A LED Halo is an arch that goes over your work  area that has light emitting diodes, more commonly referred to as LED, affixed to the bottom of it. I originally saw one several months ago. It was said to eliminate shadows on the model that you are painting. Now as a painter, I know how helpful this can be as it eliminates the need to twist a model around as well as allows better shadows to be painted on the model itself. This tutorial could be useful for sewing, tattoos, or anything that requires good lighting. 

Mathieu Fontaine light arch.
Mathieu Fontaine Light Arch

A couple of weeks ago, Mathieu Fontaine, multiple Golden Daemon winner, put up his new light halo and the Internet miniature painting community was abuzz! Many people asked: where you can buy one? How is it made? What do you need? So I decided to educate myself on the art of LEDs and then build one of these and share the plans here!

LEDs come in a roll, pictured here is a roll of 5050.
LEDs come in a roll, pictured here is a 5m roll of 5050. This is one of two types I ordered.

In this article I will cover the supplies, different types of LEDs, different options you may have and of course anything interesting that I may find around the Internet. Now this is part 1 of a 2 part article. In the second part we will cover ordering the supplies and actually putting it together.

While researching, I discovered there are only four basic components that go into building one.

  1. The strip of LEDs, this is what will provide the light.
  2. Transformer, this is the power supply, what gives the power to the lights.
  3. The Arch, a flat, but flexible material to attach the lights to.
  4. Hardware: various drills, screws, glue, nuts, and bolts.


  1. Dimmer: this goes between the transformer and LEDs allowing you to dim the lights if you like.
A 5050 LED
A 5050 LED

The first thing I looked into was the LEDs as everything else would honestly be based on the type of LEDs picked. Here are a few things I discovered while researching LEDs.

  1. Color:
    1. LEDs come in all types of colors, as well as color changing.
    2. There are many types of white.
  2. Size: all of the LED strips I looked at had a four digit number like 5050 to signifying size. The three most common are 5050, 3014, and 3528. The two numbers are the size, height and with. Example a 5050 is 5.0mm by 5.0mm.
  3. Number of LED per meter. The higher the number, the brighter it will be, but more power will be consumed as well.
  4. Power Requirements:
    1. 12v of your work area is over 8ft 3 inches or under, a 12v system should be fine.
    2. 24v if you are work surface is 8ft 4in or greater you will want to use a 24v system.
  5. Lumen: Bigger the number, the brighter it is.
  6. Waterproof: how much protection the lights have from water or moisture.
  7. Ability to be Cut
A 3528 LED
A 3528 LED

So now that we have figured out all of the different types of options we can get for strip lighting, I decides that I wanted:

  1. A white only diode to maximize light output.
  2. Sized at 5050 with 60 LED per meter; this will provide the most lumens of most set ups. You can get a 3528 set up with 240 LED per meter but that’s a lot of power.
  3. A 12v system. I decided to go with a 12v system since the LED and transformer are cheaper and use less electricity. If you are going to run more than a 4m length in one line (in series, a work space of 8ft 4in or greater) you will want to consider a 24v system.
  4. I ordered both waterproof and non-waterproof lights but plan on sealing them.
  5. A color temperature of 6000k, that’s as close to pure white as I’ve seen in LED without buying super expensive strips of lights.
3020 LED
3020 LED


Power Supply
Power Supply

For the transformer I picked up a 12v 3a 36watt transformer. Not the smallest one on the market and more than we need, but at a price difference of a $1, well worth the upgrade. Rule of thumb is more LED you have, the more wattage you need. I will include the formula below if you’re planning on going nuts and placing more than one or two strips.

An inline dimmer is an optional piece, but useful and inexpensive.
An inline dimmer is an optional piece, but useful and inexpensive.

For a dimmer you need to decide if you want it before or after the 12v transformer. I picked up one that goes in after the transformer. Now remember this is totally optional and can be added in later too. If you decide to go with a 24v system, please order a 24v dimmer.

I’m still hunting for the perfect arch material and will cover that in part 2 when we build this beast. I’m going to need to make a quick trip to the hardware store anyways for some hardware to mount this.

To build what I am building you can order these items from Amazon!


LED (I ordered 2 types to test)

3825 5m Roll: http://amzn.to/1PQ0yiH

5050 5m Roll: http://amzn.to/1ON4YJq

Power Transformer:


Extra Connectors:


Dimmer Switch:

I hope you have found this to be helpful, please explore the rest of the website as we have many great tutorials like this posted. If you enjoy a bit of R rated humor and learning about numerous topics about painting and the hobby in general we have a podcast, Models Workshop After Hours, that you can find on iTunes as well as all major podcatchers for Android, you can also listen to it at modelsworkshop.libsyn.com.

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All items that I talked about in this article are things that I personally posted. The roll of 3528 led lights were donated by a user. We were not paid to say what we did.


Fero LED


Flex Fire LED