Light Up Your Friends Name- for Christmas, Valentines or Any Occasion! Edge Lit Freestanding Card

This instructable will show you how to make a free standing, or hanging, light up display.
Your friends will be amazed to see their names in light.

The author wishes to fully credit the folks over at Evil Mad Scientist for inspiration.
Their instructions are totally awesome, and I hope you will consider getting your supplies there as well.

I added two improvements to their Christmas Edge Lit cards which serve to take the original idea beyond "card" status. My main goal in making these improvements was to make the display stand (or hang) on its own, rather than being inserted into a card.

While you can make just one, the time required to gather all the materials, and costs is better suited to a dozen or so. In this way, each individual display will cost less than a dollar, and be completed in less than half an hour.

For all your work, you get to watch your friends faces light up. Priceless.

Step 1: Gather Supplies Part 1- Electronic Throwies

The LED lights and batteries needed are part of the "throwies" kits, except that magnets are not needed.
Be sure to check the comments at Evil Mad Scientists for purchasing possibilities

I bought mine from Buy LEDs Online
because they allowed me to select any quantity of colors (I prefer diffuse) and the battery prices were excellent.

Red is my favorite, and whatever you don't use at Christmas can be used for Valentine Day.
Buy one LED (10mm) and one battery (Type 2032) for each card you intend to make.

Of course you should allow a little play time when the package arrives. It's absolutely stunning how the LED and battery fit together to make such a bright light in such a small package.

Step 2: Gather Supplies Part 2- Plexiglass Aka Acrylic Sheet Plastic

Your local home improvement center should have sheets of Acrylic Sheet Plastic in a variety of sizes. For beginners, I wouldn't recommend a sheet larger than 18" by 24". This could make 18 if there are no mistakes or cracks.

You will also need electrical tape (festive color optional), exacto knife, ruler, and straight edge in later steps.

Step 3: Hands on Step 1- Cut Sheets in Garage

Eye protection advised.

Mark your plastic sheet with lines for 4" x 6" pieces. (You'll save time if you mark both vertically and horizontally initially.) Take care not to place it on a surface which might scratch it. Leave the protective film on until the very end.

With a blade, score along one of the lines using a straight edge. Repeat. I found three cuts adequate. Then flip the sheet  over, and break along the edge. (Similar to drywall.) Keep scoring and breaking until all the pieces are 4" x 6".

Then mark a diagonal line on one corner 2.5" along the bottom, and 2.5" up the side. This is where the light and battery will go.
Score and break. I found needle nose pliers helpful in the process.

Drill a 1/8" hole in the center at the top. It worth going slowly, or using a sharp bit.
Larger size holes will more easily cause fracture lines. Better to drill before adding all the art is added.

Step 4: Hands on Step 2- Scratching a Pattern

Choose a design. Or don't, and just write a word. That part is up to you. Stars, trees, houses, whatever. Sketch it on paper, or find something you like online.

Trace your design onto the plastic protecting the acrylic sheet. Straight line designs are highly preferred for knife work. Take care to leave a 1/4" border which electrical tape will cover up later.

An exacto knife will yield excellent results, and I prefer it as an artist.  (Attention Dremel owners: This is your chance to show off.) Go for one strong deep cut.

I like the smooth side on the front. This means that the letters in the name have to be reversed on the back. I usually write the person's name with a sharpie, then flip the paper over and trace through the glass.

Step 5: Hands on Step 3- LED and Electrical Tape

Optional: prepare the LED by wrapping a piece of electric tape on the "bottom" so that light doesn't leak out.

Place a piece of electrical tape in a straight line along the diagonal edge. Place the LED light just up from the edge of the glass. If you put the LED right on the edge of the glass initially, the light will not be as bright as you are hoping for because the middle of the LED won't be the part touching the glass. Try to keep the battery wires oriented so the battery can slide in on the same plane as the piece. Then place another piece of electrical tape on the other side, taking care to secure it to the glass first, then the LED, then push the tacky tape sides together.

Continue wrapping the edges in electrical tape. Tip: Make sure the "front" side electrical tape is applied in a straight line first. The front should also have a little extra width so that there is no tape showing from the back.

Optional: If you drilled a hole near the top in the garage step, be sure to make it accessible. Use a paper clip to poke a hole through so you remember where it is.

Step 6: Light Up and Enjoy

Insert battery. Oh La, La. It's magnificient.

By far the best place is a darker room near a window or mirror.
Display stands offer excellent results. (A dollar at most dollar stores.)
Hanging- by ornament hanger, paperclip or mint dental floss (green). Put on Christmas tree as a Christmas ornament. Hang from Christmas lights. Hang in the window. Your gift will make any room beautiful.

I hope you find these applications an awesome extension of the original project. It's too good to keep inside a card.

Best wishes for your project. Show your love all year round. Vote and comment if you like.



    • Organization Contest

      Organization Contest
    • Warm and Fuzzy Contest

      Warm and Fuzzy Contest
    • Paper Contest

      Paper Contest

    10 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Shrinky Dink plastic, shrunk or not, works well and is easy to cut and etch.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    i wonder how it would turn out with etching powder rather than carving


    8 years ago on Introduction

    i dont understand how the single led lights up the whole thing if the led is wrapped up in tape


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice! Sometimes a modest project can have profound results. 


    9 years ago on Introduction

    will upload a pic when i fix it (little brother sat on it

    Nice job.  I've been wanting to try that with some 1/4" lexan to see it if would give me that result.  Now you've solved the problem for me!  IF I get time to do it, the cutting will be done with a dremel or a milling machine.  A 5mm LED should just fit in it.   No laser cutter here either....


    9 years ago on Introduction

    funnily enough i make these at school all the time i get to use a laser engraver though

    1 reply

    Awesome! I've wished that I could try one.
    If I could, I would probably carve a notch for the LED and for the battery instead of cutting off the whole corner. No risk of shattering the piece with a laser cutter. That would also allow a smaller corner, and larger drawing area. I suppose you could repeat the pattern in multiple corners on an even bigger piece.
    Do post a picture if you have the chance.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    A small bandsaw works great for cutting the bigger sheets down. If you dont have one it is also a good excuse for buying one they are like $99 at lowes or HD 


    9 years ago on Introduction

    HAHA that's exactly what I've been working on for Christmas gifts. Mine are taking longer though, since I'm dremel'ing traced letters and using illustration board and foam core as a frame.