My son wanted a Cars 2 birthday party, so I made a Flo's V8 Cafe sign to put near the food. It uses EL wire on mat board. It was pretty easy to do but took some time to tie down the wire to the board so it looked like the neon sign.
Step 1: Draw the Sign You Want to Make
So you have to have a design you want the EL wire to follow. I found a photo of the Flo's V8 Cafe sign from Disney Land and traced that out on the mat board. Then you'll want to find the colors you want in the EL wire to match the sign you want to make. I used pink and aqua to match the photo here http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2546/3927202798_a88b20ab8b.jpg
Step 2: Estimate Amount of Wire Needed and Order
I didn't estimate before I ordered, so I had to pay more shipping for a second order of the pink wire. You can use twine or wire or whatever you have on hand. Place the string on the sign for each color in the order you think you'll connect things up. I tried to use one continuous length that wraps around the back since it was easier to do that than cut and terminate a bunch of small pieces for each segment. Once you trace out each color, you just have to measure the resulting length of string and make sure you order at least as much. Adafruit carries it in 8.2 foot sections. I needed around 11 feet of the pink.
Step 3: Wire Up the Sign
I used an awl to poke holes in the mat board where I wanted the wire to pass through from the back to the front. I also poked smaller holes along the length of each segment for hold downs to keep the EL wire in place. I usually placed them every 3-4 inches and at every sharp corner/curve. Then it's just a matter of sewing the EL wire through the holes from the back to the front and back again to match up to the design you have laid out. I only did a small section at a time. One I had the wire laying on the board like I wanted, I connected it to the board so it was secure.
Step 4: Attach EL Wire to the Sign
To secure the EL wire to the sign, I used small loops of wire to hold the EL wire to the board. I passed the wire around the EL wire and on the back I connected it to a piece of toothpick to secure the back side. Then all I had to do was twist the wire until it was secure.
Step 5: Turn It On
After you have all the colors attached to the sign, connect it up to the inverter and watch it glow.