Make Your Own Illuminated Signs

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Posted in WorkshopLighting

Introduction: Make Your Own Illuminated Signs

About: Retired, doing art work now. Great. Have the time and the money to spend doing what I want to do.

Want to express yourself creatively with light?  Make a mood light, perhaps?  Could you use a night light?  Make name signs or multi-word messages?  Using readily available materials, Illuminated signs are easy to make.  Any of these and more uses can be accomplished  with the simple methods in this instructable.

Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools

To make a light, I used common corrugated cardboard, a piece of yellow paper, a small piece of acrylic sheet plastic, tape, glue, etc.  For tools, the usual paper cutting implements, i.e., straight edge, box cutter, scissors and so on.  I use a table saw to cut the acrylic, but it can be cut by scoring lines deeply on your cut line, and then snapping the plastic. Special tools are made for this, but a utility knife will work....USE CAUTION IF SCORING PLASTIC THIS WAY! The light source for these signs are mini christmas lights, available everywhere. They are low amperage, low watt, low heat lights and come in different sized strings, and colors.

Step 2: Decide on What Your Sign Will Say

The possibilities are endless, of course, but for this instructable I will use CREATE.

Step 3: Cut Out Word

To make the word create, I used the word processor, picked a font, and for the size I wanted I chose 250 points.  This is printed on some card stock I had available.  Then I cut out the word using a box cutter and a scalpel.

Step 4: Paper Is Painted Black

I just spray painted the cardstock black as shown.  Paint dries very rapidly.

Step 5: Glue to Acrylic Sheet and Back With Yellow Paper

Here,the word is glued to a piece of clear acrylic I had cut from a larger piece taken from a picture no longer used.  It is light plastic, about 1/8th or so thick, very easy to cut to size on the table saw.  I made this piece 4 x 11 inches. Yellow paper is then glued with the spray adhesive on the back of the cut out word.

Step 6: Make Box to Contain Sign

I used a piece of corrugated cardboard as shown to make the housing box for the sign itself. Follow pictures to make this box.  The sizes can all be changed to fit the word or message that you are making the sign of.   A depth of 2 and 1/2 inches is a good size for the box as the lights take up quite a bit of space and need  this space as a minimum.

Step 7: Make Lightboard for Lights

Here, a piece of cardboard is cut to fit inside the sign box.  It is painted white to reflect light, and holes are made to accept each of 20 lamps of the string of christmas lights.  For other signs, strings of lights can be joined for more light, or longer strings are available.  I bought a string of 100 today for $2.00. 

Step 8: Install Lights in Box

Following the picture, cut a small "trap door" at one end of the box so that the light cord can be routed out the back of the box.

Step 9: Place Front of Sign in Place, and Tape Closed.

Here is the completed sign. Note how the acrylic plate is enclosed by taping with craft paper glued around the perimeter of the box.  This could actually be duct tape if desired.  Other samples of completed signs are shown.  Each sign is individually constructed so that no two are alike.

Step 10: Plug in and Enjoy...Done!


2 People Made This Project!

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44 Comments

Would it be possible to cut out the letters and use them like a stencil to spray paint the acrylic directly?

Thank you for the inspiration! Made one for my manager.

What glue are you using to glue the paper/card board to the perspex?

Any alternatives to the acrylic such as something that can be cut by a scissor?

4 replies

A two liter bottle. Cut the top and bottom off and then cut the cylinder to make a flat sheet. If it wants to roll up on you too much, a couple seconds under a hot iron will fix that.

You can get the acrylic in thin sheets that might be cut by scissors.
OR you can buy "PAGE PROTECTORS" (remember those plastic covers with a Black sheet of paper from school days?)  in up to 8.5" X 11 " in most department stores, (Larger at Office Supply Stores) and they can be cut by scissors easily.
Have fun.

Thanks. Ill check out office depot or a similar place. I also thought to use the clear " projector paper".

Well, not that I can think of.

If you want to make the inside brighter/more reflective, you can buy pieces of mirrored paper at craft stores - I found some at JoAnns by the doll area, can't remember the exact name. The workers might not know where it is, but if you look long enough, you'll find it! I use them for macro photography reflectors.

If you can believe it there is someone selling this technique on Craigslist for $175.00

Stumbling across your ible i can't believe i forgot to post the pictures of my project inspired by you. I had a few more updated pictures but couldn't find them. I went to Michaels and used this multi colored plastic backing instead. I forget the name. I used black spray paint for the black areas. i hand cut out the font with an x-acto knife. I used a brown paper bag as a border for look and character. This was a huge hit. Thanks again.

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1 reply

 hello, how did you make your letters so smooth, i had trouble making them that smooth

Could you show a picture of your table saw?  Surely not a WOOD saw - it seems that the acrylic would shatter????

2 replies

Nope, just a standard, not top of the line table saw....I use a regular wood cutting carbide blade and it works very well.  No shattering. Cman

REALLY?  I'm surprised about that... especially with 1/8 inch... but cool.  I don't have a table top - but I do have a rotary saw (rip saw)  What kind of blade do you use - if I may ask?  I'm seriously intrigued by this...

Hey Creativeman,

You've hit another home run here.  I knew I shouldn't have retracted my previous marriage proposal to you!  

Do you have any suggestions for what I can do with old blueprint paper tubes?   I get them from work - giant paper towel-type tubes 3 inches in diameter and 3-4 feet long.  Any ideas are appreciated. 

Keep up the good work.

3 replies

I could use a couple of them also at a reasonable price as they could be their own shipping tubes if they are thick enough, and they could be sent at parcel post rates.

Thanks kathyh: re the old tubes:  think of round things to make, desk organizers, pencil holders, art supplies, etc.  cut them and let kids decorate them for the projects mentioned.  I did a couple of cans with styrofoam mosaics as shown....good for holding pens, pencils, etc.  Cman

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