I knew I HAD to have these but when I started hunting around, the lowest price I was seeing was still upwards of $15 for EACH letter. Yeah, not going to happen. So I did what any good crafter would do and started scouring Pinterest for good ways to make them on the cheap. I found a few blogs out there (here and here) but the costs were still a bit high using the paper mache letters or wood. Then I started finding a few that used cardboard. (here) Bingo. My kind of price.
So here’s what you need:
- 2-3 sheets of posterboard in the color you want
- 2 sheets of foam board (walmart even carries it). Great if it’s in the color you need, but just paint it if it’s not.
- acrylic paint (see above)
- hot glue gun
- something sharp like a pencil to create the holes
- 1 string of Christmas lights (I used a 150 light strand I think)
Some people can freehand letters. Not this girl. I used my Silhouette software to print out large letters over 4 sheets of paper. You can also do this in excel or photoshop. I used the free font Budmo found here and used text size 1500. Print the parts of the large letter, cut them out and tape them together. Then trace them onto your foam board and cut those out. I needed to use an exacto knife to cut through the foam board.
If your foam board is not the color you want it to be, paint it. Mine was yellow on one side and white on the other and I needed it to be red. So a little thing of acrylic paint and 2 coats later, and it was red. You don’t need to worry about painting the sides of the boards, just the top. A word of warning, I bought 2 kinds of foam board, one from Walmart and one from the Dollar Tree. The Dollar Tree one was much thinner and actually curled a little bit after the paint dried. I didn’t really care as I wasn’t going for perfect, but you might be happier with the thicker foam board from Wally World or your local craft store.
Poke the holes for the lights. Now there are tons of cool strands of lights out there that look much more like marquee lights. And if I was using these letters for room decor or something for the long haul, I would have splurged. A friend even offered to loan me the lights hanging above their patio (thanks Laura). But 2 hour party folks. A free strand of Christmas lights from the basement tub worked just fine. I started the lights at the top of one letter and poked a hole just a little shorter than the distance between the 2 bulbs on the string. You’re not leaving the lights in the holes yet, just poking the holes.
Cut your posterboard into 2” long strips. I used almost 2 full sheets of posterboard for my 6 marquee letters.
Heat up your trusty glue gun. Then slowly, very slowly, put a line of hot glue on the edge of the foam board in 1-2” increments. Line up a strip of posterboard with the bottom the foam board and press to attach. Does that make sense? Continue around the edge of the letter and around the inside. It will take a bit of finagling on the small inside spaces of some of the letters, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be. I found that on the large curved letters, it helped to use 2 smaller strips instead of one long one to get a best fit and without it getting weird and bendy. Step 6
Now that you have all your letters done, all you have to do it insert your string of lights in the back. They fit pretty snug in the holes, but I did add some painter’s tape along to secure it. Sorry I didn’t take any pictures of this step. When I was done, all the letters were strung together and now had to be moved as a group. Here’s a picture with the lights in focus, not the letters.
Then you just need to have someone else hang it for you. haha. I simply put some command strips on the back and hung them from the overhang on our patio.
I was pretty impressed that they even survived an hour of good rain. We took them down so they could live in our basement now! Definitely added just the amount of pop I wanted for the party. And not bad for under $5!