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

Picture of 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

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

Step 3: Cut Out Word

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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

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

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

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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

Picture of 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

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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

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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.

Picture of 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!

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Thank you for the inspiration! Made one for my manager.
Kadajo made it!2 months ago

I made this sign for the principal and the fine ladies that keep everything running smoothly at the school where I teach.

Thank you Creative Man for the fine instructable.

Creativeman (author)  Kadajo2 months ago

Very nice, Kadajo! I bet they were thrilled!

land.of.issy5 months ago

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?
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".
Creativeman (author)  illdoyourdrugs5 years ago
Well, not that I can think of.
kmoore342 years ago
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.
oilitright3 years ago
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.
i love you.JPGi love you lit.JPG
Creativeman (author)  illdoyourdrugs4 years ago
Cool....good job!
rlawrence5 years ago
 hello, how did you make your letters so smooth, i had trouble making them that smooth
corycar5 years ago
Could you show a picture of your table saw?  Surely not a WOOD saw - it seems that the acrylic would shatter????
Creativeman (author)  corycar5 years ago
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...
kathyh2395 years ago
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.
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.
Make Xtal Radios! http://www.midnightscience.com/ or http://www.vintageradio.me.uk/crystal/boys_book_xtal.htm or donate them to Boy or Girl Scouts along with plans for Crystal radio sets to start the next generation in electronics or crafts.
Creativeman (author)  kathyh2395 years ago
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
The lIghted boxes are MARVELOUS --  I'm excited to try one.

Now, I'm looking at the pics of what you called " styrofoam mosaics". 
What part is styrofoam?  The tiles?  If so, what did you grout them with.  Looked for a link to another Instructable . . .  Looking for GOOD kid projects and this is a dandy.
Creativeman (author)  morrisonarts5 years ago
Thanks morrisonarts. I decided to go ahead and make an instructable for the styrofoam mosaics... see: "Can Art: A way to Recycle some Tin Cans." Hope this helps. Cman
dkfa5 years ago
Ah..a Very nice way to save money then using neon lights in a a store. But, will this be more power efficient as a neon store light? Would It be as noticeable? Nice ible. 5*
Neon Transformer about 120 Watts
Standard Christmas lights about 15 - 25 Watts.
LED Christmas lights about 5 Watts.
You do the math.
Attention grabbing, add a flasher bulb to regular Christmas lights or an electronic on off timer to LED Christmas lights and they will draw attention.
OR better yet add a sound controlled on off  for variable timing to local sound or music.
wenpherd5 years ago
Very very nice!
Creativeman (author)  wenpherd5 years ago
Thanks, wenpherd. Cman
DUDE this rocks. Its simple and effective. I love how you went with the Christmas lights as they are cheap and abundant. Nice work man. YOu are creative man. : )
Creativeman (author)  illdoyourdrugs5 years ago
Thank you. Cman
WingDings5 years ago

This looks like fun! :)

Would it be better to use LED lights rather than incandescent ones, by the way, to stop the heat build-up?

I know you say that they are "low heat lights", but I would have thought these incandescent lights can still give out enough heat to significantly warm a sealed enclosure, causing early failure or damage? Or maybe that can be solved with some ventilation holes?

Creativeman (author)  WingDings5 years ago
It is fun!  You have a point with the leds, seems they are the rage now. However, they are quite a bit more expensive, how much light do they throw? and as for the heat issue;  I have watched them carefully for a few weeks now, and leaving them on for several hours at a time has not caused that "heat buildup."  Warm, but no where near combustible temps....I would caution anyone to NOT plan on leaving them on,unattended, or when you go to sleep!  Cman

Yes, some of the LED lights are a bit more pricey, but they seem to be coming down in price all of the time. Maybe some day they will be as cheap as the incandescent type. The light they give out may be an issue, as you mention. I'm not sure if they generally give out as much light as standard incandescent bulbs - I suppose that varies with the kind you buy.


Another issue with LEDs is that the plastic packages around the light emitting parts often focus the light into a thinner beam than normal bulbs, which throw out light in all directions (unless they have the "cloudy" type of package). It might be necessary to site them a bit further back from the sign or use a piece of "frosted" plastic sheet or similar to diffuse the light, to avoid bright spots of light from being thrown onto the back of the sign, unless that kind of look is what people are after!


LEDs should have the advantage of being more energy efficient for the same light output, though, assuming the transformer that they're supplied with is an efficient one, of course.

piper12345 years ago
mm so easy n' cheap it gives a "highlight" look to any inner space ; ) 
bwvalentine5 years ago
I'm going to make one of these for my studio window that I haven't been able to do anything with.  Awesome instructable! :)
Creativeman (author)  bwvalentine5 years ago
Thanks for the comment, bw...may we see a picture when complete? Cman
absolutely :)
Creativeman (author)  bwvalentine5 years ago
Funny you should mention it, i.e., "studio window"..I just completed this new sign yesterday. Cman
oooh!    i love it :)
Kaiven5 years ago
Another cool project! potential for a lighted globe idea? (poke holes in the globe where there are large cities and put lights inside)
Goodhart Kaiven5 years ago
Or maybe at the Capital cities ?
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