Build A Pro Quality Light Source With This Awesome DIY LED Light Panel Tutorial

Sep 10, 2014

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer based in Hawi, Hawaii. You can follow her Twitter here and her personal life here.

Build A Pro Quality Light Source With This Awesome DIY LED Light Panel Tutorial

Sep 10, 2014

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer based in Hawi, Hawaii. You can follow her Twitter here and her personal life here.

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LED light panels are great tools to have in your studio regardless of whether your a working with video or still photography. The continuous light sources come in a variety of sizes, but the nice ones also come at a price that may not agree with everyone’s budget. In this exceptionally well made video tutorial from the nice folks over at DIY Perks, you can learn how to make your own $500 dollar panel for under $70.

Before we get started, we should probably let you know this isn’t exactly the easiest or fastest project we’ve featured. It’s also not the most difficult, but you’ll need to be comfortable with power tools and know how to (or learn how to) work a soldering iron. If you’re willing to put in the time, the end product could save you some serious dough and also boost your DIY cred to all new heights.

Why This Panel Rocks

As far as LED light panels are concerned, this one is a pretty legit DIY project. It has a lot of features to it that make it a highly usable and reliable light source that will help you create some great images. Let’s take a closer look at a few key points:

  • It’s bright. Combined, the 900 individual LED lights put off an amount of light that is equivalent to that of a 1000w incandescent light bulb or 22 45-watt CFLs. In most cases, that’s brighter than you will need from a single continuous light source. That’s not to say you should worry about it being too bright…
  • This light panel is dimmable, too, so you can adjust it up or down to dial in on how much light it emits. The schematics used in the video tutorial also plan out an access slot so you can easily add gel filters to help stop down the light or alter the color balance.
  • The voltage based dimming system (as opposed to a PWM dimming system that is sometimes used on LED lights)  is especially beneficial when you realize that it virtually eliminates flickering in the lights, which create unsightly strobing lines in video footage. Voltage based dimming also opens up the door as to what kind of power sources you can use to run the light panel. Have an old computer laying around? You could harvest its power supply and use it.
  • And, there’s also this:


What You’ll Need


So, without further ado…

Here’s how it’s done:

YouTube video

[ via FilmmakerIQ ]

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Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer based in Hawi, Hawaii. You can follow her Twitter here and her personal life here.

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33 responses to “Build A Pro Quality Light Source With This Awesome DIY LED Light Panel Tutorial”

  1. Ken Mossman Avatar
    Ken Mossman

    it seems the voltage regulator is missing from your parts list – do you have a link for it?

    1. Tiffany Mueller Avatar
      Tiffany Mueller

      Sorry about that, Ken! Here is a link to the regulators on eBay (didn’t see them on Amazon), which according to DIY Perks is a reliable source…

  2. Ken Mossman Avatar
    Ken Mossman

    I can’t see the video …………was wondering the purpose of the magnet wire?

    1. udi tirosh Avatar
      udi tirosh

      He uses it to cleverly connect the heavy gouge wire to all the small strips without having to strip each wire which could be hell if you have lots of strips.

  3. Norman Fox Avatar
    Norman Fox

    Great article and video but you lost me at “Heres what you’ll need”…damn.

    1. Tiffany Mueller Avatar
      Tiffany Mueller

      lol, it can be a little overwhelming ;)

    2. thebeline Avatar

      I mean, besides all of the support materials, the actual stuff needed to make this is pretty straight forward. I have been using LED strips for years for bike mods, never thought to use them to make a panel, though. I usually just use a CN-160. But this is pretty smart, and (even though it looks daunting) really easy.

      It just amounts to: Get spool of LED lights, cut to lengths, solder together, stick to something flat, power. Maybe defuse. Maybe put on stand.

      Certainly going to try this. Actually, I cant believe I never thought to try this, you could make huge softboxes, product photo boxes, strip lights, ring lights… Jeez…


  4. Aphoid Avatar

    What about using a 1/4-20 T-nut instead of hacking apart a hotshoe adapter?


    1. Trevor Dennis Avatar
      Trevor Dennis

      Interesting idea. Attaching the unit to a light stand is something I have been thinking about — I just don’t think a single 1/4″ tripod thread is up to the job. I’d rather use light stands than a tripod, so you’d need a tilting head. Perhaps a umbrella/hot shoe adapter?

  5. pixelmixture Avatar

    sticking the led ribbon to the wood is a bad idea … heat dissipation is essential to preserve life expectancy of the led …. you should stick them on a metal dissipator

    1. OliviH Avatar

      As dissipator, use a hand screeding aluminium bar. In France for 2 meters below the cost is 10 €.
      You just have to cut it to the desired size of your panel and assemble the pieces. It really works very well and so it extends the life of your LEDs

  6. Brian Bledsoe Avatar
    Brian Bledsoe

    This is great! Just wish DIY had a way to login and bookmark/favorite all these projects so I could keep them organized.

    1. Asoftouch Softouch Avatar
      Asoftouch Softouch

      you can. sign up with and wahla

  7. Michele Lorenzini Avatar
    Michele Lorenzini

    How do you calculate the overall light output?
    You say it’s equivalent to a 1000w incandescent light bulb, but in terms of Lumen?
    The led strip you have in the list is composed of 60 3528 SMD LED, which I found has 8 lm each so the total is 480 lm, is it right?
    I used some COB LED modules for a similar diy project, a single 12W COB has an output of 1040 lm, costs less than 20$ and is just 66mm x 23mm, and requires much less work to be done.
    Anyway, congrats for the video tutorial, I found your building of the structure very intresting.

    1. Christine Avatar

      It sounds like you invested time into researching a more accurate standard of measurement (lumens) and easier assembly. Do you have a similar tutorial or materials list you can post or link to?

      1. Michele Lorenzini Avatar
        Michele Lorenzini

        Lumen is the IS standard unit for measuring light.

        It’s more accurate than referring to power comsumption (watts) because the ratio of power absorbed and emitted light depends on the technology used to build the light bulb

    2. Pls Avatar

      You did wrong a calc.

      There are 900 leds. 8 lm each one * 900 = 7200 lm.

      And the SMD LED offers a better light and chromatic reproduction than the COB LED. So SMD is better for photography and video.

      1. The Guy Avatar
        The Guy

        The panel is actually closer to 20,000 lumens because it uses 5050 strips ;)

        1. Michele Lorenzini Avatar
          Michele Lorenzini

          Sorry, I used the wrong link for the leds and also did som wrong calc for the meters. 20K lm is a lot of light :-)

        2. Pls Avatar

          Wow thats true. So much power!

    3. The Guy Avatar
      The Guy

      The author of this article has linked to the wrong LEDs (presumably it’s an affiliate link). You need to make sure you buy the “5050 Neutral White (4500k) Waterproof” LEDs (a link to which is in the video’s own description if you can’t find any elsewhere). They have good red rendition (perfect for skin tones) and are daylight balanced. Each LED has a lumen output of 16-22 lumens so the whole panel should be in the region of

      14,400-19,800 lumens. That’s almost 20,000 lumens for $70.

      1. Trevor Dennis Avatar
        Trevor Dennis

        You beat me to it. I first saw the video from PetaPixel, and was totally inspired to have a go. I already own a pair or 500LED proprietary panels that cost me NZ$500 each. My problem was sourcing the LEDs at a reasonable price, but I discovered that our version of eBay (TradeMe) does them. After a good look round I took the plunge and ordered two x 5M 3528 600LED strips, only to discover that the SMD 5050 are a lot more powerful.

        But what I am wondering is if the twice as dense spacing of the 3528 LEDs makes up for the difference in output? I believe the strips are narrower as well, so you get slightly more than twice as many 3528 LEDs for a given panel size, (maybe one extra strip).

        Anyway, the strips in the above video look like SMD 5050 to me.

  8. Nicole Reinke Avatar
    Nicole Reinke

    Hello there,

    great idea ! ) Thanks for sharing.
    Could someone pls help me to find the right LED´s in germany. From amazon or Ebay germany or something else ?
    There are so many different LEd types. I am afr5aif of chosing not the right ones :)

    Thank you for helping!

    1. The Guy Avatar
      The Guy

      I suggest purchasing the ones linked to in the video’s description (NOT the amazon link in this article). They’re the only ones which have a daylight color temperature and good red rendition (which is essential for good skin tones). The seller ships worldwide so you shouldn’t have a problem getting them in Germany (so long as you don’t mind waiting for 2 weeks).

  9. Sergio Gonzales Avatar
    Sergio Gonzales

    I’m wondering how does 100W voltage regulator live powering ~220W led strip? Or your actual project didn’t use 5050 leds?

  10. Gene Avatar

    Can someone explain how these two statements go together: “The voltage can be anywhere from 12V to 30V” and “Power source has to be capable of delivering at least 100V”?

  11. Christopher Seto Avatar
    Christopher Seto

    Hi, I tried the link for the LED strips but I they won’t deliver to my country. I’ve looked around for similar LEDS and found this link. Will these do?

    1. Forget it Avatar
      Forget it

      The ones you found on eBay look like rope lights which wouldn’t be ideal. You can try aliexpress where a lot of options are available including these:
      Depending what you’re comfortable with you could purchase any array of wattage and even up to 20,000 kelvin if you want an insanely bright light and use color gels to adjust from there. Some options require soldering and would need some form of heatsink and potentially a cooling fan of you built yourself a high end light panel. Aluminum plate as suggested by another is a good option. You could use a heatsink glue to adhere them.

  12. Kyle Avatar

    Anybody have an idea how many amps this set up would put out?

    1. Patrick Patterson Avatar
      Patrick Patterson

      The formula for Amps is Watts divided by Volts.

  13. Tim Foster Avatar
    Tim Foster

    Why is there no discussion of color accuracy? A “typical lightbulb” has a CRI of 100, despite your poorly color balanced graphic. Also, 22 45W CFLs put out light equivalent to 4,000W of tungsten.

  14. Richard Avatar

    What if you want to double the LED’s and make it twice as powerful. Do you use the same material and buy twice as many LED’s? Also, I have a TV that doesn’t work, can I use the casing to make my box?

    1. Forget it Avatar
      Forget it

      Essentially yes you could double the application and double the output.