New developments in fluorophores as well as in detection methods have fueled the rapid growth of optical imaging in the life sciences. Commercial widefield microscopes generally use arc lamps, excitation/emission filters and shutters for fluorescence imaging. These components can be expensive, difficult to maintain and preclude stable illumination. Here, we describe methods to construct inexpensive and easy-to-use light sources for optical microscopy using light-emitting diodes (LEDs). We also provide examples of its applicability to biological fluorescence imaging.