Marquee signs are everywhere right now. They add a great retro, industrial feel to any space. Marquee signs make a particularly magical seasonal decoration. There are many available for sale, but these also make a great DIY project. Marquee signs can be customized for size and color. Plus, with this DIY tutorial, they can be rearranged to say any word (or words) you want. This tutorial uses papermache letters, painted copper, with non-electrical “lights” for stand-alone faux marquee signage. Ready to get started? Let’s go.
DIY Level: Beginner
- Paper mache letters (example uses 15” letters: N, O, E, L, and V)
- Spray paint
- 1” silver ornament balls
- Razor blade with very sharp (new) blades
- Hot glue gun and glue sticks
- Paper hole reinforcement circles (not shown)
Ensure your razor blade is new or very sharp. This is critical for clean cuts. Trust me. I started with a semi-sharp blade and had a bit of cleanup to do on the inside edges.
Lay one letter flat on your work surface. Cut the top “face” off of each letter. Tip: Corners are key for a crisp, clean look. Also, angle your razor blade toward the center of the letter box for a sharper, more precise cut.
Use the razor blade to carefully lift and remove the top of the letter.
Empty the inside of the paper mache letter box, if there’s anything inside.
It’s looking good. Examine the inside edges of your letter.
If there are any snags or whatever, use your razor blade to “shear” them off. These will be less frequent if you use a very sharp razor blade.
With the top off your letter, you’re ready to mark the positions for the “lights.” I recommend doing this at this point, before it’s painted, because it is easier to correct a mis-mark. You may choose to measure the light positions with a ruler to ensure precision.
Or you may choose to mark the “lights” positions based upon the individual letter’s layout. For these 15” letters, I used five lights down the straight vertical, marking the two end lights first, then the very center, then the other two middle lights.
Once the pencil marks themselves are made to your satisfaction, and the “lights” placement is even and aligned, pull out your reinforcement labels.
Place a label over each pencil mark. These will provide a great circular marker for each light’s placement after the letter is painted, because the label will be painted but will be subtly visible enough.
This particular layout (plus a “V”) requires 60 (five dozen) 1” petite ornaments. Adjust according to your preferences. Tip: The letters N, O, E, L, and V will spell “NOEL” for Christmas and “LOVE” for Valentine’s Day. And “NOVEL” for your book club year-round, of course.
Lay out the letters on a painter’s sheet.
Spray several coats of paint onto the letters, allowing them to dry between coats as per the spray paint directions.
Originally, I used hammered copper spray paint. The effect was okay, but it was less metallic than I wanted. (This photo appears more metallic than in real life.) Marquee signs are traditionally made out of metal, and I wanted these papermache letters to pass for that. But I include this photo of the hammered spray paint’s effect for you to make your own choice.
The spray application was smooth, and the end result was a more even metal look. Let your letters dry completely.
When the letters are dry, it’s time to glue on your “lights.” Remove the hanging parts off your ornaments.
Quickly but carefully, apply hot glue to the opening of the ornament. Tip: To cut down on the hot glue “hairs” or “strings” that can happen, apply the glue around the circle of the opening, then continue circling the ornament’s opening as you move the hot glue gun away from the ornament. This will make any glue-strings fall onto the circle opening, and thus be disguised, than follow out in long strands from the ornament to the tip of the retreating glue gun.
Find one of your painted reinforcement labels. This is where the gluey ornament opening will go. It’s a pretty slick system, really.
Place the ornament on the reinforcement label, then repeat for all other labels on all other letters.
Put your letters up on the mantel, closer to the stockings or wherever you’re putting them. Congratulations! You’ve just created versatile marquee letters that can be easily rearranged into any word or order you’d like.
I love the prominence of this size of letter. And the copper color is a lovely one – not super in-your-face, but instead a cool and industrial-feeling bit of décor.
And remember that “V” you (maybe) did along with the other letters? You’re ready for Valentine’s Day! Congrats!
Enjoy creating a beautiful space for your holiday season.