338.
  9. ^ Graffiti Research Lab. "LED Throwies". Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  10. ^ Graffiti Research Lab. "LED Throwies". Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  11. ^ Thomas Vaccina. "Richard A. Coyle Interview". RACprops Issue 7. RACprops.com. Retrieved 2009-11-02. 

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