Nov 15, 2012 - Crafts, Lighting    31 Comments

DIY Light Up Marquee Star

My favorite design element is lighting.  Nothing gets me more excited than building a lighting element, plugging it in and watching it set the space aglow.  Mix that with my love of anything Vintage-Industrial and you can see how easily I became obsessed with marquee light up signs for the last few years.  When I opened up my 2012 Baby and Child catalog from Restoration Hardware I loved finding that they had a cute vintage looking star.  unfortunately it was $269.  Slightly out of my budget and not very large (24″).

Vintage Illuminated Star

Pottery Barn also has one for sale for $129 again, not very large (22″):

BUT, if you know me at all, you know that I’d almost always rather make it myself than buy it.  So, I scoured the internet for tutorials on how to make these little beauties.  I combined different techniques from all of the tutorials I found until I created what I think is an AMAZING light for around $12 using coupons and supplies on hand.  And, mine is a very large 32″!

Difficulty: Medium

Time: 1 day

 Materials Needed:

  • One large sheet of foam core board 32″X”40 (Hobby Lobby $8.99)
  • One half sheet of foam core board 20′X30″ (Hobby Lobby $5.99)
  • Xacto knife
  • Printed Template (get star template below or make your own design)
  • Glue Gun
  • Vinyl Caulk
  • Spray Primer
  • Silver Craft paint
  • White Semi Gloss paint
  • 1 string of 25 C7 lights
  • Vaseline
  • Sand Paper
  • Pencil
  • Drill, small and large drill bits
If you want to make the same star as I did, print off the template HERE for page 1 and HERE for page 2.  You will need to print each page 5 times and cut them out and tape them together.  Then trace the design on the large foam core board.  Cut out the star with the Xacto knife.

DIY Vintage Industrial Light Up Star Sign

Place the template back on top of the cut out star and poke the marks for the holes through the foam board.  Follow the pencil holes up by drilling a pilot hole with a standard drill.  And then one last larger hole with an XL drill bit about the same size as the threads on the C7 light bulbs.

DIY Vintage Industrial Light Up Star Sign

Cut the smaller board into 5 even strips at 4″ wide.  Then bevel or miter one end of the strip for the outside points.  Cut it to fit one side.  Then continue until you have cut 10 sides.  I taped them together to hold them in place.  They do NOT need to be perfect.  Then place several of the C7 bulbs in the star.  Turn the star upside down so that they rest on the bulbs.  This will give you the depth on the back side of the star to hide all of the cords.  Use the hot glue gun to connect the sides to the star.  It is ok if it is messy.  Fill in all the open spaces, especially at the joints of the inside corners.  Finish with glue gun by adding a small messy bead to the surface of the raised sides.  This gives it the illusion of a messy cut piece of metal and not clean crisp foam core board.

DIY Vintage Industrial Light Up Star Sign

To further to illusion that this light is made from metal and is old, I added small gobs of Vaseline on the black paper star.  Then I sprayed it with white primer mostly so that the final paint would stick to the glue gun glue.  Once the primer was dry, I used a paper towel and rubbed it over the surface.  Where ever the Vaseline had been, the primer didn’t stick leaving a black spot behind.

DIY Vintage Industrial Light Up Star Sign

After the primer dried, I realized the glue gun glue looked horrendous. Not the way I had intended it.  I then busted out some vinyl caulk from my basement and caulked all of the seams.  I even added caulk to the raised surface over the bead of glue.  Now THAT was the look I was going for, messy welds.

DIY Vintage Industrial Light Up Star Sign

After I added more Vaseline over the black rubbed off spots, I covered the entire front and sides of the star with 2/3 of a small bottle of silver paint.

DIY Vintage Industrial Light Up Star Sign

Doesn’t it look like metal?  I’m not sure how well these photos show it, but in real life, it looks JUST like a metal star.

DIY Vintage Industrial Light Up Star Sign

 I grabbed some sand paper to pull out more of the black under the Vaseline.  And added another coat of Vaseline over the black and over random spots on the surface and joints of the star before coating the inside with two final coats of white semi-gloss house paint I had in the garage.

DIY Vintage Industrial Light Up Star Sign

 Then a quick sand to the back of the star to clean up or tear off any excess paper in prep for installing the lights.

DIY Vintage Industrial Light Up Star Sign

 I had a few multi colored C7 string lights laying around so I took out all of the white light bulbs and screwed them into the board.  Literally, my holes were so tight that I had to thread them through.  Then I screwed them in very tight through the board till they dented the foam core board creating a tight perfect fit.  This was honestly the hardest part, you have to screw them really tight to get a good connection in order for them to light up.  And seriously, look at those joints…tell me they do not look like welds!

DIY Vintage Industrial Light Up Star Sign

I am absolutely in love with this star.  It is light as a feather, flexible, messy and looks like a vintage industrial star that I picked up at some great antique shop.  I kept the outside edge silver but I think it could look awesome in a rusty-red too.

DIY Vintage Industrial Light Up Star Sign

 The joints, especially the mitered corners on the five points turned out so crisp and metallic.  I also love the white lights rather than the clear because they are a warm incandescent bulb without the glare of a clear bulb.  Plus with the warm almost yellow glow, it gives an even more authentic antique look.

DIY Vintage Industrial Light Up Star Sign

 The missing chunks of white paint throughout the center and seems shows the antique ware of the star being outside or not well taken care of.

DIY Vintage Industrial Light Up Star Sign

This would be pretty cute around the fourth of July to switch out some of the white bulbs for red and blue, right?

DIY Vintage Industrial Light Up Star Sign

I am ready to make another marquee sign, it took a while for each layer to dry, but was actually pretty simple and straight forward to create.  There is definitely an arrow in my future.  I’m seriously giddy about this project, and I can’t wait to show you where I’m going to hang it!  Stay tuned for that post coming soon.

DIY Vintage Industrial Light Up Star Sign

Linked Up: FOLK, CraftberryBush


  • You need to get out of my head!!!!!

    I am making something similar to this RIGHT NOW out of pallet wood for the front of the house next month.

    Think I’m gunna paint it red/white…and my light bulbs are clear ones they ues for carnival rides

    Wait till you see how it turns out

    • James, I’m sure it will be fabulous. I’ve been so jelous of your “American” and “Rat” signs, I had to make one for myself.

  • Fabulous job Amanda!

  • This is super cute and seems really affordable. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • That’s pretty awesome! Pinning!


    I can’t tell you how many fires I’ve had to put out that started with decorative lights like those!

  • LOVE IT!!!
    Amazing! Looks so real, it is funny what paint can do, right?!
    Thank you for the tutorial.
    Love and hugs

    • Awe, Thanks Lydia! And yea, paint is amazing. Let me know if you make one, I’d love to hear how yours turns out!

  • And you know what?!
    I really can`t believe that you only got 6 comments on this!

    • Ha ha, I know, kind of weird to me too since it is one of my fave projects ever! Do me a favor and pin it on Pinterest, would ya? ;)

      • I loved DIY light up marquee star, design element lighting looking wonderful. good one your topic.

  • I love this :D very clever

  • […] por último esta estrella de Bulap & Denim que también esta explicada con mucho detalle como hacerla a partir de planchas de foam, aunque […]

  • HD sells insulating Styrofoam type board with one side already covered in an aluminum looking surface. with duct tape on the edges, this might be a quick and easy way to make a sign. I will try that for my house. I love your design and the instructions were very clear. Thanks!

  • I don’t know if I’m just extra clueless – I’ve never been great with spatial tasks – but I cannot for the life of me get this template to fit together. If the outside lines up then the inside doesn’t and vice versa. I was pretty excited to see a ready made template as I was getting ready to make this exact project and this has the right number of spots for bulbs, but now I’m just stumped. Any tips?

  • […] project that I tackled was this DIY marquee star. I got the tutorial from this post from Burlap and […]

  • […] love DIY marquee signs. I usually see arrows or letters, so this Light Up Star Tutorial from Burlap & Denim is […]

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