Introduction: Comic Book LED Sign
I wanted to decorate the office, so I made this sign with our name on it!
- Cold white LED strip
- Female power connector
- Power supply
- Shrink tubes
- Thin red cardboard
- Aluminium foil
- Printed letters
- Printed comic book pages
- Thick EVA foam
Step 1: Print & Cut Out Letters
The first thing I did was print out all the letters I needed for my sign. I tried to make them almost as big as an A4 page, but if you want the sign to be smaller, make the letters small too. In my case, I needed 11 letters. I cut out all of them with a scissor. As I'll need these paper templates throughout the whole project, I have to try to keep them intact until the end.
Step 2: Cut the Letters in Cardboard
Next, I grabbed my letter templates and some cardboard. I needed a lot of cardboard, so it's a good thing that I scavenged a lot of that from things like IKEA boxes and others a long time ago, as I always think I'll need it some time. I drew around the template with a marker first, then used a utility knife to cut it out. I tried to follow the grain direction of the cardboard where I had to cut the longest stretches on the letters. The last picture shows all the letters with their templates.
Step 3: Strips for the Sides
I wanted the letters to look thick, and I also needed to make some space for the LED strips. I achieved that by making 4 cm wide strips of cardboard to add along the edges of all the letters. I didn't continue until I had a ton of these.
Step 4: Glue Strips to the Cardboard Letters
I tried to line the strip up perfectly with the letter, then marked it with a pen, and cut the strip to appropriate length. I used masking tape to keep it in place temporarily, so I could make the whole outline before gluing it in place. Then I could use my hot glue gun to glue all the corners and along the sides.
Step 5: The Rounded Edges
The letters that have rounded edges are a bit more tricky, because the cardboard has to be bent. I began by marking the starting point, where it started to bend, then I used a ruler to push down every half centimeter or so in the direction I needed it to bend. Then it folded perfectly around the edge, and I glued it just like the other ones. See progress picture above.
Step 6: Add Aluminium Foil
I wanted to use as litte LED strip as possible but still get bright lighting, so that's why I added aluminium foil to the inside of the letters. I found it easier to mark up the letter using the template, cut it out and glue that on first, and then cut strips for the sides afterwards.
Step 7: Making an EVA Foam Background
Before attaching the LED strips I made it all a bit easier for myself by gluing all the letters to a background, and I felt it created a more complete look to the sign. I used some thick EVA foam to create it, taken from a regular training mat. I just had to clean up the edges and make them straight first. I began cutting off one piece at a time, but along the way I figured that it would look better if I'd just cut off long strips instead, so I did that. Then I cut the whole piece in half.
Step 8: Attaching the Letters
I think the texture on the rough side looked cool and comic book-like, so I kept that as the front side. I lined them up, glued them together, and added the letters on top.
I marked a center line as reference with a pencil, as it's barely gonna be visible later. In addition, I used a paper piece as reference for the distance between the bottom edge and the letter. I marked the line where the letter should be placed, and then I used hot glue to attach it to the foam. I did that 6 more times at the top and then I used paper again as a spacer between them and the letters on the bottom.
Step 9: Add Hooks to the Back
At this point I quickly added 4 hooks to the back as these have glue on them that has to dry for 24 hours. They could all carry one kilo each, which should be more than enough to hold the sign. In the meantime I could deal with the electronics.
Step 10: Insert a Power Plug
I soldered a wire and added a shrink tube to a power plug. Then I poked a hole through one of the letters so I could lead the wire through the back to the inside. I stuck that power plug in place with hot glue. By adding it here, I can decide whether or not to leave the lights on, as the sign will look good with or without it (since the power plug is invisible from the front).
Step 11: Solder on LED-strips
I added a shrink tube that I could pull over the connecting points on the LED strip. This is because I want to protect the soldering, and it's not a lot of extra work. When that's added, I could solder the wires to the cold white LED strip. I chose cold white as I think that won't alter any of the colours in the prints. With warm white, some of the whites and blue tones could look funny, and I don't want that.
I cut the strip to approximate length, and then added a new wire to the other end that I could reach the next letter with. Now I could tape the LED strip to the letter.
Step 12: Connecting the Letters
I made another hole I could push the wire through, and then covered it with some black hot glue. Also, always checking to see if everything works in between each letter to make sure nothing went wrong.
Now I had to lead the wire from the first letter to the next. The black hot glue came in really handy, as I could use that to properly cover up the red wires to make them less visible. I poked a hole on the other side, and pushed the wire through.
Step 13: Final Touch to the Electronics
I had to create a path for the current to go from the lower part of the sign to the upper part without it being visible. As I made the backdrop for this in EVA foam, it was just as easy to punch a hole through both that and the cardboard and lead the wire through to the top. The wire goes right across on the back side, and then I could just repeat the process of soldering the LED strips.
As the letters were so close together at the top I didn't need to show any wires at all, I could just use the nearest contact point between the letters to sneak some wires through. Everything's wired up and working, so now I just have to cover it all up!
Step 14: Preparing the Prints
11 letters means 11 comic book pages. Using pages from actual comic books won't work, as they have prints on both sides (unless you want to make the sign without lights, of course). I placed all the pages on different letters, and tried to figure out where I thought it would fit best. When I got the order right, I grabbed each letter in turn - placed it on, and taped the template exactly where I wanted it.
Step 15: Cutting Out & Adjusting the Prints
When I had all of them, I cut around the edges and left at least 2 cm margin that I could wrap around the letter. Then I went in with an xacto knife and added cuts in the corners and all the rounded edges of the letter. The more rounded it was, the more slits I added to make it easier to fold.
Step 16: Gluing on the Comics
I had to attach the comics to each letter. Firstly I folded the cuts I made around the edges. Secondly, I enhanced those folds, removed the template (and threw it away now), before gluing it to the cardboard with hot glue. Then I repeated the process with the other letters.
It looked nice already, but it needed a final touch - the edges.
Step 17: Bright Red Edges
I used thin red cardboard for the sides, as I thought it would fit the comic book style. I cut out a ton of 4 cm wide strips, and tried to do it as efficiently as possible by first creating a template that I could just fold the other pages around. When I'd made a ton of those, I could go back to the sign.
I tried to make all the overlaps and edges fit to the corners of the letters to make it less visible, but other than that I just glued those strips to all the sides. That included the inside of the letters like A and D.
Now all I had to do is hang that thing on the wall!
Step 18: Finished!
I'm really happy with it, and I think it looks super cool. I think it could've looked better if all the comic pages were in the same art style, as it would give it some more consistency. Also, I realised too late that the N in "NERD" had a bit too much white on the right side, but it was a bit tricky to place the comics perfectly when the letters were so large.
I think you could make this without lights at all, and also make it a lot smaller. Let me know what you think about this project, and if you decide to make it, I would love to see it!
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