There have been a whole lot of these floating around Pinterest and the blogosphere lately, and though I will say that I made mine before actually noticing how popular they had become, there isn't anything in particular that makes this version any better than anyone else's. My best suggestion? If you're going to attempt this (and honestly, it's not that hard!) Do some research and see what works best for you. If you want something weather proof and durable, go for the wooden version with some outdoor lights. You can vary the size, change up the color- the possibilities are endless.
I happened to have some shiny mat board on hand (I have a storage closet in my classroom chalk full of paper scraps that have been sitting around for years,) some 2in. masking tape, a set of big bulb lights that I previously purchased at Target, and a bit of metallic paint making the total cost of this project $0 for me. Don't have any of those things? Some foam core works nicely too (about $2 at your local craft store.) If you include the lights and even the metallic paint, I'd say the whole project could cost about $30. Well worth the expense in the end and much cheaper than you would spend on the an actual marquee letter which are being sold for a pretty penny at designer boutiques and home stores as the popularity increases.
1- Pick your letter, pick a size and sketch it out. You can use a ruler to freehand it, or a projector always works well for lettering if you have one handy. A box cutter, sturdy Xacto knife, or a nice, sharp pair of scissors to cut it out and your ready to build the side walls.
2- You can see in the close up that my mat board was shiny on one side, white on the back. I was going for the old, rusted metal marquee look, so I measured and cut long, 3in. wide strips out of the same shiny mat board to create the outer walls.
3- Use 2in. masking tape to attach the side walls all the way around. This is where I would suggest avoiding curvy letters, and making the font a block letter. I had a few curves, and bending the mat board to follow the edges created wrinkles that I didn't love. I ended up being able to camouflage them, but better to avoid it from the start.
I had a student-grade bronze paint in the closet that was perfect for the rust color I was going for, so I did a test run on a scrap of the silver mat board to make sure it would look ok. I applied it using a big, flat paint brush and dabbed the paint on for a textured look. For depth and added detail, I added a bit of black tempera paint to the bronze to darken it and created those deeper brown tones. I was pleasantly surprised by the finished look. I was actually able to fool my students into thinking it was metal!
Now for the fun part- the bulbs! Take a second to count your light set and do a little simple math to make sure it will all be evenly spaced and you have enough cord in between each bulb to reach your holes. At this point, I flipped it over and used a sharpie to draw a dot where each hole would be cut, then used an Xacto knife to cut an "X" on top of each dot, and pushed the cord through (without the bulb.) Then, screw the bulb back in...and repeat!
At this point you'll notice a whole lot of cord flopping around. Enter masking tape! Secure it all to the back to get it out of sight *just don't forget to make sure the plug is at the bottom of your letter and leave it loose to reach your outlet.* In the picture below you'll notice the masking tape is still visible around the outside. The last thing I did was use a gun-metal metallic paint to texture brush the white side and masking tape, the last step in the master disguise (you can vaguely see it in the picture of my kitchen down there.)
This was the point at which I could hardly contain my excitement...lighting it up! I felt like Chevy Chase in "National Lampoons Christmas Vacation" (a must-see classic around holidays) and even though I had checked the lights before I started, admittedly I was a little nervous it wouldn't light...
BUT lo and behold- light up it did.
I had made it to fill a big open wall in my work-in-progress kitchen , but it ended up filling a hole in my heart. That little space that can only be filled by a craft that makes you give yourself a pat on the back and slowly let go of the disappointment left by crafting fails of DIYs past (and for me, there have been many.) Seriously though, I really love the industrial like feel it adds to my anything but industrial home. We light it up at night and the glow is really warm and welcoming. We've also used it to add a little flare to the backyard movie night we had in the beginning of the summer!
*A note of caution: Any time you combine paper and lights/heat, there runs the risk of increased fire hazard. Always check to make sure your lights are low-temperature and use for short amounts of time to prevent overheating*