How to work with EL wire

As you can see, [Phillip Torrone] has a nice start on his Tron costume for the movie premiere. Electroluminescent wire is what makes these costumes glow and if you’ve never worked with the stuff before you’re in for a treat. Adafruit posted a tutorial explaining how to work with EL wire. The process isn’t hard, but they’ve got a few nice tips, like using copper tape as a platform for soldering the corona wires. There is also a discussion of the math involved with properly powering your setup.

In this case, Adafruit is using ready-made power inverter units. If you’ve interested in hacking together your own inverter take a look at the background information from [Jeri Ellsworth].


  1. asd says:

    is he the son of the tron guy?!? XD

  2. jarza says:

    He looks like Tom Cruise on that picture..

  3. McSquid says:

    Wow yea he does….
    I should have done a tron costume.

  4. strider_mt2k says:

    EL wire -Si!

  5. Ekaj says:

    Damn, wish I had enough disposable time to do stuff like this :/

  6. anon says:

    Does anyone know what inverter they’re using to drive the EL wire?

  7. Bill Nye says:

    Its his electric personality… he just sticks the other end of the wire up his ass and away it glows!

  8. Zmaster says:

    Man, i was thinking about a Tron costume just yesterday evening. After the Ironman mini Arc Reactor which i didn’t make it would be a nice thing to build.
    But i’m not exhibitionist enough to wear it :)

  9. Faelenor says:

    Oh, just too late for the office Christmas party. That would have rocked!

  10. h3llphyre says:

    I wish all of these tutorials wouldn’t gloss over the difficulty in removing the PVC insulation, without cutting the corona wires off.

    The trick I found, was to use an exacto knife to cut the insulation in the gaps between the two corona wires. Then, carefully try to strip it away with wire strippers. If you just try to cut and strip with wire strippers, 9 times out of 10, the corona wires will break off.

    To add to that, I cannot stress enough how important the copper tape is. The corona wires are so fine, that any stress induced by the power wire, will snap them. The costume I built ended up having to be disassembled twice, to restrip and reconnect the power leads, because the corona wires snapped.

  11. Volkemon says:

    @Ekaj- How does one get all that ‘disposable time’ to play with stuff?

    “September 5th, 2004, [Phillip Torrone] posts the very first article on a new site called He designed our logo, forged our identity, and then moved on to help shape many other hacker friendly groups including Make magazine, and Adafruit technologies.”

    Take 6 years, work your butt off, then you *might* have that opportunity. Or do what I do- sleep less ;)

  12. yetihehe says:

    Sleeping less is not always a good solution. I started to sleep less, but now I’m just procrastinating longer ;)

  13. Grovenstien says:

    Theres loads of places on the web that sell this stuff, DC-AC inverters different types/colours of wire etc. Check out the simple suits i made in this vid of Aeon festival 2009
    Also you can see if you bend this stuff to much the corona wire breaks!

  14. Erik Johnson says:

    I’d rater use EL strips/tape/panel than wire for more authentic Tron looks. EL wire is too thin and overplayed now :(

  15. t&p says:

    if you do this…
    don’t spill anything on yourself when you get drunk at the party!

  16. You know, other than obvious geek cred (Really looking forward to next halloween!) this can actually be of use to bicyclist / motocyclists.

    Then again, so would be a jet wall :)

  17. mike robison says:

    I have 3 feet of blue el wire. I only need about a foot of it. Is it OK to cut it to length ? If so would either piece be uaeable?

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