Tuesday, February 23, 2016

DIY Marquee Sign with Lights

how to make a marquee sign with lights

Hello friends, I'm back to share the tutorial on how I made this marquee sign with lights.  It's completely customizable to fit your lettering.  I made this for a friend's 40th birthday party which we ended up not being able to go due to a snowstorm but I will get it to him eventually.  I figured it's fun for the party and then even more fun for the whole family to hang in the kids playroom.

marquee sign with lights behind

I used outdoor globe lights, their round shape lends perfectly to the marquee nature of this sign.

marquee sign with lights on

And the lights on is fun but the sign is still great even with the lights off:

marquee sign with lights off

marquee sign frame detail

Below are step by step instructions to make a marquee sign with lights.  Read through the entire tutorial before beginning.

  • 1x8 pine board (wording)
  • 1x2 pine board (word support)
  • 1x12 pine board (base)
  • 1x4 pine board (frame)
  • string of globe lights
  • computer & printer
  • ballpoint pen
  • measuring tape
  • black acrylic paint & paint brush
  • copper paint
  • power tools (miter saw, sander, nailer, drill & bits)
  • Kreg pocket hole jig
  • 1 1/4" pocket hole screws
  • 1 1/4" wood screws
  • 1 1/4" finish nails
  • staple gun
  • french cleat

how to make a marquee sign

Step 1: Print out lettering.  I used Circus font at 500 point which fits good on the 1x8 board.  Tape all the printed letters together to determine the length of your board.  Paint board desired background color.

tracing letters onto wood

Step 2: Once printouts are in position begin tracing each letter using a ballpoint pen which leaves an indent in the wood.

handpainted letters on wood sign

Step 3: Paint on and inside the indent using black acrylic paint.

distressed handpainted letters on wood

Step 4: Sand lightly to distress.

copper gilding details on handpainted sign

Step 5: Add highlights using copper paint.  Put this piece to the side for now.

how to build a marquee sign

Step 6:  Working on the base and word support now.  Build a frame from 1x2s that is 1 1/2" smaller on all sides than your 1x8 lettering board.  The 1 1/2" is enough space for the string lights housing (see Step 9 below for a visual).  Center the word support frame on the back of the 1x12 base and trace all around, this creates a guide for attaching later.  

marquee sign base

Step 7: Predrill countersunk holes into traced rectangle on back of base piece (note the front side is stained). 

marquee sign base support

Step 8:  Moving back to the lettering board - attach the word support to the back of the lettering using pocket holes.

marquee sign with globe lights

Step 9: Determine spacing of lights and begin stapling to back of lettering board.  

marquee sign with globe lights

This set of string lights have little clips on the housing so I tucked the excess cord under each clip.

how to add globe lights to back of marquee sign

Step 10: Using a jigsaw cut 2 notches for the plug ends to run into the center of the support.  Staple down the female end and any extra lights as you don't need this part.  Keep the male plug end loose.

marquee sign with globe lights

Step 11: Drill a hole into the 1x12 base for plug to pull through (see Step 12 below).  Pull plug through then center the lettering board onto the base and clamp together.

marquee sign tutorial

Step 12:  Using the predrill countersink holes attach the front lettering and support to the base using 1 1/4" screws.

marquee sign with french cleat

Step 13: Cut 1x4 to make frame.  I painted the frame pieces before attaching to the sign then use wood glue and 1 1/4" finish nails to attach frame.  Attach a scrap piece of wood at center top then attach french cleat to hang.

I'm linking up to:


For more sign ideas:

DIY handpainted sign with script lettering

diy chore chart handpainted wall art


  1. Love this sign! The lettering, the lights and the color you used on the frame...Awesome! What a nice gift!

  2. This is so fun!!! Love all the details and those lights just take it up a notch.

  3. Jaime,

    You did such a super job on this diy marquee lighted sign! The way you did the lights is brilliant. I would never have thought of that.

    I love the finished project.



  4. This looks like a wonderful piece of art! So nice!!