Movie Marquee Letters Tutorial

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Nothing says movie nostalgia like a lit marquee letter sign.  But I did not have the budget to go scouring through antique malls for the Firefly Theater outdoor movie night.  As usual, I decided to figure out how to make my own!

This is a fussy craft, so pop in a fun movie and settle down for an evening to make a marquee sign.  But it's inexpensive, and has a big wow-factor at any event.  Or in a home theater!  I don't have a home theater, but if I did, I'd totally make one of these for the wall!

Materials for Marquee Letters Tutorial

  • foam core board
  • X-acto knife
  • poster board
  • ruler
  • pencil
  • hot glue gun
  • high gloss spray paint
  • string of Christmas lights

1) Cut foam core board into equally sized pieces.  All the letters should be the same height and width, so it's easiest to start with basic rectangles of the same dimension so you know where the edges of the letters should be.  Mine were 10"x7", but you can, of course, make your letters any size.

2)  Use a pencil and a ruler to sketch out the letter shapes.  I did a Google image search for marquee letters to get a sense of the font style I wanted, and then just went to town.  You could also choose a font you like, blow it up to the appropriate size, and use it as a template if you don't feel comfortable free-handing the design.

3) use the X-acto knife to cut out all of the letter shapes.  Cut strips of poster board and use the hot glue gun to glue them to all of the edges of your letters.  I made my poster board strips the width of my ruler, because that was incredibly easy to measure.  I think the ruler is about an inch and a half wide.  Again, you could make yours any size--just go with whatever looks right with the size of the letters you're making.

4)  Paint your letters.  Do NOT use metallic acrylic craft paint.  The moisture made my nice letter all wonky and wobbly.  If it had made the letter look like it was cool and vintage and a little rugged with age, that would have been great.  But no, it just made it look awful.

Back to the drawing board!  High gloss spray paint, I'm happy to report, worked very well.

5)  Once the spray paint was dry, I did use a little antique gold metallic acrylic paint to dry brush on some highlights.  That was just fine, and didn't ruin the letters.    

Next, punch holes through the foam core for the lights.  A chopstick worked perfectly for this chore.

6)  Poke the Christmas lights through the backside of the foam core.  I used LED lights, and let me just warn you, if you're going to take photos with the marquee letters, LED can pose a problem.  You know how LED lights flash on and off so quickly that you mostly can't tell, at least from a distance?  Yeah, with any sort of reasonable light, cameras capture images quickly enough to capture the flicker.  Until it got darker and I could slow my shutter speed way down, every picture looked like half of my letters were burnt out.  

See?  Grrr.

But in person, they looked great!  Just a little extra tip I learned the hard way.

Wouldn't these look cute as a night light in a kid's room?  Or as decor for a fun and funky wedding?  How would you use marquee letters, now that you know how to make them?

Nicole Wills, creator of Tikkido

Links on this page may be affiliate links. We may receive a small commission for something you buy through those links, at no additional cost to you.