For my mermaid tail, I'm using 10 strands of lights for 200 lights total. As long as I keep my LED brightness under control and avoid modes that use a lot of white, my 2000mAh battery will run the tail for a few hours.

Wiring the Pixels

First we'll add a length of silicone-coated ribbon cable wire to each of the strands. These extension wires give us lots of flexibility in our LED strand placement.

This ribbon cable has 4 wires. We only need 3. Find the striped wire - we'll keep that one. Pull off the 4th wire, the one opposite the striped wire, and save it for another project.

Strip about 1/4" of shielding from the ends of the remaining 3 wires.

Find the "in" end of your NeoPixel strands. Usually this is the end with the male connector. There's a tiny printed "IN" on the back of the pixels, so it never hurts to double check to make sure the strand you're using is assembled the same way. The lights won't work if you connect to the wrong end.

Cut the connector from the IN end of the strip.

Cut a 1" long piece of large clear heat shrink and slide it onto the strand. Push it down a bit so it's out of your way.

Cut 3 small (1/4") lengths of 1/8" heat shrink and slide them onto the three wires. Then strip about 1/4" of shielding from each of the wires.

Solder the wires to your ribbon cable. The red wire on the LEDs (+5v) will go to the striped wire on the ribbon cable. Then solder the middle wire (DI) to the middle ribbon cable wire, and then solder the remaining outside wires (G) together.

Slide the small heat shrink over the wire connections and shrink it using your heat gun, keeping the large clear heat shrink out of the way for now. 

Slide the clear heat shrink over your wire connections, making sure it covers both ends. Pump a small amount of hot glue into the heat shrink. While the glue is wet, grab your heat gun and shrink the clear heat shrink down over the glue and the connections.

Be sure the glue squishes out both sides, potting your wire connections completely in plastic. This will hold them in place so they can't get bent or broken without a LOT of force pulling on them.

Cut the connector off the OUT end of your LED strand. Slide on some heat shrink and fill it with hot glue in the same manner, to seal these wires and keep them safe.

Connecting the Strands Together

Now it's time to wire all your strands together. Use the same 2-layer heat shrink & hot glue method to be sure every single wire connection is tight. 

I found it easiest to wire 2-3 strands together with an extension wire that connects to the next set of 2-3 strands. Trying to wire more than 4 connections in one go can be difficult, so connect them all in 2s and 3s and slowly bring the wires together.

Taper all your connections down to one long wire that will lead to your GoPro case. Grab one end of your waterproof connector and solder it to the end of this wire.

Make sure the wire reaches to your pocket or wherever you plan to mount it. You'll need full access to charge the battery and turn the costume on and off, so make it someplace accessible.

This guide was first published on Nov 02, 2022. It was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.

This page (LED Strand Assembly) was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.

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