Introduction: Super Bright Tunable Led Light Panels

Picture of Super Bright Tunable Led Light Panels

These super bright LED light panels are tunable, so they can go from about 3500 to 6000 kelvin. That means that you can create just the right color temperature you want for the specific setting and time of day. For this build I'm using MDF to create the panels and two different colored LED strips to provide the lighting as well as a few switches and PWM dimmers.

All the products used for this project are listed in the video description.

Step 1: MDF Boxes

Picture of MDF Boxes

I started with cutting up some MDF for these panels. I'm using mostly 1/4 inch or 6mm MDF, with a few pieces being 1/2 inch or 12 mm. I'm actually making three light panel boxes - one large and two smaller, as well as one control box.

Step 2: Assembling the Boxes

Picture of Assembling the Boxes

Next up I'm cutting up some aluminum here, and this is to attach to the MDF to act as a heatsink to distribute the heat from the LED strips. Once I had them cut to a good size, I stapled them to attach. Then it was simply a matter of assembling the boxes, and I'm just using glue and a pin nailer.

Step 3: Strip Lights

Picture of Strip Lights

Now for the lighting, I'm using two different types of strip lights, one cool 6000 Kelvin and one warm, 3500 kelvin. I'm cutting them up to the same length, and then I'm alternating the strips on the panel. So gluing on a cool strip next to a warm strip and so on. Just making sure I have all the positives lined up on one side etc....

Step 4: Soldering the Lights

Picture of Soldering the Lights

Once I had all the lights attached began the task of soldering them together.

So I soldered all the cool strips together and then all the warm strips together. This is pretty time consuming, because each needs a positive and a negative, so there was quite a lot of soldering to do.

Step 5: Painting

Picture of Painting

I also connected the two smaller light boxes to a piece of scrap plywood, that way I can later attach both of them to the ceiling in one piece.

And I painted everything white.

Step 6: Acrylic Panels

Picture of Acrylic Panels

Next up I connected the two light boxes with wire, and I'm hiding the wire on the other side so you won't see it once it's up in the ceiling.

I didn't want to be looking directly at the strip lights. So I'm cutting up some acrylic panels here. I'm cutting up three pieces, two small and one large. And this material cuts really well on the table saw and the miter saw. Then I took off the protective plastic and sprayed some frosted spray paint to diffuse the lights. And here's the idea. I was thinking I could connect it with some brackets, held by pressure, just screwed to the MDF, not the panels, so you can slide them in and out.

Step 7: Attaching the Fixtures

Picture of Attaching the Fixtures

Putting up the larger unit, and I'm just screwing that in, before putting on the cover. .

Step 8: The Electronics

Picture of The Electronics

So the idea here is that I have two fixtures - one over the tool wall, fixture A, and one over the bench, fixture B. Each have two colors that can vary warm and cool. I want to independently be able to control either fixture on or off, cause sometimes I might want the bench light on but not the back light etc.

Step 9:

Picture of

So I have the two light fixtures, a power source, two switches - one to control each lighting fixture, and I have two PWM dimmers, one will control all the warmer lights, and one will control all the cooler lights. This is how they're all connected - and these are all positive wires. Then the negatives wires are the black ones in the last picture.

Step 10: Control Board

Picture of Control Board

Here are the MDF control box pieces.

Once I had tried the concept out on a test board, I drilled some holes in the MDF, and this is where the various switches and knobs will attach to.

Then I connected the control board unit underneath the cabinet, and then I put on the bottom, also tested out the front.

Step 11: Adding the Lighting Wires

Picture of Adding the Lighting Wires

When I knew that worked, I went back to the electronics. I connected the knobs and switches to the front board and put everything together.

Then I brought the wires from the lighting fixtures together, trying to keep them neat here with some cable organizers, so down the wall and into the box. Also doing the same with the smaller panels, keeping the wires together neatly on the beam.

Step 12: Final Assembly

Picture of Final Assembly

OK, so now I have all the electronics connected on the front piece here and I'm connecting the incoming wires from the lights to the board, and for power I'm using a 10 amp, 12 volt power brick which I special ordered for this project.

The complicated part here is the dimmers each effect the colors of the ligths, but the switches control the fixture. So that means you have to independently switch the colors to each fixture. That requires a switch that can switch more than one line independently.

Step 13: Conclusion - Watch the Video

For a much better perspective, make sure to watch the video that goes over all the different steps and the final result.


Wingloader (author)2018-01-10

Sorry to be late to the game in posting comments here, but a roll of aluminum roof flashing is pretty cheap in box stores if you need to get aluminum sheeting. You will have to use more than one strip for the box but it does the job.

Tzubaka (author)2017-04-04

why does she used 2 different PVM?

AndrewL32 (author)Tzubaka2017-12-26

So that she can adjust the brightness of either the warm lights or cool lights. This way you get a better mix for different applications. For fine work like electronics you will want a bright cool light in order to read components.

Nikiniku (author)2017-12-26

Why the gas mask?

XTL (author)Nikiniku2017-12-26

Its a dust mask. The MDF dust is not so good for you. But a dust mask like this is good practise.

WPRichards (author)2017-03-26

Any chance you can show me how to make a fantastic, spacious workshop like yours, in a tiny house with no garage like mine?

jimvandamme (author)WPRichards2017-04-01

Buy a used TARDIS.

gunie (author)jimvandamme2017-12-26

=) Nice,

I can even go back in time when I messed up =)

jimvandamme (author)jimvandamme2017-04-02

Best I could come up with on April 1.

WPRichards (author)jimvandamme2017-04-01

I haven't got the 'space' for one...or the 'time' to make one! Thanks for the very helpful suggestion though!

drj62783 (author)WPRichards2017-03-26

do you have a yard with space

WPRichards (author)drj627832017-03-27

I do, but it is also small. My question was only a joke, because I envy the space and equipment you have with which to work.

jimvandamme (author)2017-04-01

Putting a groove in the sidewalls would allow you to slide the diffuser in there so you don't have the brackets showing. Then attach the 4th wall and voila. Has to be precise, though.

rafununu (author)2017-03-23

Did you test this for a long time ? I think there's not enough surface for heatsink. I build such pannels, (but in constant current where strips have no resistors) some of them can go up to 80W and they do need a profile with a 3cm thickness ! Otherwise strips unstick from aluminium.

jimvandamme (author)rafununu2017-04-01

I'd leave the plywood backing off it, and let air circulate off the backside of the aluminum plate.

Bellteda (author)rafununu2017-03-26

I had this problem of the adhesive failing when I used LED strips on a re-purposed 4-foot fluorescent (metal) light fixture. I FIXED it, using strips of hot glue between the actual LEDs. BTW, I want to try this project. Seems like an excellent idea to use warm and cool LEDs to be able to tune the color temperature.

oscarvalz (author)2017-03-27

Does anyone knows the specs of the Potentiometers?? i want to build it right now, but i don know anything about the PWM

jimvandamme (author)oscarvalz2017-04-01

The LEDs run on 12 volts. To get a smooth dimming function, a PWM just chops the voltage going to the LEDs. They get variable width pulses of 12V instead of a varying DC voltage. The LEDs are non-linear and cut off around 7 volts, but the PWM is smooth down to a dim glow.

AlB53 (author)2017-03-28

Hello guys new here,,does anyone knows where i can get the parts material list? specially the electronic parts?

jimvandamme (author)AlB532017-04-01

You can get just about anything on eBay. Search for a 12 volt PWM dimmer.

I've used these in my kitchen, surface mount:

Same for the LED strips; get a 5 meter reel.

The power supply seems to be overkill....

uncle frogy (author)2017-03-27

I want to compliment you on your use of safety equipment. safety glasses ear muffs and a mask it seems all to easy for those outside of an industrial environment to over look some or all of normal safety concerns and thus take unnecessary risks to negative results.

work safe and do good work two things that should always go together!

uncle frogy

Oncer (author)uncle frogy2017-03-28

Ditto. MDF dust is a killer as well a the unpleasant chemicals it continues to exude. Seal it with something - paint or varnish. I had to get quite "forceful" with my son on one occasion when he told me he was planning building bedroom furniture for my granddaughter with MDF. NO NO NO!

goprouser1 (author)2017-03-27

instead of using the strips of LEDs,you can ,and i have done this ,albeit for other reasons,have the acrylic sheet bead blasted with fine glass ,then drill holes to fit LEDs to the edge,the light will diffuse through the entire sheet,alternately as in the vid ,blast the sheet as before but instal a strip of both colour temperature LED strips to either side of the acrylic sheet using separate controls to mix colour need about 8-10mm thick acrylic to do it well.this method is used to illuminate text etched on the surface of clear acrylic sheet to give a floating sign kind of look.

Nice vid and idea,being a n electronics designer i would make my own modulation driver,though china could probably supply one for the cost of a heat sink from radio shack(US) or maplin(UK).

marksstudio (author)2017-03-27

Excellent Instructable. Well done. I learned what is possible. Been searching for a way to convert my 4' and 8' fluorescents to LED, and you just showed me how. Thank you.

AlfieE2 (author)2017-03-27

A nice idea and execution. I wonder if a square aluminum cake pan would not simplify the process and produce a neater result. I would space the pan off the wood behind, and around the sides, to allow some air flow and help cooling. Another concern I have is with using wood the enclose the controls. The power components, wiring and electronics, even at low voltage, can fail, overheat and burn. A metal box would better contain that safely. A bit of inexpensive fusing could also help relieve any flame related anxiety.

starphire (author)2017-03-26

The design of the power system for multiple panels is clever, but
since it allows both colors of LED strips to be ON at the same time it
can eliminate any benefit from using the aluminum as a heatsink. To
function as a heatsink there must be an increase in cooling surface
area. When only one color is used, the alternating strips which are
turned off can radiate some heat from neighboring strips which are
turned on. But if both colors are on at the same time, there is only a
little bit of exposed aluminum at the edges of the panel, and metal this
thin does not allow heat to travel laterally very well. In this
situation, the copper in the LED strip is actually more efficient as a
heatsink than the aluminum sheet behind them.

If the whole
panel is enclosed in a fairly insulative material such as wood and
covered with acrylic, all of the heat from the LED assembly is somewhat
trapped inside the box. The strips will still work, but the risk of
early failures and a greatly reduced lifetime for the LEDs should be
expected. Some ventilation holes in the side of the box would go a long
way towards controlling the heat buildup in this design.

In sum,
if building a color tunable light box like this it should be noted that
prolonged use with both colors at high power will not be good for the
life of the LEDs, and modifications to increase ventilation or perhaps
some fresh air flow to the back of the aluminum panel would help ensure
long term reliability of the panel.

KolijahC (author)2017-03-26

I made something similar for my fishtank a couple years back. Only suggestion I can think of to add is that hardware stores carry black cord by the foot with several leads inside (i think mine had 10 or 12) that when properly grommeted to the fixture, makes a really slick and professional looking installation. Good work!

UncleEd (author)2017-03-26

Very nice project and quite useful. I am thinking this might be what I want over my workbench.


I regret that many of the recent instructables--not just yours, by any means--are putting much important information into video form. Video is a great way to show tool use and parts fabrication, plus assembly and how the final products are used. It also feels "modern" and "technical." However, it is less effective for transmitting information someone might want to copy, like a circuit hookup or a parts list. And last, It is a problem for people with slow Internet or limited data packages--much of the world--as well as for people like me with severe hearing loss.

It really helps if the important information is also given in the text.

Keep it up. Great instructable.

jameslutener (author)2017-03-26

How much heat do the LEDs generate, was the aluminium required?
If so what thickness did you use and was it sufficient.

captclearleft (author)2017-03-26

I love this! Great tutorial. cant't wait to make these. I also hope to one day put together tutorials as good as this one. Thanks, and great job!

Build_it_Bob (author)2017-03-26

Amazing as always. I feel bad that you have to work in such a cold environment.

Have you ever thought of closing in the outdoor work area?

Thanks again,


sjrw (author)2017-03-26

This looks like the basis for a good photographic studio lighting system. Great job well done; and a good video.

Treknology (author)2017-03-26

At first, I thought 'tunable' meant RGB.

I definitely like the
idea of mixing the two different grades of LED into the same fitting.
Given that there's a medical push to incorporate 660nm Infra Red into
artificial lighting for ophthalmic reasons, this is an excellent
foundation project.

How does it rate in Power vs Light compared to commercial versions?

bryan.reid.585 (author)2017-03-26

Very nice work....

Hakan KIRKAN (author)2017-03-24

Smart idea!

smartrem (author)2017-03-24

Gee, another excellent job. I wonder where you get all your ideas from!

About This Instructable



Bio: Hi I'm Linn and on my Youtube Channel I have lots of great videos about building, construction and fun projects. You can also check ... More »
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