How to Make a Cardboard Marquee Sign

Written by ann hudson
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How to Make a Cardboard Marquee Sign
Use cardboard and Christmas lights to create a simple illuminated sign. (vegas sign image by Maria Bell from

Combine simple raw materials such as cardboard, duct tape and a few strands of white Christmas lights to create a lightweight marquee-style sign. Cardboard constructions are surprisingly sturdy. This sign, with its illuminated lettering and rope light frame, might be used as a stage prop, a party decoration or a fun addition to a child's puppet theatre. Since a scratch awl and electric lights are required, adult supervision is needed to complete this relatively inexpensive cardboard craft project.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 3-foot by 5-foot rectangle of sturdy corrugated cardboard
  • A rectangle of cardboard that is just a little larger than the 3- by 5-foot piece
  • 16-foot length of white rope lights
  • Black acrylic craft paint
  • Scratch awl
  • 16 white wire twist ties
  • 10-foot extension cord
  • 100-light string of white Christmas lights
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • 4-inch foam brush
  • Duct tape
  • Large, flat work surface

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    Making the Sign

  1. 1

    Place the 3- by 5-foot section of cardboard on a tabletop with the larger piece of cardboard underneath.

  2. 2

    Mark and measure at 1-foot intervals all around the outer edge of the 3- by 5-foot cardboard using the ruler and the pencil. Use the scratch awl to punch 2 holes, 1/2 an inch apart and about an inch from the edge of the cardboard, all the way through the cardboard at each measurement. The larger cardboard beneath the 3- by 5-foot piece will protect the work surface from damage from the awl. Each hole should be about 1/4 of an inch in diameter.

  3. 3

    Write the lettering for your desired message on the cardboard with the pencil. Be sure to centre the letters and make letters that are at least 4 inches high or larger.

  4. 4

    Measure and mark along the lines of each letter at 1-inch intervals. Use the scratch awl to poke 1/4-inch holes through the 3- by 5-foot piece of cardboard at each mark.

  5. 5

    Paint the entire 3- by 5-foot cardboard with black acrylic paint using the 4-inch foam brush. Set the sign aside so the paint can dry.

  6. 6

    Start with the non-plug end of the white Christmas lights and illuminate the letters, beginning with the first word, by poking the white Christmas lights through the holes. Push through one bulb per hole from the back of the cardboard sign. When every word is illuminated, bring any excess lights over to the lower right corner and adhere to the back of the cardboard with duct tape. Make sure that the plug end of the lights is exposed and situated in the lower right corner.

  7. 7

    Plug the Christmas lights into the receptacle end of the rope lights. Attach the rope lights around the front edges of the cardboard by pushing a twist tie from the back of the sign through one of the awl holes that you poked around the perimeter. Place the rope light next to the twist tie on the top side of the sign. Bring the end of the twist through the second hole that is 1/2 inch apart from the first. The two ends of the twist tie should now be protruding through the back of the sign. Twist together the two ends of the twist tie. The rope lights should be held in place by the twist tie. Continue this process all the way around the perimeter of the cardboard.

  8. 8

    Tape any excess wires to the back of the cardboard with duct tape.

  9. 9

    Plug the extension cord into the rope lights and plug the sign into an electrical socket. The words and the border of the marquee should now be illuminated.

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