HOW TO: Edge-Lit Portrait (work in progress)

Ok, so I’m a little late to the game. People have been making cool stuff using edge-lit acrylic for a long time now. A friend coaxed me into making a sign, and the potential and possibilities of edge-lit artwork captured my imagination. It is a bit labor intensive, but this tutorial, will walk you through converting a photograph or image into free-standing, desktop portrait.


  1. Photo
  2. 1/4″ clear acrylic sheet
  3. 1/8″ dark acrylic Sheet (background)
  4. Button
  5. Panel mount barrell adapter
  6. Power supply


  1. Prepare the image
  2. Cut the image
  3. Cut the base
  4. Assemble the base
  5. Prepare the image

1. Prepare the image

Trim the image to size. Cutting around the subject looks much better than trying to capture the background in my oppinion. Using InkScape (the best) draw a poly ground around thehead.

Use this tool
Tight trim
Click the image, hold shift, click border, right click and select “Set Clip”

File –> Export PNG image…


File –> import (out_w_neg.bmp)

Resize outline, center on negative image


Ready to cut

Cut outline and dithered negative in clear acrylic, cut outline alone in dark acrylic

2. Cut Base

3. Assemble Base

Wiring diagram
Use copper tape to route the signal from the button, to the CPU.
Test the leads of the barrell adapter to make sure you know which is + and which is ground.
Mark the center of the base and stick the LEDs to the base. Add standoffs.
Solder LED leads, keep it flat!

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