Lighted Marquee Letters


Happy 1st Crafternoon!!

With the dawn of Pinterest, my inner crafter has started to emerge. I love creating things and challenging my creative side, and was so happy when my best friends wanted to instate “Crafternoons”. Being a full-time working mom, I don’t have time, energy, or the money it takes to be as crafty as I would like. So instituting a once-a-month Crafternoon was the perfect balance. With how busy life has become, and how “connected” we all think we are due to Facebook, I so miss and cherish the times I have face-to-face with my closest friends. This is such a great way to bond, be creative, and have a ton of fun {the B. Spears station may or may not have been playing the whole time…}

For our first Crafternoon, we all decided that we wanted to attempt making a Lighted Marquee Letter or word. I decided to just tackle one letter, and as most of my crafts/purchases have been going, of course it revolved around little M. Or big M in this case – as in 24″ lighted marquee M, woo! My bestiiiies made the amazing words above “Love” and “Go Hawks” – which both turned out amazing!!

This project definitely took a full day, some power tools, and a lot of planning {“…so if my string of lights has 20 bulbs, that means I need to drill 22 holes, right?! “} math was never my strong suit. {I’ll explain this “duh” more below}.

Here we go …




  • Cardboard box letter(s) {I bought a 24″ cardboard box letter “M” from the local craft store}
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Box knife
  • Craft knife
  • Scissors
  • Sander {craft block sanders work the best}
  • Coins {as many coins as there are bulbs on the string of lights you purchase}
  • Drill
  • Spray paint {I wanted it to be a pop of pink, so I bought a can of Hot Pink spray paint}
  • String lights {20 strand is suggested}

{Step 1}

Take the ruler and pencil and outline the edges of the letter on the side you want facing out.


I left about 1/8 inch from the outside edge all around.



{Step 2}

Carefully use the box knife to score along the line. It takes about 2-3 times of carefully running the box knife along the line to start to break through.

20140104_144332I used the craft knife {fancy box cutter} for the curves and corners. Once I started to break through the top layer and had a long strip cut out, I used the scissors to cut a chunk out to make it easier to score. On the inside of these letters is flimsy, waffled pieces of cardboard for structure, so make sure to remove those.

{Step 3}

Use the sander to go along the inside of the cut edges to take off the excess cardboard scraps.


{Step 4}

This is one of the most important steps – plan out your bulb placement!! I did this in two ways: {1} I hand-drew a “to scale” M that I played around with dot placements on; {2} Used coins and placed them in the M to visually get a feel for the bulb placement. OK, confession: The coin idea came up because {as in my “duh” reference above} I could not consistently use 20 dots in my sketch! For some weird reason, I kept adding 2 more dots! It sounds crazy, but honestly, my other best friend who was there miscounted her placement too!! {I won’t show you the pictures of the back of her letter that had multiple markings!}

2014-01-05 18.34.59I would definitely suggest the coin method as shown above, since you can first count out the amount of bulbs the string has, so that you can work with that!

{Step 5}

Since I had my placement of the bulbs laid out with the coins, I used my pencil and traced around each coin.


{*Afterthought Note: Tracing lightly on the front is fine, because the spray paint and bulbs should cover it, but if you want you can also do this on the backside, so that nothing will show}

{Step 6}

Time to use the power tools! I used my husband’s handy power drill, and his drill bits. I used a drill bit that was closest to the size of my bulbs. It ended up being a little too small, so I used needle-nose pliers to slightly widen it. It is always better to start smaller and have to make it a little bigger, then realizing you made the hole too big!


IMG951561{Step 7}

Now it is time to paint! Be sure to go outside or where there is a lot of air ventilation and put protective gear down so that you don’t paint unwanted items!! Make sure you get in all the nooks and the tops, side and bottom! No need to paint the back.


{Step 8}

After the paint has dried, it is time to put in the lights!! After removing the lights from the package, unscrew each light bulb and start placing them in each specified location. The bulbs should fit snug into each hole. It is best if you find a string of lights that has a clip on each socket.




{Step 9}

Once the light bulbs are all in, carefully turn over the letter(s). Decide where you are going to want the plug in end to be, and make sure you line up each bulb with its correct socket. Twist the bulb into the corresponding socket one at a time. Use the clips on each socket to keep the cord contained as you go along. It’s going to look like a hot mess back there!

2014-01-05 18.34.23

{Step 10}

Plug it in!! Don’t freak out if some of the bulbs aren’t lighting up {believe me I know how excited you will be to plug it in finally and then to see a few bulbs not lit can create craft-panic}. This most likely means that you need to screw that bulb in a bit tighter into its socket. {BE SURE TO UNPLUG BEFORE TIGHTENING!}

Plug it in again, after you have tightened all of the lights that weren’t working, and VOILA! Look in awe at your beautiful creation!!



If you want to make a Lighted Marquee word, like the “Love” or “Go Hawks” signs, they used the 12″ cardboard letters, and did all of the same steps as above. They used two strands of the 20 bulb lights, and decided where they wanted the plug to end, and worked from there, connecting them all together.


{*Afterthought Note: I am being cautious about leaving my lights on, as the bulbs get a little hot, and are close to the cardboard – I am exploring buying a flame-resistant clear coating to put all over the M}

What did you think of this? Please share your thoughts, ideas and comments!