GIF by Savana Ogburn.

GIF by Savana Ogburn.

Neon signs are my absolute favorite thing lately—who wouldn’t want a huge, light-up homage to their favorite word, phrase, or shape? Most real neon signs will run you at least $100, and sadly that’s not quite in my budget. But there IS a cheap way to make a neon sign lookalike, and it’ll only set you back about $20.

What you’ll need:

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  • EL wire (I found this 15-foot strand for about $14 on Amazon. There are places that sell it for a few dollars cheaper, but I opted for this one because it had the best reviews.)
  • 16-gauge metal wire (I bought 25 feet of the stuff at Home Depot for $3.50.)
  • A hot glue gun
  • Washi tape
  • Pliers or wire cutters
  • A large piece of paper
  • A pencil
  • String

How to do it:

Step One

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Draw the word, phrase, or shape (how cute would a giant heart be?!) of your choice onto a large piece of paper. I used old pieces of poster board, but you could also use newspaper, or tape together pieces of printer paper. I decided on “Girl Almighty” to monumentalize my One Direction obsession. Write in cursive, because the letters need to be connected.

Step Two

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Using your string, trace around the letters to measure the amount of wire you’ll need. My string measured about 14 feet, which was perfect because I had 15 feet of EL wire. If your string measures longer than the amount of EL wire you have, try making your letters a little bit smaller, or choosing a shorter phrase.

Step Three

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Using your metal wire and a pair of pliers, start bending the wire into the shape of your letters. This will be the frame of your sign. You’ll use one continuous piece of wire for the entire phrase, so don’t cut it until you’re completely finished!

Step Four

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Once you’re finished shaping the wire, tie off any loops (especially on as and gs) with a small piece of wire to help the wire lay flat. The ends of the wire can be sharp, so be careful! Be sure to bend the ends down so that they won’t scrape the wall when you hang it up.

Note: My wire frame had a tendency to pop up in places and not lay flat. If this happens to you, make small bends in the direction you need to make the sign lay flat. Start from the first letter and be patient! It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you will need a semi-even surface to place the EL wire on.

Step Five

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Grab your EL wire (make sure it’s not tangled up!) and hot glue gun, and begin gluing it onto the wire frame, bit by bit. Once you’ve applied a line of glue, hold the EL wire to the metal wire for five to 10 seconds, just to be sure it stays. I glued two to three inches at a time to keep it manageable. Be super careful not to burn yourself!

Step Six

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Another note: I really wanted to put a rounded-off section on the top of the lowercase is, to act as the dot. The best way I could think of doing this was to add a little extra EL wire at the top of each i (so that the EL wire loop extended a little bit past the metal wire loop), and then tie it off with a small piece of wire.

Step Seven

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That’s it! You just made your very own neon sign! Hang it up on your wall with some clear tacks. I used a little bit of Washi tape to secure the extra wire to my wall, and clipped the battery pack onto my bulletin board, which is under the sign. If you don’t have somewhere easy, like a bulletin board, to put the battery pack, you could use Velcro or even Command strips to attach it to the wall.


Viola, Girl Almighty, you are done! ♦