Electroluminescent (EL) wire is exactly what it sounds like – wire that glows when you put power to it. Fortunately, it’s also very easy to work with, and could probably help with those high-tech costumes out there.

I purchased my EL wire and most of the other parts for this from CooLight, an online store which sells EL wire, kits, inverters, and other parts that you might find handy.

Step 1: Setup

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For a basic, portable EL wire setup, you’ll need the following:

Step 2: Stripping

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Personally, I like the auto-adjusting wire stripper I bought from Radio Shack – it makes it very easy to strip the outer casing from the wire..

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.. as well as the inner casing, to get at the core wire and outer wires

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It’s hard to see from these pictures, but EL wire has four parts – Outer casing (thick plastic), inner casing (plastic, covers wires), a pair of outer wires (very thin), and an inner, core wire (thicker, coated by phosphorescent paper).

When stripping the inner casing, be careful not to tear off the outer wires – they are extremely thin, and easy to break. Experiment on spare wire before working on your actual project.

Step 3: Soldering

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Soldering the wires is very straightforward – hook the inputs for your inverter to the battery tab, then one output hooks to the core of the EL wire, while the other output should be soldered to both outer wires. Since they are so small, you might want to experiment here a few times, too.

Step 4: .. Done

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And yes, that’s it. Plug your battery in, and see the wire light up nicely. One great feature about EL wire is that you can trim it down – just cut off as much as you want from the free end, like here where I trimmed off about half the wire:

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Notice that the shorter wire is also brighter, since the same current is still flowing through half the previous length.

Unfortunately, EL wire doesn’t show up that well in bright rooms where people use flashes on their cameras:

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Still, in person, even in brightly lit rooms, the wire is obviously glowing, and it looks really great in the dark.