Make custom marquis lit letters

There’s always a favorite – the favorite element of a party. For Henry’s bash, it was the ONE marquis letters. Not only did they turn out better than I anticipated, everyone went crazy over them and no one could believe I did them myself. Now, I’ll share how I made them and hopefully help you make them even better.

Marquis lit letters DIY

When I was sharing the type of party I wanted with Shannon, we both started looking for inspiration and shared what we loved through a secret Pinterest board. (Which, by the way, is the bomb.)

When I came upon this image from Restoration Hardware, I stopped in my tracks.

I actually labeled this picture “Overkill. Or not?” Sort of joking, because it may be a wee bit over the top and where would I find a marquis sign? No seriously, where could I find one?

But because Shannon gets me, she totally put it in the plan and then shared an online tutorial for a mini marquis sign at Oh Happy Day so I could make it happen.

However, I knew that this tutorial would NOT work for me since it requires a lot of templates and cutting and glueing and time. And the truth is that I have pretty much no patience, zero extra time, and am not enough of a perfectionist for that. (I know you don’t believe that I’m not a perfectionist, but it’s true. Ask Michelle, she’ll tell you. I prefer to do a lot of things imperfectly instead of stressing about one tiny little perfect thing. I’m all about quantity – not quality. Not many people admit to that, right?)

So, I came up with another way. Which I’m sure has been done before and blogged about, but I refuse to look on Pinterest and instead continue to believe I’m a GENIUS.

Marquis lit sign2

So, here’s how I made the marquis letters at Henry’s party, in case you, too, are crazy and a glutton for punishment. This really did end up being my favorite part of the party. So, it was worth the minor electrocution, cut finger and loss of sanity.

Southern Blues Birthday Party051

Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

(But seriously, I’ll tell you what I did and then what I’d do differently next time so you don’t make my mistakes.)

What you need:
Paper mâché letters
A sharp knife
Spray paint
Globe lights (I bought mine four years ago at Big Lots but I’ve seen them at Target and Kohls, too.)

1. Buy your letters of choice in paper mache.
This was actually the only thing i had to purchase for this project. So I bought 12 inch letters at Joann’s for this project. They were 50 percent off so I didn’t spend much.

2. Cut the front off the letters and sand edges.
Using a sharp knife, cut along the edge of the front letter. This will mean that you’ll be left with the sides and back of the letter. The paper mâché letters are fills with more paper to keep them from falling in. Just remove that paper when you are finished.

Paper mache letters


Depending on the cutting job, you may have some jagged edges. Just sand it lightly to get a smoother finish on the edges. Wipe down.

3. Paint the letters to your liking.
I wanted mine to look like “metal,” which was done very scientifically by starting with blqck spray paint and then followed with oil-rubbed-bronze and metallic silver spray paint I had leftover in the garage.

Surprisingly, it turned out really similar toy an old metal finish. I had planned to buff the edge with black but it was unnecessary.

4. Poke the holes for your lightbulbs.
I debated the best way to do this and ended up simply using a screwdriver. Since the letter is just cardboard, it was easy to poke through.

And do you even have to ask? Of course I didn’t measure between the holes. I just eyeballed it.

Paper mache letters

I swear I did this, but they still ended up not working when I had them all in. Blasted.

Southern Blues Birthday Party005

Just double check because you’ll be mad if your lights don’t work.

6. Add the bulbs through the back.
The type of lights you have will make this step vary. Mine were christmas-style lights on the back with a glass dome clipped to the front. So I started by pushing the lights through the back and then clipping the glass dome to the light through the front. (See step 8.)

This process was tedious because I didn’t want to glue them so I could reuse the lights. I think if I were doing this again, I’d actually glue the domes to the front because I broke a LOT of the domes in the process.

If you are buying lights for the project, try to find lights where the dome and light are the entire bulb – like these. I think they will make the process simpler because you can just glue the dome bulb to the front.

7. Tape down the cords to the back with duct tape.

Since I was trying to go glue-less, I tried several ways to keep the cords hidden and the lights in place.

The best option was silver duct tape. It matched the color of the letters and kept the many cords hidden on the back. It also kept the lights in the holes. So just use the duct tape to cover all the cords and attach to the back of the letters.

8. Add the glass domes to the front.
Then I added those glass domes. If you are smarter than me and plan to use them longer term, you’ll glue them in.

Marquis lit sign3

9. Plug in and enjoy.
Bam. You have awesome marquis lit letters for your home or party. All my friends and family raved about these and they really played into the Southern Blues party theme.

Marquis lit sign1

What do you think of this little DIY?


  1. says

    I love this idea!

    Henry’s birthday party was amazing. I was so impressed with your creative touches. I think you might need to switch careers and become a party planner.

  2. says

    These turned out so nicely! Definitely not over the top – just perfect! I mean it is your firstborn’s first birthday party afterall.

  3. says

    This is awesome!! I’m so glad you found a better and easier way for us “just wing it” people. I can’t wait to try this out. At every single party I do from now on.

  4. Sarah says

    I LOVE IT!!!!! LOOOOOOVE IT!!! Like… trying to figure out what I need marquie-d (?is that a word?) in my house kind of LOVE. I don’t know about you… but for me, all your pain and suffering was totally worth it. 😉

  5. says

    Seriously? That looks a million times easier than any tutorials I’ve seen before! I wanted to do letters for our wedding but ruled it out as too much math haha
    They came out absolutely great though! You should be super proud of the letters, Kim!

  6. says

    This project turned out awesome!! I am seriously trying to figure out an event that I could make them for!! And I like the fact that you just cut apart the paper mache letters. Brilliant!!!

  7. Alison Schluenz says

    Kim, the first picture I saw of these lights you made – I really thought they were metal ones you bought somewhere. I can’t believe you made these from those cardboard letters! I was shocked to read how easy this seemed. It seems to fun to NOT try!! Thanks for sharing! The party definitely had a cool vibe and these DIY lights certainly helped that!

  8. says

    I love, love, love it. I’ve been waiting for you to tell me house since H’s party post! Although my fire bug husband says we could only use it for ‘the party’ or else I could catch the house on fire. Party pooper.

  9. says

    You did an awesome job, I love the letters! And I’m so glad to hear you’re not a perfectionist, either. I’m so with you. Who has the time and energy to make sure every last little detail is absolutely, 100% right? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

  10. Katherine Kelly says

    SERIOUSLY AWESOME. I like the tutorial, too. So helpful! I will definitely be making these for a party or decor sometime.


  11. says

    This is an amazing idea! You are so crafty and creative. What a perfect addition to little man’s party…or any party for that matter. Let’s start thinking about all the things we could spell…

  12. Jenny@NorthwestLovelies says

    I love, love, love this project!! Your tutorial is perfect! I think I might do this for the next party! Thanks for sharing!! :)

  13. says

    Love this! I’ve been wanting to do something similar for our wedding reception – thanks for the tutorial! By the way, I know what you mean about not searching it on Pinterest, I hate it when I think I come up with the most clever idea, only to see it’s been done before, haha. Definitely a love hate relationship with the internet :)
    ~Katie @ Upcycled Treasures

  14. says

    This is GREAT! Ive seen buttloads of tutorials, but THIS is what im talkin about!!! Totally up my alley with cheap and easy (relatively) and oh ya, did I say cheap! I love marquees but the real deal is soooo out of my budget! Thanks for sharing! I found this on pinterest :)

  15. Shannon says

    I think I’m going to do this on my main wall behind the couch!! We live in the city so I’ll represent and I’m going to do “DETROIT” would also be great to do a name for a kids room and use as a night light!! Wish me luck!!

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  18. Jewel Pittman says

    Cant wait for my granddaughter to do this. I am retired teacher who has a minor in art and love to do crafts-now with my precious 12 yr. old granddaughter, We even have our own art studio to work in.

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  26. marina zavala sanchez says

    Wish I would have seen this BEFORE making my sign. lol it was alot of work but totally worth it for my daughter’s graduation party. I made a “SWEETS” sign and hung it above the desserts buffet. It was a little different. I had bought a marquee letter at The Treasure Island Flea in SF. That one was cut out in the back and then she taped them back on so it stands like a block with the lights coming out the front. I used that one as my example. I wanted mine Gold so I did a metallic gold paint then a gold spray glitter. Thank God for Exacto knives. I too eye balled where I needed to make holes, started with an X then cut around it making the whole big enough for the back of the bulb to fit. I also checked each light to make sure the bulbs worked. I didn’t have any problem with the cords, they kind of just stayed hidden inside the letter. Found the lights at Target. Wish I knew how to post a picture on here! It came out awesome if I do say so myself. :) I have some pics on my pinterest and on instagram under #xoxorayannajanae no blog yet…someday though :)

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