Glowing Eyes Costume

Twin Jawas! Double Orko! Two ghost wizards from Bubble-Bobble! This costume hood can be any LED-eyed creature you choose just by changing the colors. I first made this project in 2015 with a very simple circuit and code, but this year I wanted to create an upgraded version with simultaneous animation control across two costumes. This circuit uses one simple, close-range RF remote to control two receivers on the same frequency, and Arduino code employing interrupts to achieve responsive animation changes, based on Bill Earl’s tutorial code.

For this project, you will need:

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Before you begin, you may want to read up on the following prerequisites:

Circuit Diagram and Code

The circuit connections are as follows:

  • Gemma D2 to wireless receiver D0
  • Gemma D0 to wireless receiver D1
  • Gemma 3V to wireless receiver +5V
  • Gemma GND to wireless receiver GND and NeoPixel jewels GND
  • Gemma D1 to NeoPixel jewel data IN
  • Gemma Vout to NeoPixel jewels PWR
  • NeoPixel jewel data OUT to other NeoPixel Jewel data IN

See next step for assembly notes.

Code is based on Multi-tasking the Arduino sketch by Bill Earl and modified to control two NeoPixel jewels with two digital inputs. So you don’t have to use the wireless receiver– you could use buttons on the circuit itself instead. Download this Arduino code file from this step’s attachments, or copy and paste from here into an empty Arduino sketch:

Assemble Circuit

A set of helping third hands grippers can make the process of soldering wires to components very straightforward and fun. But don’t worry if you don’t have a set; you can always use some tape or poster putty to keep your board steady while you solder.

Use thin pieces of stranded wire (about 6in/15cmin length) for the connections between the two NeoPixel jewels (diagram in previous step). If you use wires that are too short, you won’t be able to place your LED eyes far enough apart, and if you use too much wire, the slack will get in your face while you’re wearing the costume.

The main circuit will live in the lapel area (where your chest meets your shoulder), so for the connections between the first NeoPixel jewel in the chain and the Gemma, the wires will be much longer. You can hold the wire up to your eye area and draw it out to measure the distance the wire should travel, then add a bit more for slack and insurance.

To connect between the Gemma and wireless receiver, I chose to use prototyping wires with female headers, since the wireless receiver already has header pins attached.

Battery Power

To power the circuit, I used a 500mAh lipoly battery. If using a lipoly battery, it’s wise to protect it from scratches, punctures, abrasions, bending, and other abuse. You could wrap it in some sturdy fabric tape, or make a 3D printed holder for it.

You could easily use a 3xAAA holder instead (carry it in your pocket instead of inside the lapel).

Sewing Pattern & Cutting Fabric

I used the same pattern I created for the first version of this costume, which is a multi-page PDF that tiles together to create the pattern pieces.

Fold your fabric, aligning selvage edges to align fabric grain, and place/pin pattern pieces along fold as marked. Trace a seam allowance outside the pattern pieces (except the fold) of about 5/8in/3cm using a marking chalk or pencil. Since my fabric was thin, I wanted to double it up, and since I made two hoods, I ended up cutting four of each pattern piece in the main fabric, then another layer in gauzy cheesecloth to add texture to the outside, and ultimately a layer of black fabric as a liner to block the light coming in. I think if I had planned ahead for that, I could have dropped one of the initial white layers and the hoods would have consisted of only three layers each instead of four.

Assemble Fabric Pieces

Pin and sew darts/shoulder seams on each pattern piece, then align hood and cape pieces along neck seam with right sides together. Stitch the seam, as well as a seam straight across the top of the hood.

Try on the hood. Fold over and pin the raw front edge of the hood and stitch it down to create a neat edge as well as a channel for a wire to go through.

Next, cut a roundish piece of sheer black fabric to cover the front of the hood. This is what will support the circuit and hide your face. Pin it in place while wearing the hood for best fit, then hand or machine sew it to the hood opening.

Install Circuit in Hood

I put the hood on, turned the circuit on, and used a mirror to suss out the best location for the LEDs. Then I used pins to mark the locations and carefully stitched using black thread, attaching the mounting holes on the NeoPixel jewels to the sheer black front panel. Mine sit just below my real eyes, which makes it easy to see past them.

Rinse and repeat if you’re making a second hood.

Wear It!

These are so much fun to wear. It’s easy to see out, and not easy for others to see your face. The whole thing is pretty comfortable too, thanks to the oversize hood and wire frame, which keeps the front fabric from draping on your face.

My boyfriend and I wore these to DJ my hackerspace’s Halloween party this year, and while I could see the interface for the laser projector software, he couldn’t quite make out the tiny text in abelton, so we had to adapt his to have a better view. I removed the black fabric panel from the top bit of the hood, and folded over the excess. In a dark room, you couldn’t really tell the difference between the two, though you can see it in the photo of us together above.

Thanks for reading! If you like this project, you may be interested in some of my others:

To keep up with what I’m working on, follow me on YouTubeInstagramTwitter, and Pinterest, and subscribe to my newsletter.

Also posted on Instructables.

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