Monday, October 17, 2011

DIY neon letters

A few weeks ago, sucked into a black hole of blog daisy chaining, I stumbled onto Weekday Carnival, which, despite its English title, is written entirely in Finnish.  I noticed a small image on the site's sidebar under "Koti" (or "home," as I found out thanks to Google translator), featuring a white letter R in safety vest orange relief.  After a frustrating half hour searching the site for "neon kirjain R" for a larger photo--thanks again, Google--I settled on using this wallet size as the basis for making my own neon/white initials (and a set for my roommate.)

You'll need:
  • Unfinished wooden letters (I used these, but you can pick them up from most craft stores)
  • White acrylic paint
  • Assorted neon acrylic paints
  • Acrylic sealer, in matte or gloss
  • Assorted paint and sponge brushes
  • Newspaper to protect your work surface
  • Wood filler (optional)
  • Sandpaper (optional)
If the letters have any large nicks or cracks, add a little wood filler to the gaps, let dry for an hour, and smooth over with sandpaper.  A few of my letters had rough edges, so I lightly buffed the edges, but this step is optional.
Next, using both types of brushes, paint the entire letter with white acrylic paint.  Apply about three to four coats, allowing drying time between each layer.  Don't forget the sides to provide a base for easier application of the neon paint later.
    When you are finished covering the letters in white and they are completely dry, paint the sides with the neon paint, using a fine brush for the edge detail.  The bottled acrylic is typically a thinner consistency than the stuff in a tube, so be prepared to apply five or more coats to attain an even, saturated finish.  You can use a blowdryer to speed up the drying process.
    Touch up any mistakes with the white paint and a fine brush.
    After the letters are painted and completely dry, apply a coat of matte or glossy acrylic sealer to all of the sides in a well-ventilated area (preferably outside).  Let dry overnight on wax paper.
    Display as the Finnish would.

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