DIY Marquee Light {and how to make it in your own Custom Font!}

Today is the post you’ve been waiting for! Well, really it’s actually the post I’ve been making myself wait to share with you all! The colors in this playroom make me so happy!

If you saw June’s playroom reveal (see it here), then you know that this make over only cost me $55 total. You aren’t going to believe how cheap this amazing wall statement costs (See the very bottom of this post for the cost breakdown and sources.)

I like doing things from total scratch (no pre-made letters here!) Not only is it way cheaper, but because you can totally customize it, I think that it can be way cuter too.

Want to see the how to? Read on!

First I created the text I wanted in the size and font I wanted in photoshop. (They font I used can be found for free download here) I made the J to be about 22″ tall, and the other letters are about 12″ tall.

Now you need to create your text template to trace out onto your cardboard. Since I needed a “larger than standard size printer” for these letters, I took a little shortcut and traced them on my laptop screen (call me brilliant or stupid… either one works! :P)

I had to piece them all together like a puzzle.

Then I cut them out and taped them together. Don’t you see the potential? Haha… not looking so great… yet.

Then I traced those letters from my template onto large pieces of cardboard & cut them out.

I used an x-acto knife for the curves and hard to cut spots.

Am I the only person who gets hand cramps just thinking about cutting cardboard?

I laid my lovely letters on top of the fronts of my scrapbook paper. I shuffled them around a bit to decide which colors to use for each letter. Since my letters were so large, I had to use multiple sheets for several of the letters.

Now we get to cut the scrapbook paper to fit our letters…

Place the scrapbook paper with the front facing. Lay your letter down with the front facing the table. Glue your letter onto the paper.

Now that your letter is glued onto the paper you can flip it over and cut out the letter.

Like I said earlier, if your letters are larger than the standard paper size, you may need to patch up the places you ran out of paper.

Pretty easy.

One Tip: When cutting, try to leave a little bit of an edge, it will help make your letters look seamless when we add the strips for mounting.

Repeat the above steps until all your letters are colorful! 🙂

Next, take a white poster board, you know the type from Walmart that are only like 30 cents and are like 22 x 28 inches? Cut that poster into long strips about an inch wide. Make sure your strips are cut even and all the same width.

If the letters you are covering have lots of curves, give them a bit of curl by winding around your hand.

Glue your strip all along the edges of your letters. I just ran the glue gun all the way along the strip, making sure that it was secure.

Let the strips of paper wrap around & curve with the letter.

Remember that edge I told you to leave when cutting the scrapbook paper around the cardboard letter? When you’re adding the strips make sure it covers the cardboard edge completely. But make also make sure that the scrapbook paper overlaps the edge of the white paper strips. This insures that there are no gaps & makes it look seamless.

You may need use several strips of poster board per letter, but that’s okay, you won’t really notice it. Just try to plan out where they will start & stop so you can minimize it being on a main sight line.

Now for the lights…. I bought mine here. I picked them because they have a flat bulb head (and don’t look like cheap christmas lights) and a clear wire, which minimizes it sticking out too much. They were a 100 bulb strand, and I only used one.

I ripped up little pieces of paper to help me with placement for the lights before I punched any holes. I didn’t want to end up with too may holes and not enough lights, or vice versa. Once I had the placement right on all the letters, I marked them with a pencil.

To make the holes, I made an x shaped puncture with my x-acto knife…

Then I evened it out into the nice round circle size I needed by twirling a pencil in those holes.

Now you are ready to insert your lights!

Make sure to start the beginning of your strand with the first letter and then go letter to letter.

My lights aren’t battery operated (which would be an awesome way to do this by the way!) so they not only had a cord with a plug, but they also had a box to change the blinking settings. I decided to hide the box in the last letter, E, as it would fit better than in the J.

As a renter, I wanted to minimize holes in the wall, and since these letters are pretty light weight, I just hung them by securing them with sewing pins. Super simple & the sewing pins are so much longer than thumbtacks, so it worked perfectly.

Once they are all hung up, tuck in all the wires peaking out (and any bulbs that may be loose!)

Super cute? I think so! I love how it matches the bunting flag banner I made. It’s adorable even without the lights on.

The cords going from letter to letter aren’t even very noticeable either.

Seriously one of the best 3 hours I’ve spent crafting!

I love how it has different blinking patterns.

Total Cost 7.64

$0.30 White Poster Board (Walmart)

$2.64 Scrapbook Saper (8 pages at 1 for 33 cents at Joanns)

$5.00 Lights (found on Amazon, Here I only used one strand, and it had 100 lights on it) Seven Bucks is awesome! I didn’t have to pay for pre-made individual letters or expensive globe bulbs- but I love the result so much more because it’s totally customized in the font, color, wording, and size I want!

Make sure to check out all the other posts in this series!

UPDATE: Here is June’s Marquee in her new room on top of her DIY Pallet Dresser (tutorial HERE!)

thank you for stopping by!

  1. Angie

    September 26th, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    I've been waiting for you to post this! It looks fabulous! Did you only need one string of the lights for the whole name? I can't decide if I want to do this for my four month old son Finn or my third grade classroom at school. Hmm.

  2. Hannah Hathaway

    September 26th, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    Hi Angie!
    Yes I just used one strand (100 lights) I debated using more, but after playing around with the placement, I decided 100 was plenty.

    My vote is to do both! Haha! Would love to hear how yours turns out! Have fun! 🙂

    <3 Hannah

  3. amy

    September 27th, 2013 at 2:08 am

    This is honestly the coolest DIY I've seen in a while! I'm so in love. Your blog is totally adorable and I'm going to start following you as soon as I post this comment! Thanks for sharing with us.

    Amy @ http://www.delineateyourdwelling.com

  4. Hannah Hathaway

    September 27th, 2013 at 2:42 am

    Thank you Amy! Your comment made my day! <3

  5. The Cultured Cavewoman

    September 28th, 2013 at 3:41 am

    This is amazing!! Definitely got my wheels turning on where I could put one in my house!! Lol! 🙂

    Would love it if you linked up: http://theculturedcavewoman.com/2013/09/27/simplified-saturdays-1/

    Have a great weekend! 🙂

  6. Mama Tully

    September 29th, 2013 at 11:20 am

    This is just the cutest project EVER! I have 3 kids….I want to make one for all of them, haha!!!

  7. Hannah Hathaway

    September 29th, 2013 at 11:40 am

    Thanks! I say go for it! Haha! 🙂

  8. Mindi Carwin

    October 2nd, 2013 at 4:30 am

    Okay, I am totally following you now, you are so creative! I love how cheaply you made these, they are totally adorable!

  9. Hannah Hathaway

    October 2nd, 2013 at 4:44 am

    Haha! Thanks, you are so sweet & you totally just made my day! 🙂

  10. CCL

    October 14th, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Brilliant!!!

  11. Hannah Hathaway

    October 14th, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Aww! Thanks! <3

  12. Sandrine

    October 15th, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Fantastic!!! And I know how these "look so easy" projects go…They take hours to make so kuddos to you and thank you so much for sharing. Quick question: I wanted to take a look at the room reveal and maybe share it on my blog (twiggyandlou.blogspot.com) but when I click on the link, it sends me to Pinterest. Is there another way to see the entire room? Thank you and again…Bravo!!!

  13. Hannah Hathaway

    October 15th, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Hi Sandrine! Thanks for your sweet comment- yes it did take several hours but it was totally worth it! 🙂

    Here's the link to the post- sorry about it redirecting you to Pinterest- that would be my pin it Hoover button over my images- sometimes it gets in the way! 🙂
    http://www.welivedhappilyeverafter.com/2013/09/55-little-girl-playroom-reveal.html?m=1

    Stay in touch!

    <3 Hannah

  14. JM Aldred

    October 16th, 2013 at 3:18 am

    very nice, I think I can use this idea at the lake house..

  15. Hannah

    October 16th, 2013 at 4:59 am

    So glad you like it! You should make one- the end result is stunning! 🙂

  16. Alexis Middleton

    October 18th, 2013 at 12:16 am

    Love this! (And not just because my daughter's name is June too.) Definitely pinning for later! 🙂

  17. Hannah

    October 18th, 2013 at 12:54 am

    Haha! You have great taste in names! 😉

  18. inmyc

    November 4th, 2013 at 7:24 am

    I want to thank you for the idea and the tutorial and the whole inspiration! We finally did it! We gathered a few friends on Saturday and made our own marquee letter (and not only) lights. You can check our results here: http://bit.ly/1aXAjE7

  19. Anonymous

    November 7th, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    This DIY project is SO neat! All of your ideas and projects are always amazing and easy to follow! I look forward to seeing new tutorials you plan on posting!

  20. Organized Island

    November 27th, 2013 at 1:46 am

    I love this – so cute! How did you post the blinking picture here? It looks like a video, but it is not. Great project!

  21. Hannah

    November 27th, 2013 at 2:02 am

    Thanks! I made an animation in photoshop image ready to get the lights to blink- just a fun photoshop trick. 🙂

  22. Dennise

    January 17th, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Love this you did a great job, and great job on the tutorial as well. I know posting every single detail can get tedious. I am sure June loves it!

  23. Hannah

    January 17th, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Thank you Dennise, sometimes it's so relaxing to be able to craft and create without photographing and thinking through all the steps! 😛

    But I had a blast doing this one!

    Have a wonderful day! <3

  24. Ron O Rourke

    January 17th, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Hey, loving your blog all signed up and ready to go 😉 been looking for a way to make the old style marquee lights and you my dear are a super star 😉

  25. Hannah

    January 17th, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    Thank you Ron! You just made my day! Feel free to share a picture of your finished marquee light on my Facebook page when you're done! <3

  26. Anonymous

    January 21st, 2014 at 12:58 am

    OK, so yeah…that is really cool. Great job.

  27. Hannah

    January 21st, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Thanks! 🙂

  28. annamnt

    January 27th, 2014 at 8:55 am

    I'd call you brilliant ! Great tutorial ! I might use a wooden board instead of cardboard for cutting the letters.

  29. Hannah

    January 27th, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Aww! Thanks! Wood would be great too! Let me know how it turns out! <3

  30. Seoane Melliz

    March 12th, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    Hi , Is my first time for here . It's so beautiful. Great creative Job.
    Sorry for my English , I'm Spanish .
    Bye

  31. Hannah

    March 12th, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    Thank you for your sweet comment! You made my day! <3

  32. Jasmine

    March 19th, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Hi! Just wondering whether the lights u bought white or warm white?
    By the way, great work there! Thanks for sharing this wonderful tutorial ^^

  33. Hannah

    March 19th, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    I'm pretty positive I got the warms ones- because I thought the white would be too harsh…. Sorry I can't 100% remember! Have fun! 🙂

  34. coolandchic

    May 19th, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Nice!!!

  35. coolandchic

    May 19th, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    Nice!!

  36. JDzJane

    June 5th, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    I just wanted to say that your sign is ADORABLE and I love the way you did it – no fancy tools. It makes me feel like I can actually do it. Thanks, you are an inspiration. And you have a beautiful family

  37. StephTow

    July 18th, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    This is amazing! And cheap! And awesome! And cheap! Did I mention I like the inexpensiveness of it??? 🙂 Great instructions, I can't wait to do this for my rock star daughter's bedroom! Thank you so much!

  38. Mackenzie Thurau

    October 26th, 2014 at 4:47 am

    Seriously. You are brilliant. LOVE.

  39. Anonymous

    December 17th, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    How did you get your letters to be so large? I tried using Microsoft word but they aren't as large as yours.

  40. Hannah @ We Lived Happily Ever After

    December 30th, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Sorry for taking so long to respond. I actually zoomed in on my computer & traced out the letters by hand over the screen (very lightly!) But you could also get them bigger by doing an engineer print at staples too! Hope that helps!

  41. michelle mikiyupi

    March 16th, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    This is awesome, you were wondering if it was genius or stupid copying the letters from the computer screen?…..I call it AWESOMNESS!!! love how you find the way to make it easy to get it done. this proyect is great

  42. Hannah @ We Lived Happily Ever After

    March 25th, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    Thanks Michelle! You seriously made me laugh. Haha! Guess we are kindred spirits! XO

  43. Jessica

    October 14th, 2015 at 2:15 am

    Okay im in love with this!!!! i love the light up marquee look but am afraid of the light-up marquee price! one question though (coming from someone who is a little too paranoid), does the heat on the cardboard not pose a fire hazard? I LOVE YOUR BLOG! I AM OFFICIALLY A FOLLOWER 😛

  44. Becky Clegg

    September 7th, 2016 at 3:40 am

    I have to say I love your ability to do something darling without all the expensive machines and products required by so many projects! And your idea is purely creative. I'm so impressed. THank you for this tutorial, it's beautiful and I love that it's portable/renters can use it! BRILLIANT!

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