Light Up Plaque




Introduction: Light Up Plaque

This project can be modified simply to make any design into a light up plaque but I will be making a fish. Hope you have fun creating this!

Step 1: Step 1: Gathering Supplies

For the fish/your design:

  • Cardboard (big enough to fit 2 of your design)
  • Laser Cutter and access to Adobe Illustrator (alternately use a printer, exacto knife and mat)
  • Spray Paint (get creative here with how you want your fish to look, but I use black and gold)
  • Hot Glue
  • Tape
  • Short and thin strand of battery powered lights

For the Canvas:

  • Canvas (any size can be used but preferably slightly smaller than your cardboard design is)
  • Acrylic Paint (any colors you want, I use white and shades of blue, green, and purple to be ocean-like)
  • Wide Paint Brush

Step 2: Step 2: Making the Fish/your Design

1. Have design

Have a drawing or image of your design that is very clear and bolded (I drew mine on a piece of paper in black sharpie)

2. Cutting pieces (for using a laser cutter as I did)

Upload the picture to adobe illustrator and image trace it. Once you have a clean vector image of your design, send the outline and the vector image to the laser cutter.

2. Cutting pieces (for using an exacto knife)

Print 2 copies of the picture in the size you want it. Stabilize one of the printouts to the cardboard and cut the outline of the design. Stabilize the second printout to another piece of cardboard and cut out the details of the design.

3. Spray paint

Spray paint your different pieces whatever color you would like and don't be scared to get creative. Note that you don't have to spray paint the back piece of the design as it won't be seen in the end. As pictured, I used black for the outline and gold for the details of the fish. Tip: use a piece of tape to hold down the smaller pieces so the spray paint doesn't blow them away.

4. Reassembling

Use the hot glue to put the pieces back together on top of the outlined piece you cutout earlier (the piece you did not have to spray paint).

Step 3: Step 3: Creating the Canvas Background

For this step you can create a background as elaborate or simple as you choose. To make my ocean background I placed dots and lines of my colors randomly around the canvas. Using my big brush, I spread the paint out in a right to left motion until the entire canvas was covered.

Step 4: Step 4: Adding Lights

1. Placement

Decide where your design is going to be placed relative to the canvas background and mark it clearly with a pencil on the back of your cardboard design and lightly on the canvas background.

2. Hot glue wall

Create a wall of hot glue around the outline of your design only tracing the parts that will be on top of the canvas. This will add separation between the canvas and the cardboard so the lights will fit. Tip: use clear drying hot glue so the lights will shine through better in the end.

3. Lights

Carefully add the lights all over the back of the design staying within the bounds your hot glue wall created. Use tape to secure the lights. Find a place outside of the hot glue wall on your cardboard that will fit the battery of the lights and hot glue it. Tip: keep the lights as flat and non-overlapping as possible for cleanest looking result

Step 5: Step 5: Putting It Together

By only putting hot glue on the already established hot glue wall, secure your design to the canvas.

Now that you are done, take a look at your project with lights on, mostly off, and completely off as seen above!

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    13 days ago on Step 5

    hi weird question how would this work backwords ? if i wanted the lights to highlight the fish instead of the back round.. ? or did i just answer it my self. by the way this is awesome stuff.


    Reply 11 days ago

    Hi, thank you! I haven’t attempted that before but my best idea is to make the inlays (gold pieces) slightly smaller to allow the light through. Then tape the lights behind the inlays (gold pieces) or black outline if there is space and separate the black outline and gold inlays from the fish backing with a hot glue wall. Hope this helps!


    16 days ago

    Looks awesome!

    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    18 days ago

    Fun idea and I like the color blend on the background :)