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A physical light painter for producing Nyancats! (DIY hardware required).
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What is this

At the 2012 EMF Camp I wanted a quick project that I could build in a day and that might produce something visually appealing and recognizable. As there is a lot or outdoor space at the camp, I thought it might be a good opportunity to try out some light painting - and Nyancat seemed an obvious subject. The final result of the project is shown here:

Nyancat at EMF camp


The project uses an Arduino and a 1m addressable RGB strip from SparkFun - the strip is now discontinued but you can find cheaper alternatives on eBay - search for 'Dream Color' or 'WS2801'. Hooking it all up is pretty simple and is covered in SparkFun's example code.

The Arduino was powered by an iPhone charger hooked up to a long mains extension lead.


The code is based on SparkFun's example and uses the Arduiniana Flash library to store and retrieve the image data from the Arduino's flash memory - the image is too large to fit into RAM.

There is also a Java program that takes a Nyancat PNG file and produces some Arduino code that contains an indexed image in array form. This generated code should just be copied and pasted into the Arduino sketch.

Producing the image

  • Set up a camera on a tripod.
  • Use a long exposure - 10-15 seconds is good for a single NyanCat image.
  • Use a timer or a friend to trigger the shutter.
  • Walk slowly across the camera's field of view.

Thanks to

  • @marekventur for checking my code and electronics when nothing was working.
  • The EMF pixies.
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