Introduction: Ghostbusters Neon Sign Tutorial

In this tutorial i try to go step by step trough this more complex build.

In order to get this thing made you will need a K40 Laser cutter or a bigger machine.

If you have a 3D printer you can read tru this tutorial to gather some useful informations aswell.

I rate this project to be an advanced one!

You will need knowledge about Corel Draw, Laser cutting and Soldering.


K40 Laser Cutter

a copy of Corel Laser (Corel Draw 12)

LED Neon Strips in the colors of choice (to be found on ebay)

a sheet of black or transparent acrylics

Soldering iron

Litz wire (thin electric cable)

Tweezers, plyers and things that help to squeeze in the LED strip to the acrylic sheet

9v Power Supply or a 12v Power Supply & 6 x 10 ohms Resistors

Suplerglue Gel & Activator Spray

Step 1: Getting the Measurements

First i need to get the measurements of the LED strip material. I measured it to be 5mm wide with a caliper without squeezing it together. This LED stuff is very flexible.

So i cut me a template to see wich width is best to hold the LED strips in place without the need of squeezing them to much. Mind that acryllics may break when the gaps are to narrow.

For this LED strips 4.8 - 4.9mm seems to work best in my case.

Step 2: Before We Get Started

You can basicly use almost every Logo there is BUT there are some very important points i want to meantion before we get started:

First: Think about making it a two part design from the beginning.

If you are working with a K40 Laser as i do, you are very tight on space as the LED Strips can only be cut every 25mm. so the shortest dot or line in your design will be 25mm long unless you paint parts of it black to blackout a spot. However every segment needs to be soldered later on and of course the shorter the segment the stiffer the LED strip is what can cause problems later in the build when squeezing the segments in place. So under some circumstances it will be reasonable to make it bigger and make it two parts that can be glued or screwed together.

Leave enough space between each section of led strip so as a thick contour that surrounds the design. Bending the led strips applies tension onto the acrylics in all different directions and the tension adds up, specially where multiple strips are located close together there is a high risk of breaking the acylics.

Acrylics can be glued nicely with superglue gel. But i suggest you Get you some activator spray!

Give each LED segment a directional marking before cutting it i to pieces, so you know witch side to solder later.

The led strips soldering pads give you 4mm of margin, 2 mm to every side from the printed on cutting line. Only cut away the pads on the side you are not willing to solder to

Solder the segments before squeezing them into the actyllic sheet as they are a pain to get out again.

Step 3: Corel Draw 12

My K40 Laser came with a copy of Corel Draw 12 and a plug in called Corel Laser.

This is an old version that has some bugs and missing features but to my knowledge the only version that is compatible with the plug in.

In order to get our design started we need to install a Macro that gives us information about the line length!

In my Youtube video i explain in detail how to "install" it. Is is nothing very complicated nor time consuming.

With the Macro installed i start my design with a circle.

In the video i made the mistake of making it to big! Keep in mind that later in the design we need to draw an outer contour line what takes away almost 10mm in total. So keep the design 10-15mm smaller than the size of the Laserbed for now.

Step 4: Simple But Important Math

In order to make a design where the LED strip will fit in we need to draw every line in a certain length.

The LED strip is cuttable every 25mm so every line needs to be dividable by 25.

This is why we have installed this Macro before.

The circle i adjusted to the size of the laserbed has a line length of 694mm.

694 / 25 = 27,76

As this circle already comes close to the limit of the K40 i bring it down to 27.

27x25= 675

I need to bring down the size of this circle until the line length is 675mm, so that the Led strip will fit exactly later in the build.

Im my case setting X and Y to 215mm gives the magic number.

Next i give the circle a colored fill and hop over to Google where i get ma a photo of the Ghostbusters Neon Sign.

Step 5: Line Lengths

I copy and paste the Ghostbusters logo into Corel Draw and match it about to size of the circle. I point for the mid line of the logo as we will thicken the lines later in the process.

Then there is a quite nice feature when working with a photo in the background.

If you rightclick on the photo you can lock it in place so you will not accidentially select it all the time. Then i start to break apart the circle following the original picture.

After i finished this step i set the fill color to transparent and move the circle over where i can see it.

Now as i intercut the circle i have to rescale the lentgh of each segment to again make each line dividable by 25mm. This is the tricky part as it now comes down to your creativity. I can enlarge one line and make the other a bit shorter to keep it the right aspect without loosing to much space for the hands later.

Step 6: Understanding the Principle

I have adjusted the lentghs of the circle. I feel improvment from working on the first circle and become faster in adjusting the lines. With a bit of practice the process now becomes logic and easy. So i start following the lines of the original photo using the freehand tool. Then i clean up the lines by deleting some needless nodepoints before i adjust the line lentgh.

No Neon sign is 100% acurate so i change some of the curves to fit the size and bends. Mind that we need to bend the LED strip in place later on and it can be a tricky task when the bends are to narrow.

Step 7: Thicken the Lines

My design is done!

Next i need to bring these line up the width. This is as simple as selecting each line, going up to the line thickness window, replacing the word "hairline" with the required width what in my case is 4,8mm.

This may leave us with a problem. In my case there are some lines that are overlapping, so i re-arrange the design a bit to make everything fit. Here is a very important clue:

The space i leave between the segments is way to small! It will later cause my attempt to almost fail! You need way more space between each Led strip to reduce the risk of breaking the acrylic sheets later on!

Step 8: Making the Cutting Outline

In order to make an outline i first duplicate my design by holding ctrl + d.

I move over the duplicated design and do the following sequence:

Select the design

Ungroup it

Combine it

Arrange -> Close Path -> Closest Nodes with Straight Lines

Arrange -> Convert Outline to Object

Arrange-> Break Curve Apart

This leaves us with a black matte of our design. I select it and move it over as there are now some ojects hidden behind it that i need to delete. Also i need to edit some nodes that have gone ape-sh... during this process.

I select the original design and give it a white fill, then i select both go to arrange and align to center of the page so both (the matte and the design) are now aligned exactly over each other. I select the matte and edit some nodepoints to make my design fit nicely.

Then we need to make the matte bigger in order to get an cutting outline. In the effects tab click on contour.

Again i made a mistake here, my contours are way to thin so go ahead and make it a 5mm contour to the outside.

After this i select the matte and convert it again to an object Arrange -> Convert Outline to Object.

The i remove the black fill what leaves me with two outlines. I go ahead and delete the inner (smaller) one.

The i also convert the design to an object and remove the fill before center both to the middle of the page.

Step 9: My Layout

I give you my Layout for free, but be warned as i told you there are some spacing issues even i managed to get this build done i broke off certain parts!

I also designed a stand using a box layout i found online and added some detail to make it look like a Ghost-trap.

Step 10: Time to Cut

I use some 3mm thick acrylics but if you have ticker stuff it will help to give it more strength.

After cutting the two parts i glue them together using Superglue gel and activator spray. Note that some activator sprays my be staining the acrylics.

Step 11: Fitting the LED Strips

I mark the polarization onto the Led strips so as a little arrow to know what side needs to be solded before cutting off a segment. I hold the strip over the cutout and look for the nearest cutting point.

The strips have a little margin as the soldering pads give us 2 extra mm each side so we can cut down small pieces until the strip fits exactly to our cutout. Of course we can only cut off the soldering pads on the side we don´t want to solder to later on!

While cutting the strips keep an eye onto wich side goes where. You want the sides that need to be soldered point at each other, else wou need to run more cable later.


After cutting the segments arrange them next to the sign but do not squeeze them in just yet as we need to solder them first. They are squishy and a pain to pull out again! this is how i managed to break off the eye section where four segments are located very close together.

Step 12: Bending LED Neon Strips

Don´t get frustrated!

The Led strips are quite bendable but each segment that needs to be bended inducts tensions to the acrylics. I had my design crack on several spots , luckily there is Superglue!

To be able to make radical bends i cut out a little V shaped piece of the silicone sleeving in order to make this stuff bend tight. Watch out not cutting tru the actual Led strip! I always cut the opposite side of the ledstrip.

Don´t forget that carpet or xacto knifes are the most dangerous tools in your shop as they don´t make any noise that may warn you of danger!... i cut myself twice during this step!

Step 13: Soldertime

I don´t give to much directions here about how to solder as there are plenty of tutorials about it.

In my case i needed to cut away a lot of solder pads in order to get them in place so hooking them all up in series is not possible. I decided to wire all of them in paralell what means more cables...

So i solder each segment and then mount them into the acrylic board one by one. This is the most nervewrecking part of the build... be prepared that the one or other piece will break off.... But don´t worry it can be glued back together ... keep in mind that no neon sign looks great at daylight...

Notice how my design broke apart again.. i decided to finish the soledring and glue it together all at the end before removing the protective film of the acrylics.

Step 14: Power Supply

I don´t go into detail how i builded the stand for the Neon Sign as i showed this in the video.

The LED strips are rated for 12v dc however they seem to be very bright when powered on full voltage so using my bench powersupply i found that 9v looks better to me and also will increase the lifetime of the LED´s by at least 2 times.

To find the right resistors i make a simple calculation using the ohm´s law:

Power Supply U = 12V

LED consumption: 0,5A

Wanted Volatge = 9v

I need to get rid of :12-9 = 3v

3 / 0,5 = 6 ohms

The nearest value i have on hand is a 10 ohm resistor. This resistor can handle 1/4 watts, 3vx0,5A = 1,5watts. So i will roughly solder in one resistor for every 10 cm of LED strip, 6 resistors in total to distribute the load.

Step 15: Finished!

This is how my Ghostbusters Neon sign came out, you maybe can see that i look quite relieved that it came out that nice after a quite challenging project!

Hope this Instructable was helpful and motivated you to make your own!

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