DIY Neon Light Art

Introduction: DIY Neon Light Art

About: I've always loved making things - from art and craft projects, food and drinks and now hobby electronics too! We really are only limited by our imagination (and our hobby budget)!

I've been to a couple of hen's (bachelorette) parties in my time, but I'd never hosted one. My sister was getting married and I wanted to make something that was hen's related to celebrate her evening of fun. I love the way neon looks and love taking photos of neon signs and art, so I settled on a slightly risque theme - a pink neon sailor, complete with hat and neckerchief.

Of course you can choose whatever theme you want - you might choose a flamingo, a bottle of beer, a cactus, the options are really endless. The best part is, you don't really need any special skills, just the right materials and a couple of hours. So let's get started!

Supplies

For this project you'll need:

  • Florist wire in your chosen colour - 12 gauge (you could use an old wire coathanger or other bendable wire if you prefer)
  • EL wire in your chosen colour (I chose one that has three modes - steady on, flashing on and off)
  • Sticky tape
  • Your template (discussed in Step 1)
  • Small disposable container (EG: takeaway container or margarine/butter container)
  • Cement mix + water
  • Wire Cutter/Heavy Duty Scissors
  • Black Electrical Tape

Optional:

  • Photoshop/other photo editing software
  • Printer
  • Pliers
  • Sandpaper

Step 1: Step 1: Choose and Create Your Template

Once you've decided on the theme for your neon light art, you can create your own template if you're artistically inclined. You'll just need a few pieces of paper and sketch it out. If you're like me, and a little challenged with your drawing skills, then search Google Images for some ideas. I found an image of a 'sailor themed entertainer' which I thought would look great on the snacks table at the hens party.

I opened the image in Photoshop and used the Image > Image Size menu to adjust the size of the image. You'll want to make sure it's large enough to make an impact, but small enough that you have enough EL and florists wire to create your art. I chose an image size of about 60cm (about 2 feet) high.

Then print out the image (make sure it's not scaled to fit one page), this will ensure it prints over a number of pages (mine printed over 6 landscape A4 pages).

You can use your sticky tape to stick the pages together and you should have a good template to work from.

Step 2: Step 2: Check Your Lengths and Decide Your Plan of Attack

Grab your florist wire and roughly unwrap it and follow the lines you will follow to make the shape (make sure you leave a 5-10cm (2-4 inch) length at each end for the wire to go into the base. This will ensure that you have enough to go the distance. If you don't, you'll need to resize your template and try again.

If you've got enough florist wire, do the same with your EL wire.

Once you're happy with the lengths, decide on your Plan of Attack!

The EL wire needs to stay in one piece, so ideally your florist wire should do the same. If you're creating a simple shape, this shouldn't be too difficult, but if you're doing something a little more involved like this project, then it's best to get a pen and trace the shape outline that you will follow when you bend the wire. This will help when you begin to bend the shape and will ensure you don't miss any bits.

Step 3: Step 3: Start Bending

Once you've got your plan and template sorted, you're ready to start making! The wire is pretty easy to bend with your hands, but if you have any tighter bends, you might like to use a set of pliers to bend to the right angle.

Start off at one end of the template. Ensure you leave 5-10cm (2-4 inches) at the start - depending on how deep your takeaway container is, as this will allow you to put the wire into the cement base when you make that.

Try to keep your wire as flat as possible on the table/workbench and keep an eye on the wire to ensure it sits over the whole template. As you bend, the other parts of the artwork may move, so you want to make sure that it all follows the template and doesn't become distorted. It's important to keep an eye on your work as you go, so you can correct things at the time - it's a lot harder to correct it once it's all been bent into shape.

Follow the outline that you've drawn with your pen (if you need to) and ensure you haven't missed any parts. You should finish off with another 'leg' coming down the other side of the artwork (in my case it's literally the legs of the sailor). You can trim the wire to match the length on the other side using heavy duty scissors or some wire cutters.

The finished product is sitting over my template in the photo. If there are minor changes you need to make, then try to correct them. You might also want to hold it up to see if there are any areas that need support and that it all looks OK when it's standing up (see picture 2).

Step 4: Step 4: Add Your EL Wire

OK so you're happy with the outline of the florist wire, now it's time to add the lights!

Grab your EL wire and trace around the florist wire again, just to make sure you have enough. I originally tried glue to stick the EL wire to the florist wire, however this didn't work for me. You might want to give it a go, but I found that sticky tape worked just as well, and didn't look too bad, especially from a distance.

Start off with the battery pack end of the EL wire and measure out the amount of EL wire you'd like to use as the 'lead'. You might be happy with the built in length, but I wanted a slightly longer 'cord' so I measure a bit longer. I then started tracing the EL wire along the florist wire and placing a small strip of sticky tape around both the wires to ensure the EL wire sticks on the front of the florist wire. Keep working, placing sticky tape every 5cm (2 inches) or so. You'll find that some bits where it's more fiddly will need sticky tape at more regular intervals (like around the neckerchief) to ensure you get the neon illusion and other parts you can probably space it a little further apart (like up the sides (hip/leg area).

Keep working until you've traced all the EL wire around the florist wire.

Turn off your lights and switch on the EL wire to test it out. If you're happy with the way it looks, then you can cut off any excess EL wire at the end with your scissors.

Step 5: Step 5: Make the Base

Once you're happy with your DIY Neon Light Art, it's time to make the base for it to sit in. As you would have noticed, the wire isn't very heavy at all, so you don't need a massive base. You can use a takeaway container or butter/margarine container as your mould - anything that you're happy to throw out at the end, and preferably something that's easy to cut into. I used a takeaway container.

I measured out the concrete mix straight into the container and mixed with water and gave it a stir to ensure it was well mixed. I placed the container on some newspaper and then made a cut with some scissors down the side of the container. This is where you will feed the lead to the battery pack through. (You might choose to make the cut before you start mixing up the cement, but make sure you sit the container on newspaper, because it will make a bit of a mess).

Get your neon light art and place the wire 'feet' into the wet concrete mix. If your concrete mix has some aggregate in it, you might need to give it a bit of a jiggle to ensure the wire gets far enough into the base. Then feed the EL wire through the hole you've made and position it in a good spot.

I found that because of the height of my neon light art, I had to stack some books on either side of the wire to hold it in place in the concrete base while it dries.

Step 6: Step 6: Finish It Off

Once the concrete dries (24-48 hours) you can pull the base out of the container. You might need to cut the sides off. Use your scissors if you need to.

If you lengthened the 'lead' and there is extra coloured EL wire coming out of the concrete base (towards the battery pack), then get your black electrical tape and wind it around that part to ensure the coloured light is blocked out.

Neaten up the edges of the concrete if you need to with a bit of sandpaper.

Then switch on the light and admire your work!

Thanks for checking out my very first Instructable!

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    3 Comments

    0
    Rose Li
    Rose Li

    6 months ago

    Where did you buy such a thin neon light strip and fixed it to the shape you want?

    0
    mattb_138
    mattb_138

    Reply 6 months ago

    Hi Rose! Thanks for stopping by. Rather than a neon light strip, it's actually called EL wire and can be found on Amazon/Ebay/Aliexpress and the like. Lots of colours and lengths available. Cheers!