After musing over a few ideas, I decided white cloth stretched over a wooden frame with some sort of backlighting would be my best bet. As for the details on the front, I at first thought fabric paint and stencils would be best, but opted instead to create them from duct tape.
I'm pretty GLaD it turned out the way it did. It isn't perfect, but for the price and size limitations I was working with, it turned out quite well. It's a cheap and simple project, and I think most anyone will be able to easily recreate it (maybe Black Mesa? That was a joke, haha, fat chance!)
Step 1: Materials
- Wood (I used three 1" x 2" x 8' furring strips)
- A white bed sheet or similar material
- Wood screws
- LED rope light
- Black duct tape (I used Gorilla tape)
- Picture hanging wire and mounting hardware
Step 2: Assemble the Frame
Size is flexible, mine is is 6' x 3'. Just make sure that whatever fabric you are covering it in fits over it! Once I secured the sheet to the frame, I realized that the 6' beams bowed in a bit, so I added a support beam across the middle. Depending on the materials and size of your build, you may need more supports, or none at all.
Step 3: Add Lights
Step 4: Cover the Frame
Step 5: Adding the Details
Also worth nothing is that I picked test chamber 14, because the numbers 1 and 4 are all straight lines and have no curves, which is super helpful, especially when one is not very steady.
The signs in game have some of the boxes at the bottom grayed out. To recreate this effect, I cut out those boxes from the tape backwards, and applied them to the back of the sheet, so that the shadow is visible from the front. It looks good if the room is lit just right, but if it's too dark the shadows just look like the rest of the tape.
For the border, I just used uncut tape all the way around. It does a nice job of covering up the LED rope lights, so that they aren't visible through the sheet, but the light still reflects off of the wall behind it.
I had an afterthought that putting all of the tape on the backside would be pretty cool. Then the details wouldn't be visible unless the light was on, like in the game. For the grayed out boxes, a more transparent tape would be used, like masking tape. I may do this when I inevitably have to take it down and reassemble it in a new location.
Step 6: Mount, Then Done!
But seriously, it was surprisingly easy and it turned out pretty well. Now go make your own, but better!