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How to

Paint Ghostly Graffiti With The Pixelstick’s LED Lightsaber

If we were to tell you that we spent the weekend ‘light painting,’ you might think we’re terribly arty-farty. But the truth is, drawing pictures in the air is lots of fun and has never been easier thanks to the Pixelstick. Just wave this glowing wand around and wait for the Instagram likes to pour in.

This £330/$350 all-in-one light painting kit consists of a 73-inch (1.85-metre) stick lined with LEDs and an onboard microprocessor. When you twirl it in front of a camera with a long exposure mode, its twinkling lights are recorded as fantastical, free-floating images.

IP DSC_3272 Pixelstick and silhouette

Until now, the few artists that have toyed with light painting have been limited to drawing simple images by swooshing flashlights around.  But the Pixelstick can be loaded up with almost any image you can think of, either by downloading patterns from the Pixelstick’s official website or using it to convert your own pictures. You can even program it to project consecutive images, which allows you to create moving, gif-worthy graphics.

When it comes to light photography, the number of LEDs you have impacts the depth and detail you’ll be able to capture in your images. The Pixelstick uses 200 RGB LEDs, which far surpasses most industry-standard light photography tools on the market. With the help of the diffuser camera lens, over 16 million colour combinations can be captured in any image up to 78 inches (around two metres) tall.

PR Pixel Stick IMG_7699

In an age where phones have made everyone a budding photographer, the Pixelstick’s simplicity could mean light painting is about to go mainstream. The only thing standing in its way, is its price and a habit of burning through eight AA batteries in one long photo session.

How To Paint With The Pixelstick

Before you start, you’ll need the following kit:

  • DSLR camera
  • SD Card
  • Remote shutter release
  • Tripod

Step 1: Select your image

Pixelstick Step1

Patterns can be downloaded from the official Pixelstick website, or you can use its drag-and-drop conversion tool to use any image you like. There’s no real limit to the type of images you can use, but you may find the system struggles with overly detailed parts. Transfer them to either an SD or SDHC card once the download has finished.

Step 2:  Piece Pixelstick together

Pixelstick Step2

The device comes in three parts that need to be slotted together before using it. Slide the two main LED poles together, carefully, before using the clips provided to keep them attached, then slot the handle into the bracket on the main body. If you’re looking to use the twirling bracket, make sure the two sets of holes on either side of the Pixelstick are lined up.

Step 3: Load up your image

Pixelstick Step3

Insert your SD (or SDHC) card into the control module mounted on the main body of the Pixelstick. Use the arrow buttons to select the filename of the image you want to use. If you are using your own images, make sure you give it a clear filename as you will not be able to preview your image choice before you begin the light painting process.

Step 4: Adjust essential settings

Pixelstick Step4

Once you have selected your image, you’ll want to go ahead and set some of the key settings for shooting your image. At the top of your list you can adjust the brightness level to compensate for ambient light. By adjusting the speed you can decide how quickly you need to move. It takes a little practice to balance these settings, so allow for some trial and error.

Step 5: Set up the camera

Pixelstick Step5

Set up a DSLR camera on a tripod and line up the shot in the area you want to shoot. Set your focal point and leave it on manual focus. If you’re working solo, you may want to use a remote shutter release trigger to avoid rushing around on an extended shutter speed. If you can, try and recruit the help of a friend to control the camera for you.

Step 6: Twirl your baton, slowly

Pixelstick Step6

Pick up the Pixelstick, press the yellow button and slowly start moving it through the air. If you’re going for an abstract image, feel free to twirl it in the air to create dynamic designs, or, if you’re going photo-real, hold the Pixelstick vertical and move it steadily. You can wait for the LEDs to finish their sequence or press the yellow button to finish your image.

This article first appeared in Gadget issue 9. Order the latest issue here or download the digital edition.