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Questions about EL Wire

Hi any questions you have about EL Wire will be answered here but heres a bit of info about it :

EL Wire is very bright glowing wire that comes in all colours and can be between 1.3mm and 8mm thick

the standard sizes are 1.3mm ‘angel hair’, 2.3mm, 3.2mm, 5mm and sometimes 8mm

It needs batteries or some way to power it (mains or USB) and then a driver/inverter to make it glow

EL Wire has a copper wire in its core – this is then painted with ‘Electro-Luminescent’ paint

This EL paint is very similar to glow-in-the-dark paint except EL paint glows when it is exposed to an electric field

Surrounding this copper wire that has EL paint around it are two VERY thin wires

These thin wires attach to the positive coming from the driver/inverter and the central copper wire will be wired up to the negative

(because it is an Alternating Current coming from the inverter it doesnt actually make a difference if its wired to the positive or negative)

The copper core, EL Paint and thin electrtical wires are held inside aΒ  clear protective plastic tube which can then be coated with coloured tubing to change the colour of the glow

EL wire design is a very similar same setup as coaxial cable and i always think its weird that the copper wire and the thin electrical wires don’t ever meet or touch and no circuit is made between them – in fact if it does then the wire will fail at this point

So the glow isn’t made by a current running through and making a curcuit lighting up the wire (like in an LED) but because the copper wire and the thin electrical wires are holding a charge like a capacitor

This is why EL Wire is so energy efficient and it is only the efficiency of the inverter that will cause any power drain – so remember to use decent inverters!

The Electro-Luminescent paint likes a voltage of around 100V to glow (and a frequency of 500 – 1000Htz)

most power inputs are 3v (2 X AA batteries) or 12V so the driver has to ‘invert’ the voltage up to 100V

The EL Paint glows a light blue colour and any other colour has to be made by putting different coloured plastic tubing round it.

Red is the hardest colour to make from the blue so turns out to be a lot less bright than the blue

Well i hope that helps with finding out how all this works – please leave any comments or questions



70 Responses to Questions about EL Wire

    • well blue is the brightest – it has a transparent outer coating
      but the lime green seems even brighter cos it is in the middle of the visible spectrum so if you put a blue and green light next to each other the green always seems brighter so id really say that the lime green is the brightest

      and i think the purple has a darker outer coating htan the red and i would say its the least dark – it glows like a UV light in fact with a cool eerie glow

      heres my list of what i think is the order of brightness
      lime green, ice blue, pink, white -are all about the same real high brightness
      next orange is slightly less bright in my opinion
      then sky blue and turquoise – are about the same
      then red and purple least bright

  1. cheers – it really is great stuff eh? – ill do a bit about how el tape works soon too – but its similar idea, havent found a way to reconnect offcuts of el tape in the same way you can with el wire though

  2. if i buy 5 meters of el wire can i cut it to make 2 lengths just under 1 metre and will the el wire still glow?
    and what driver should i use for it?

    • yes the el wire can be cut down but it wont glow until you connect it to the driver again
      you have to solder a connector on to each length once its been cut
      you can buy the connectors in the store here
      You could get away with the 2XAAbattery driver/inverter (Β£5) that is for 3metres of wire but itd run up to 5 metres fairly brightly (unless youre using a darker colour like the red or purple)
      but id suggest you buy the portable 12v inverter (Β£9) which is a very good powerful inverter and will run it much MUCH brighter
      thing is, it does come with a 8 XAA battery pack

      hope that helps

  3. Presumably the blue/green sort is the one which changes colour with different drive frequency.

    Wonder why they don’t make a multicolour EL wire, with alternately coated sections and pairs of wires? so it would then flash either red or green/blue or white depending on the wire combination.

    Integrating the driver (Supertex do an SMD 5 pin IIRC) into the wire would also be pretty neat.

    • hi
      weve got some of theis multicoloured el wire in stock now!

      Never thought about the transformer and inverter in the wire before though _ itd be wicked!
      Itd all need a power source still though

  4. Hello there. I quite fancy having a go at light painting and just having a general play around with this cool wire. Have you thought of putting together a starter kit that includes everything you need to get up and running? I’d like that very much.

    • yup – i supply a few lightpainters and ive asked them about what would make a good set
      to be honest i wanted it to contain something new and not just be a collection of wire and tape
      im waiting on a lightstick which will be a 50cm piece of very thick (nearly 1cm) thick EL Wire – i think when i get this in stock in a few weeks time i will sort out the lightpainting set
      thanks for the idea though

  5. My 5 year old wants to be Quorra from Tron for Halloween , so I have to make her outfit. I was going to use some EL wire but they only sell it in 10ft amounts and I only need 5ft. If I cut it will the half that’s still attached to the battery glow? or do I need to do something to it?

    • Nope thats totally fine – the wire can be cut but i would recommend putting a dab of glue or sealant on the end – or if youre ordering any other bits sometime just ask me to put some endcaps in the parcel

      btw – this is the same for el tape as it is for el wire – they can both be simply cut and the end attached to the connector wires will carry on glowing (usually a little brighter πŸ˜‰

      good luck with the costume

  6. Wondering if you could help.
    We purchased the ‘Basic Tron Set’: 3 x 1m wire, 3 to 1 splitter and power pack / inverter
    We are very impressed with the product and now we would like about 5- 7 meters of the wire in blue to wrap round a person. All it needs to do is stay on solidly in blue.

    I was wondering if you could advise me on what would be the best thing to purchase?


    • Hi glad you like it

      it would have to be the 8XAA inverter really for 5metres or more el wire

      for Β£9 it is such a better inverter than the 2XAA ones and will run 15 metres of wire brigher than the 2AA runs 1metre of wire

      its the power of the inverter plus its only got to invert up from 12v whereas the smaller one has to invert up from 3volts which is what 2 XAA batteries is

      hope that helps

  7. Fancying doing a bit of an art thing, how much power do i need for 50 metres? would i have to use my generator? and how long’s the battery life on such things?

    • yup sounds good – ive got a couple of the inverters that run 70m of el wire that can be run off a 12v battery
      should be perfect for what you need

      when its starting to get maxed out at around 50metres its stil only pulling 1Amp/hr so a decent battery will last you ages

      send me an email and we’ll sort something out

  8. Hi! what should I need to make a lighted costume with different colours?

    El wire and the inverter? or something else?

    • hi

      yes thats all you need – except perhaps a splitter coming out of the inverter so you can light many off the one inverter

      the splitters will daisy chain onto each other so you can have as many strands of el as you want off one inverter

      also dont forget you can have the el wires flashing one after the other with a sequencer – else all the usual inverters have a blink setting


  9. Hey there! Just wondering what sort of lighting settings you can achieve with EL wire. I’m looking to use this for a rapunzel wig rig, and I’d like to be able to make it fade on and off with a switch of some kind, preferably without having to take my wig off so it can be done seamlessly onstage for a performance. It’s okay if it needs to be done by someone touching a button under my wig – my Flynn will be on stage with me and I can always get him to reach up behind me, eg to cup my face or something, without it looking as odd as me fiddling with my own hair.

    Can a switch of this kind be rigged to the inverters at all? What are my options here? πŸ™‚
    Thanks again!

    • ive been looking into EL Drivers that have adjustable brightness – the thing is ive only found really powerful ones for up to 100metres of el wire and theyre mains powered big boxes!

      i am kicking around a plan to create this effect by putting a ‘potentiometer’ in between the inverter and the wire

      this is basically a small dial that you can twist to adjust the voltage and (so the theory goes) the brightness

      ive bought one off ebay (it was about Β£3) but havent had a chance to play with it to see if it works
      but well as far as i know thats the kit youd need so youre welcome to experiment πŸ˜‰

  10. Hi there,

    I’m totally new to this, and looking to do a textiles exam with a el wire along the collar and along the hem. Is that two separate circuits? Do I need a splitter? Can I buy one length to cut and then attach to each end? Very confused… :/

    • Hi

      yes its best to use two different EL wires if its going to be used on 2 different parts of the costume but they can both run off the same driver

      measure the hem and the collar to see how much el wire you need – hopefully the hem will be less than a metre and you can just buy
      2X 1metre lengths of el wire (cut them down to size)
      el Driver (the 2XAA one should be fine
      2 way splitter
      you may need an ‘extender’ wire (also in the splitter section of the shop)

      if both the collar and hem add up to less than a metre – you could save a bit of money and get a single length of EL Wire

      then cut that down to the size of the hem
      this piece would still have a connector and light up when attached to the driver
      then attach a connector to the off-cut and use this as the collar

  11. Hi, I purchased some yellow el wire from another suplier but when lit up the filament is is actually a light green colour, not yellow! I was wondering if your yellow is a bright yellow, or if I should go for orange instead as I’v read that a few kinds of yellows are quite greenish. I’d rather have a yellowish orange than a yellowish green!

    • yes youre right – yellows a tricky colour to make with el wire

      the orange is quite yellowy and the red is quite orangy

      so id go with the orange – the thicker the diameter wire you get the truer the colour tends to be but the less bright it will be

      seems you cant have everything πŸ˜‰

  12. I’ve bought 10 mtrs RED color EL wire and using 12V inverter. It lit up but not really bright. Should i cut it into half? What’s the maximum length of EL Wire can i use for 12V inverter? Thanks.

    • Hi there

      the wire wasn’t from me so i cant vouch for quality there but…

      If you’re using a strong enough driver for the 10 metres of el wire then cutting them down isnt going to make that much of a difference tbh

      red is pretty much the least bright of the el colours along with purple

      definitely the best way to make it brighter is by using a more powerful driver
      if youre using one for 5-15metres of el wire then i would suggest a driver for say 10 – 40 metres of el wire will make it glow brighter

      other than that – if youre using a 12v source make sure its fully charged and as high voltage as possible – quality new batteries (rechargeable are low voltage batteries so either add more rechargable batteries or use alkaline disposable ones)

      hope that helps

  13. I have a clear plastic parasol-style umbrella with 8 rigid (non-bending) spokes, and wanted to line the spokes with EL wire for better visibility at night. Because it’s for an umbrella, the kit needs to be fairly portable with a driver/inverter that won’t get in the way too much. The battery pack will probably be attached to the handle, with the connecting wire going up the main shaft to a 4-way splitter in the centre of the canopy and the EL wire spreading across the spokes from there.

    If I use the small 3v pack and a 4-way splitter I can light four spokes easily, because they’re not very long so it’ll be less than 3m total, easily in the capacity of the portable 3v pack listed on this site.

    Is there a way I can light all 8 spokes without carrying a very big, clunky battery pack around? eg, can I chain two 4-way splitters to a 3V pack and still get any real light, or will I need a big, boxy pack that won’t fit on an umbrella handle? I only need the pack to do on/off, rather than flashing or sequencing of any kind.

    • ive got a very small and waterproof driver that takes square 9v batteries and itll run up to 6metres of wire which looks like itll be ok for you

      the driver is tiny – smaller than a square 9v battery so should fit in

      youd need to run a 2 way splitter out of it and then 2x 4-way splitter out of those and it should be fine

  14. Hi. Can you tell me what I would need to make a neon sign for our ice cream shop. It would be 2 separate words, ‘ice’ and ‘cream’ (obviously). I want to glue it to a bit of perspex and hang it in a window, but I want to plug it into the mains if possible. Does it have a finite life? ie will it just fade after so long anyway?

    • Yup
      ill have to be honest, EL doesn’t really like UV and direct sunlight will damage EL Wire after only about a year

      i casn get some that is UV resistant but i havent got any in stock at the moment

      as for the sign – yup thats no problem
      you can either spell it out of single strands for each word
      or you might find it easier to do each individual letter in a separate strand of wire and then use splitters to bring it together into one driver

  15. Hi, I want to incorporate some el wire into some designs i am doing for ladies evening wear but I dont know where to start. I was thinking about maybe running it in strips down the seams of corsets, and maybe on the skirts too. if i were to send you some drawings of the designs, could you advise me as to what i would need to buy and how to apply it ?

  16. Just to check, if I bend EL wire so that it contacts itself (say in a figure of 8 pattern, for example) will it still light along the length or short out at the contact point? I’m assuming not, (and obviously would keep the stripped ends seperate!) but thought it’s worth checking!

    • you cn make it look like its bent back on itself – but if you do wire it back into itself then yes, it will short out – and it will short out any other wires that are attached to the same splitter

  17. Hey love the info πŸ™‚ I will definitely be trying these out for light painting sometime. I just wanted to ask though as my head isn’t with me at the moment but when hooking them up to a battery pack like the 8AA one. Does the El-wire hook up to the inverter and the inverter hook up to the battery pack?

    • yup the 8xAA inverter itself is fairly small ( about 3cm x 4cm x 5cm)
      and it connects to an 8xAA battery box

      i am finding ways of getting these inverters to be powered by li-ion batteries and should have that ready before the end of the year

  18. i just recieved my EL wirecraft iron man set, but on the website it says it comes with a 2 x aa battery inverter but i recieved a 4 x aaa battery pack…does it make a difference to the set up?

    • ah yes sorry
      ive upgraded the driver in that set now – the 10cm diameter panels and now the large triangular one for the mk6 lit up so much better using that driver

      i thought i had updated the listing – mustve only done the ebay one

      thanks for pointing it out

  19. i just recieved my iron man set, but in the description it says “2XAA battery driver/inverter with switch to power the panels” but inside my package i had a 4xAAA one….will this make a difference as i can’t seem to get the lights to turn on?

    thanks in advance

  20. Hi! I want to know if I put an EL Wire on my bicycle rim ,and spray fosforescent UV responsive paint on my rim will the EL Wire “light up” the paint in a cool way or not? Thanks in advance

    • haha – im sure it will look cool – but EL does not give out much UV light – so id be surprised if it lit up theUV paint in a way youre thinking

      you can get small UV LED bulbs that might work

  21. Hi there,

    I’m looking at covering a bike in EL wire. I understand that it doesn’t really like UV – am I best off getting the 5mm grade for the longest lifespan then? Or do you have any UV resistant wire at all? I was hoping to power it off a 9v waterproof inverter – would this provide enough power to make 5m of wire glow brightly? Thanks for your help!

    • if the bikes gonna be kept in a bikeshed and mainly in shade i would prob suggest the 3.2mm

      the 5mm for things that are gonna be sat in direct sunlight day after day

      the 9v waterproof will be perfect for 5m

  22. Hello great website!! products look very exciting! I’m looking to make a sculptural table light using ladies translucent tights and wire however now that i have found this I hope to shape the EL wire and stretch over the tights. I don’t know which thickness of wire to buy as I need something that is soft to model but will still be rigid enough not to lose its shape and strength when material is stretched over it. Thanks

    • i dont think that any el wire will have the rigitity to support having the material stretched over it and provide the strength to hold it there

      by the sounds of it, i think you might need to make a wire frame and put the wire in and around it?

      the thinnest angel hair 1.3mm wire i always think of almost like a different material to the rest of the el wire
      it holds its shape like modeling wire
      but even though it holds its shape i wouldnt depend on it to provide structural support

      also please note that even though the 1.3mm el wire is the brightest and a really lovely material to work with – some of the colours are not as true as the thicker wires that have a thicker sleeve – and so they have more pigment in it to creat truer colours

      the red is very orangy
      the yellow is verry greeny yellow

  23. Hi, I’m thinking of making a dress using the sew-able EL wire and a portable sound activated inverter. I see that I can power 6 separate 1 meter lengths using that inverter, but do I also need to buy an additional item to hold the batteries? or does the ‘sound activated inverter’ both hold the batteries to supply the power, and connect to the el wire?

    Also can I power any more EL wire from that inverter or just the 6 meter pieces? as i’d like to use a variety of colours and try to make it bright.

    • no – you just stick 4xAAA batteries in the back of it

      6 metres is the real maximum for that driver

      we have got another 5 channel sequencer that you can run between 3-5 metres off each channel

  24. what is the smallest driver/inverter i could get to run 4 pieces of your el tape with curve? I want to use it to mod a Xbox 360 controller with the rechargeable power pack, It needs to be very small to fit inside of the controller.

    Any help here would be great!


  25. Hi, I’m wanting to light up a jacket for club use and was wondering about sequential 123 style lighting for different parts of the jacket, (Imagine a rocket taking off in 3 animated frames, sort of thing).
    Firstly can you link pieces of tape to leave unlit areas between or to make complex patterns and how easy is this. Secondly can you get an inverter that will cycle through 1-2-3 flashing style (i.e on-off-off, off-on-off) sort of like christmas tree lights do?
    Hope you can help.

    • bro you are asking the right question at the right time!!!

      ive just got a great new driver which is like the small 2xAA ones
      but it has 3 outputs

      you can plug wire and or el tape/ el panels into it and it sewuneces through 1 – 2 – 3 -1 -2-3 etc
      the best bit is it also has a speed control on it!!!!

      ive got them in stock and have just been testing them out but now im ready to put them up for sale

      ill put a link in here when its done

      im not sure what you mean about linking el tape though…. that might not be so easy

    • I have never come across one and i would be surprised

      the chasing wire has a mini sequencer inside it to sequence the wire in 3 phases to give it a chasing effect

      it would mean basically having a sound activator running a sequencer which isn’t impossible – but y’know improbable πŸ˜‰

  26. hello, what temperatures can this wire withstand roughly. im thinking of using long legths of wire to wrap engine hoses and wires up so my engine bay glows.. i will not be using near exhaust but will be quite warm under there

    • i wouldn’t run it in conditions over 25ΒΊC

      im sure it could handle more – but just to be on the safe side


  27. A small question…

    I need to drive something like 4 meters of 1cm wide EL Tape, I have a 4800mah 12v rechargeable battery with a 5.5 plug.

    Do you have any drivers that would fit this? And any that would fit 6 meters instead of four?

    And do you have any idea how much the battery could last?

    • yup – id use the driver thats for A4 panels which is this one here:

      its got a 5.m adapter jack in it and it takes a 12v input

      (for 6 metres of EL TAPE – i only have mains powered drivers that do not have a 5.5mm adapter on them)

      we have got similar li-ion batteries as you have got there for sale here:

      ours come in 1800mAh, 280mAh or 5000mAh

      when we were sourcing these we found that most batteries that claimed to be say 4800mAh were nearer 2500mAh
      (and the 2800mAh ones were around 1500mAh)
      and it took us a long time to find ones where the actual output was within 10% of claimed capacity

      i am mentioning this first because it will obviously effect how long the battery will last if the capacity is much lower than 4800mAh

      also – some EL Tapes need more juice than others – if it is ‘split electrode’ tape (with a hairline running down the middle) then they consume more power

      ANYHOW- there is a simple answer to your question:
      so how long will it last?

      EL Tape consumes around 1mA (milliAmp) (1000th of an Amp)
      for every square cm

      your tape is 1.5cm x 400cm = 600 square cm

      so it will be consuming about600mA every hour

      li-ion batteries should NEVER be run to dry – and tbh i recon the EL Tape will start flickering once the battery is half full


      assuming the battery is 4800mAH then i would recon youd get about 4-5 hours out of it before it starts flickering and itd be timeto pull the plug to save your battery

      (btw if someone is reading this and wants to do a rough calculation on how long EL Wire will last with a battery
      EL Wire consumes about 2mA for every metre of EL wire)

  28. Will the el panel glow brighter when cut down? (I bought two different sizes of panel and their colour isn’t quite a match)

    • it might make it glow a teeny little bit brighter but its not that noticable

      it certainly wont make it change colour tone though

      different panels get made with slightly different amount of filter so there can be differences
      theres never differences with aqua or blue cos its the base colour and isn filtered

      its most noticable with white – brightness and filter difference will make some a ‘colder’ blue depending on filter

      other coloured filters on coloured ELpanel tend to be a bit thicker so other colours tend to be more uniform

      tbh its the reason im phasing out tron costumes in white -as there can be different tones to each panel on the same costume
      and i havent found a way round that

      the difference is subtle though eh?
      but us perfecshonists…..

  29. Hi, I’ve seen that the EL tape has been used for clothing/costumes and I’m thinking of making a bag with some EL tape along the strap. Though I’m a little worried about it getting wet in the rain, is that a problem? Do I need to cover all of the tape, or just make sure the driver/wires won’t get wet?

    • Hi

      i would make sure you have sealed the edges of the tape to be honest

      the el wire is water resistant – or do you need the brightness of the el tape?

  30. Hi –

    Thanks for making such an informative site!

    I’m looking at incorporating some EL into a hat/mask. Am I right in thinking that the tiny waterproof inverter is the best for this task for delivering a reasonable brightness while not being too heavy? Please could you tell me the minimum length of wire that can be used with this inverter? I’m probably looking at using 5m (well, actually 2x5m using 2 inverters) in the end but I’d like to get a short length of wire to play around with first.

    Also, it is necessary to use the connectors and splitters, rather than soldering my own joints? I’d like to branch the wire but on a headpiece the splitters could get very bulky very quickly.



    • Hi Carole

      this small adjustable sequencer looks amazing on a hat:

      the small 1xAAA driver is really only good for 1m of el wire – it can do up to 2m but the whistle becomes audible once you add the second metre of wire and it can be a bit annoying in a hat!

      i would suggest connecting it all together with the splitters – and then cutting them out and soldering your own joints – youre right the problem is you end up with lots of annoying spare wire and bulky connectors if youre not careful


  31. Good evening,
    just discovered this, and fancy making a project (if I can) out of running some highlight lines over my motorcycle jacket. Nothing overboard, but anything that catches the eye would be useful when riding at night. Is there a particular thickness of wire that would suit this best?

    Also, are there any basic guidelines on how long the battery packs will last?

    Kind Regards

    • yup the 3.2mm is still bright but fairly hardy (doesnt suffer so much from repeat bending fatigue)

      the battery packs last many many hours and it ends up like LEDS – it just gets dimmer until you change the batteries ages afterwards

      this set is Β£30 with 9x1m el wires + 8xAA Driver + Splitters:

      or if thats overkill then this set for is 5 x1m el wires + 4xAAA Driver + Splitters

      (its a lightpainting set but of course you can use it on an outfit

      hope that helps

  32. Hi, does anyone have a schematic for a reliable 6 output EL driver please? I’ve tried to build one or two but they always fail within a few days.
    Best circuit I’ve found uses an HV852, rectifies the output and then uses an MPSA42 for each line to make the wire light up when the base is pulsed.
    I did find that a 1K from base to emitter helps here, this seems to be the transistor itself picking up switching noise..
    Only problem is these are hard to get hold of and tricky to solder even with paste etc.

  33. Hi
    when splitting EL and connecting multiple lengths together, if the driver is designed to power 5 meters of the EL wire do you also have to take into consideration the lengths of cable connecting each wire?
    for example 5 x 1 meter Lengths of EL wire connected by 5 x 1 meter lengths of cable
    so total length is 10 meters however only 5 meters light up.
    or does the connecting cable reduce / overload the driver?

    • Good morning,

      When using EL extenders or EL splitters you don’t need to take their lengths into account as they will not have any effect on the drivers capabilities to make 5m of EL wire glow. The connecting cable does not use any of the drivers capacity.

  34. Hey, hope you are all well!
    My question is, For a 20 meters el wire how many box battery will I have and roughly how long will it last?
    Should I go for a USB adaptor and attach to a power bank instead?
    For my project I will use about 60 meters of wire but it is cut every 20meters, is there such a thing as only one Battery box or power bank that would do the job?

    Thank you!

    • Good afternoon,

      Apologies for taking so long to get back to you.

      EL wire doesn’t use a lot of power, however, if you want all 60m to glow at the same time, you will need a driver which is big enough to power 60m of wire.

      The driver is the important piece of equipment. Our adaptable drivers are not designed to run for long periods of time (e.g. 8 hrs at a time – they can comfortably run for 1 – 2 hrs with a break and then 1 – 2 hrs again etc). If you want to run your project for 8 hrs at a time, we recommend you use our powerful excel drivers.

      Depending on how long you want the wire to glow for, will determine your power source.

      Our suggestion:
      3 x 20m of el wire,
      1 x 3 way splitter (with this you can power all 3 pieces of wire from 1 driver)
      1 x 20 – 60m driver with power supply (this could be rechargeable batteries, battery box, mains plug etc)

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