Making a Pizza Box MIDI Controller with Conductive Paint

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Making a Pizza Box MIDI Controller with Conductive Paint

The ever-clever John Edgar Park is at it again with a fun and fantastically well documented project for the Adafruit Circuit Playground microcontroller. At first, John tries creating a crude MIDI input device using the Playground and pennies connected to alligator-clipped wires to create capacitive touch buttons. It works, but it’s funky and definitely not for easily carrying around. So, using conductive paint and a stencil he cut on his laser cutter, he paints a series of input controls on a pizza box.

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As always, John does a wonderful job of carefully detailing the steps to the build in the Adafruit Learning System. The hardest, fussiest part of the project appears to be painting the box with the Bare Conductive paint. John provides details and links on the software chain needed, provides all of the code, and even has a link to an .SVG file for the PZ-1 MIDI pizza box stencil. If you don’t have a laser cutter, you can fairly easily print the stencil out onto paper, use it as a template, and hand-cut it for painting your controllers. You can also create your own cool or crazy controller design.


What’s especially amazing to me about this project (and many others that we post here on Make: and that make their way daily across the social web) is how sophisticated these tools and technologies are that we sort of take for granted at this point. For $20 for the Circuit Playground MCU, maybe $10 worth of conductive paint, a piece of cardboard, and some free software, you can create a surprisingly powerful high-tech musical input device. How long before we’re simply printing out the circuit designs we desire on a home printer? Think about what sorts of projects we’ll be seeing in the near future with next-generation hardware like the Glowforge and the Voltera. Flexible, printable, paintable circuits. It boggles the mind.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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