Conductive Paint Greeting Cards

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Conductive Paint Greeting Cards

Thanks to Sparkfun for this tutorial, we <3 them!

 

Conductive paints are a great way to create artistic pieces with electronics. Use a brush or a squeeze bottle to create traces that curve and swirl to connect components. Conductive paints can also be used to ‘glue’ components to a trace. This method can be the most frustrating to use because of the mess factor and dry time. We recommend patience and practice when beginning to work with these materials.

Difficulty: Beginner - Intermediate (depending on complexity). Can be frustrating to get smooth lines.
Cost: Varies. Most conductive paints start at ~$10. 
Mess Level: Moderate

 

Pros:

  • Use it like any other water-based paint.
  • Can cover with other paint mediums (such as acrylic) after drying to create a seamless piece of art.
  • Easy to layer more paint on top of an existing trace to troubleshoot or fix an unreliable connection.

Cons:

  • Not conductive until fully dry. Depending on the thickness of your painting and the type of paint, may need to dry overnight. A hair dryer or heat gun will speed this along.
  • May take some practice to get consistent lines/traces.
  • Copper based paints will oxidize quickly and can have a short shelf life.
  • Prone to cracking when under strain. Best on flat surfaces. Painted traces over folds or on bendable projects will mostly likely fail with repeated movement.

Step #1: Bare Conductive Electric Paint

Bare Conductive’s Electric Paint is a nontoxic, solvent free and water soluble carbon-based paint. Available in a squeeze tube for finer lines or pot for brush and stencil use.

Products:

Product Name SKU Price Qty
NOK0.00 1
NOK0.00 1

Step #2: Examples

Instructions:

  • When planning your circuit design, first sketch out where the traces will go. Drawing the path with a pencil or marker before painting will make the process much easier.

  • Glue down any components you will be using onto your paper. Use tweezers for precise placement of smaller components.

  • Using a paintbrush or squeeze bottle, carefully apply the paint along traces and over the wires or pads of the components in your circuit. Let dry completely before testing.

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Artist carefully following her lines with conductive paint during a paintable electronics workshop held at MIT.

Examples:

Electronic Popables is an interactive pop up book created using conductive paints and electronics

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Paper Piano created by Hannah Perner-Wilson

Additional Resources: