Introduction: Multi-Layer Acrylic Stencil Desk Light

About: I'm a content creator. I make open source projects and videos for said projects. My goal is to create free and open knowledge for everyone.

This is a pretty simple, yet very nice looking way to make a personalized desk lamp out of some acrylic and spray paint. Very nice gift for a loved one or friend.

Step 1: Watch the Video.

Step 2: Gather the Materials/Tools.

For the Image

  • A sheet of clear acrylic 3mm thick. I used to get this from a plastics shop near by my place, but I actually found them at a hardware store (Home Depot) for less money. Leave the protective layer on(Important for stencil to work)
  • Spray Paint(or regular paint, but I think its cleaner with Spray Paint) - I used Krylon Plastics which adhere really well to the acrylic.
  • Sharp blade
  • Printer
  • Simple Photo Editing
  • 4 long bolts(length depends on how many layers of acrylic you choose to use they will be used to bolt all of the pieces together)
  • Drill
  • Tools to cut acrylic(band saw, jig saw, table saw, lots of stuff will cut it, hand saw?)

For the Wooden Stand

  • 3/4" square Dowel
  • Piece of scrap wood around 4"x4"
  • A piece of LED Strip
  • Power brick or Batteries to power LEDs.
  • Some wood cutting tools
  • Drill
  • Soldering Iron

Step 3: Design Your Image.

I decided to take an image of my girlfriends dog standing at a window. I thought it would look cool because the last layer(the window) would be reversed so there is no paint where the stencil is but instead you can see through it.

What I did was up the contrast, and make individual layers of the image in different solid colours. There are tutorials online on how to do this, but you could even do it in paint if you had the time to.

Step 4: Cut the Acrylic, Print the Image

Now that you have the individual layers with the colours, what you need to do to do is decide first how big it is going to be, and cut the acrylic into as many pieces as needed to complete your project(depending on how many colour layers you have). Stack them on top of each other and put 4 holes in the corners so they are all lined up. The holes are so you can bolt the assembly together when its done.

Print each of the photo layers out and center them on the acrylic. Carefully cut around the stencil following the outline. You will be cutting right through the paper into the acrylics protective layer. This is how you will make the stencils!

Step 5: Peel the Acrylic Protective Layer and Paint!

This is the satisfying part, but be Careful! Make sure you are peeling the right side of the image you want painted. You really only get one chance at this because the protective layer will not stick as well once you start peeling off. Also be careful not to scratch the acrylic with the blade. As you can see for the window piece above, the entire piece of acrylic was painted and only the window was left with the protective layer.

Each layer is painted with a different colour. When they are dry you will peel the rest of the protective layer off of the acrylic to reveal your stencil. This will take some practice, but its not difficult and the paint wants to stick to the acrylic more than the protective layer. When they are all peeled you will use the reverse side of the acrylic so everything will look crisp and clear. I had some trouble with small pieces of semi dried paint falling onto the acrylic while peeling. Be carefuly of this as its hard to get off the bare acrylic.

Step 6: Build a Stand

You don't actually need to make a light up stand, it will look cool without it, but it will look amazing with it so I would recommend making the stand as well. I didn't take many pictures when doing the stand. Basically it is a block of wood with the two dowels screwed to it with the thickness of the acrylic piece, so it can fit between them. I cut out a section for the LEDs and drilled a hole through for the wire to attach and plug into the wall. I then just used some hot glue to hole the wire in place, the LEDs have a sticky back but there wasn't a strong adhesion to the wood. I sanded it, threw on a bit of stain, and it was done!

Step 7: Plug It in and Admire Your Work.

This was a very quick project. I had originally planned to get everything laser cut but because of the fact it was Christmas eve when I started(and finished!) it, the place I go to get stuff laser cut was closed. The blade method ended up working perfectly, I had to simplify the images a little more than I had originally planned, but I think it looks fantastic.

Note: And dirt/dust/paint that gets into unwanted places will show up like no other. The acrylic has just enough stick to it to be really annoying. Try to take care in making sure no dust gets between the layers. Just know you won't be able to get it all unless you are in a clean room.

I hope you make one yourself. I know I will be making a few more.