* Naked LEDs are the shirtcockers of light art
Don't embarrass yourself on the Playa. Your project will not look good with fully exposed LEDs (smiles).
Use fabric: I love to diffuse LED light with very thin shiny tissue lame. Thin fake fur works well. I shop for fabric holding a short piece of LED ribbon with a 9 volt battery.
Be creative. For instance, I put LED ribbon on the inside edge of my coat for indirect light.
For LED ribbon, a flexible diffuser can be cut from 1/2" bright white ETHA foam sheet. Because its polyethylene, glue wont stick, so you have to hand sew it. Also, 1/2" ETHA is hard to get; Canal Rubber has it. They have difficult store hours.
Ping pong balls are great for single LEDs. Just poke a hole in a ping pong ball with a soldering iron. Early versions of the Cubatron was all ping pong balls.
With Bruce's Electric Candy Couture, there are no naked LEDs ..... (smiles).
* Ready-To-Wear LEDs
Just answered a question about wearable LEDs. Let me share that with you all. The simplest options for wearing LEDs are:
1) Buy Floralyte II's (The I has no on/off, and III, submersible, is the wrong shape. These names are screwed up all over the web). A Floralyte is a minuscule flash light. Floralytes come in several colors. I once bought 100 violet Floralytes on the web for $100. Bruce uses them on his Electric Candy.
2) Fairylights ( make sure you get the cell battery -, not fat battery, version). These are tiny LEDs on a thin * vulnerable * wire: http://www.save-on-crafts.com/vinelyte1.html
3) Rice lights - strings of tiny battery operated Christmas lights. These have ugly wires.
Buy 1), 2) and 3) retail in the Flower District at B&J 103 W28 or Jamali on 149 W28 - not sure which one. Allow plenty of time as these are great crafting stores - dont miss their second floors. On the web Google for the best price, or from www.save-on-crafts.com
4) You can get $15 strings of rice lights hidden inside silver trim, only here: http://sixstarsales.org/cart/index.php… The white/silver version on a white outfit is sublime. Can be attached with a sewing machine. Hand stitches 1" apart really doesn't take that much time.
5) Glowby's - These are the small fiber optics for your hair or wherever. They cost $3 or so on the web. Glowby's cost $1 wholesale, but you have to buy 8 dozen: www.luminence.us Get together with a group. Most people use Glowby's and Floralytes as disposables. (Hate mail in comments below). You can buy replacement batteries on the web. I have been told some dollar stores carry them. Glowbys need 2 CR 1220 cells.
*LED ribbon for beginners
I'm going to discuss the easy stuff. This is mostly about single-color LED ribbon. I briefly discuss some programmable-color LED ribbon at the end.
When you see projects like the Disorient pyramid, the giant Kostume Kult sign or the Domestar, realize that they're made by computer professionals. Leo Villareal employs different specialists to make and program his work. Although I'm a light artist, I have a hard time understanding their explanations. Realize that there are cutting edge Silicon Valley people and projects on the Playa.
LED ribbons require a bit of simple soldering. Canal Lighting can do custom work, and charges a lot for that. Some kits are ready for use.
Single-color LED ribbon has an adhesive backing, which is great for bikes. On clothing it will stick just long enough to keep it in place while hand sewing it. LED tape will break quickly when you wear it, as It bends up-and-down, but not left-to-right. Don't repair, replace.
For LED ribbon, buy outdoor/weatherproof. The LEDs are embedded in silicone, so you cant knock them off. Otherwise they're quite vulnerable. https://www.superbrightleds.com/…/outdoor-led-light-s…/1466/
The light is often too bright, and superbrightleds carries some great small dimmers. I use them on my costumes: https://www.superbrightleds.com/…/mld-5a-12-volt…/1082/2573/
For a power source, I recommend a 9 volt battery. Its the easiest, and the LEDs will not be at full brightness, which is good.
If the LED ribbon is more than 3 ft, you'll overheat the 9 volt battery. Use a cage of 8 AA batteries and dimmer instead: http://www.batteryholders.com/part.php… Note that they come in a long or square shape, with or without wire. I bought a lot of them, Energizer batteries last the longest and you shouldn't have to pay more than $0.50/AA battery. Home Depot has the best prices.
Buy a 9 Volt battery connector and some 1/4" heat shrink tubing at one of the few remaining Radio Shacks. You can use a cigarette lighter for heat shrink tubing.
Switches soon fail on the Playa. Most of my work is turned on by connecting the battery.
If you're going to use a lot of LED ribbon, buy them in China by ebay. You'll have no problems with reputable ebay vendors, however, note that free shipping takes 5 weeks .... You should be able to find basic 15 ft rolls under $30. Just search "weatherproof white led ribbon", or whatever you need. The picture on your computer screen accurately shows the color, although it is hard to visualize on your project. I looked long and hard to find good pink and orange, with mediocre results.
LED ribbon also comes as programmable pixel ribbon. Some kits offer controllers with limited options. These Burners have created a highly versatile kit: http://blinkinlabs.myshopify.com/products/blinkytape-basic You have unlimited options when using Neopixel ribbon, rings, etc. with an Arduino microcomputer from www.adafruit.com NYCResistor.com and many others offer Arduino courses.