After moving to a new apartment, I noticed I had a lot of empty wall space and not enough stuff to fill the void. I decided I just had to make something for it, and I came up with the idea to make a level sign from Portal. That's right, another Portal-themed instructable. Anyway, it's a very simple design. Definitely not my best work, but I had a few limitations: it had to be able to fit in my car because thanks to college, I move every three months. It also had to be cheap because, again, college.
After musing over a few ideas, I decided white cloth stretched over a wooden frame with some sort of backlighting would be my best bet. As for the details on the front, I at first thought fabric paint and stencils would be best, but opted instead to create them from duct tape.
I'm pretty GLaD it turned out the way it did. It isn't perfect, but for the price and size limitations I was working with, it turned out quite well. It's a cheap and simple project, and I think most anyone will be able to easily recreate it (maybe Black Mesa? That was a joke, haha, fat chance!)
Step 1: Materials
- Wood (I used three 1" x 2" x 8' furring strips)
- A white bed sheet or similar material
- Wood screws
- LED rope light
- Black duct tape (I used Gorilla tape)
- Picture hanging wire and mounting hardware
Step 2: Assemble the Frame
The frame is very simple; just a basic rectangle with a 2:1 ratio. I used a few furring strips from the local hardware store, but just about anything could work as the frame. Just keep in mind that if you want to hang it on a wall, avoid the heavy stuff.
Size is flexible, mine is is 6' x 3'. Just make sure that whatever fabric you are covering it in fits over it! Once I secured the sheet to the frame, I realized that the 6' beams bowed in a bit, so I added a support beam across the middle. Depending on the materials and size of your build, you may need more supports, or none at all.
Step 3: Add Lights
The LED rope lights I bought for this project came with their own mounting clips that could be screwed into the frame. I also used a few screw-in hooks at the corners, because they held onto the wood a bit better than the tiny screws in the clips did. The rope light was mounted close to the front of the frame, tight against the sides. As you will see later, the tape border covers the part of the sheet where the lights would shine through, so the only light seen when it is all assembled is the reflecting light from the back wall.
Step 4: Cover the Frame
To secure the sheet I stretched it over the frame, trimmed the extra material with scissors, then wrapped the edges around the back and secured it with Gorilla tape. I decided to not use staples or anything for fear of the sheet tearing, but they could be used depending on the material of the sheet.
Step 5: Adding the Details
For the large numbers and other details on the sign, I simply cut out the necessary shapes from duct tape and stuck them to the sheet. To cut the details to the correct size and place them in their proper locations, I opened an image of a level sign from Portal in GIMP, and scaled it to 360 x 720 pixels, so that 10 pixels = 1 inch on the sign. Counting the pixels gave an accurate size/location of the various details. I then used measuring tape and a ruler to place the tape on the sheet. For the smaller details, I printed out scaled images to regular printer paper and used them as stencils.
Also worth nothing is that I picked test chamber 14, because the numbers 1 and 4 are all straight lines and have no curves, which is super helpful, especially when one is not very steady.
The signs in game have some of the boxes at the bottom grayed out. To recreate this effect, I cut out those boxes from the tape backwards, and applied them to the back of the sheet, so that the shadow is visible from the front. It looks good if the room is lit just right, but if it's too dark the shadows just look like the rest of the tape.
For the border, I just used uncut tape all the way around. It does a nice job of covering up the LED rope lights, so that they aren't visible through the sheet, but the light still reflects off of the wall behind it.
I had an afterthought that putting all of the tape on the backside would be pretty cool. Then the details wouldn't be visible unless the light was on, like in the game. For the grayed out boxes, a more transparent tape would be used, like masking tape. I may do this when I inevitably have to take it down and reassemble it in a new location.
Step 6: Mount, Then Done!
After adding the wall-mounting hardware to the frame and a nail to the wall, it's ready to hang! This was a triumph. I'm making a note here, HUGE SUCCESS!
But seriously, it was surprisingly easy and it turned out pretty well. Now go make your own, but better!
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