I came up with this DIY project on the weekend when I was trying to think of a fun, original and personalized gift for a special little someone. As you can see, it’s an illuminated initial on canvas and, since it couldn’t have been simpler to make, I thought I’d share the how-to with you all.
Step 1: Choose your canvas and give it a couple of coats of paint.
My canvas was 24″ by 24″ with a 1.5″ depth. In step 7 you’ll see that having a canvas with a deeper frame is helpful for hiding the wiring.
Using newspaper, I drew the letter and cut it out, making a template. I chose an initial but I would love to do this again with a simple shape, like a heart or Christmas tree.
Step 3: Trace your shape onto the canvas with a pencil and then fill it in with paint.
Step 4: Get your lighting ready
I purchased a string of battery-operated Christmas lights because I didn’t know exactly where this was going to be hung and whether or not it would be near enough to an outlet. It’s also for a child and, for safety reasons, a battery pack was obviously better.
Untangle the string and put some batteries in the compartment.
Step 5: Plan the position of the lights
I used the newspaper template of the “G” to plan the spacing of the lights. It took a couple of minutes, but I tried to space them evenly and in positions which would clearly show the “G” in the dark.
Once the paint was dry, using my guide I poked holes through the canvas from front to back. The holes need to be just a little smaller than the light bulbs so that when you push them through they’ll be snug.
I ended up trying several methods to poke the holes. In the end, what worked best for me was, believe it or not, a manual meat thermometer. It had just the right diameter and a sharp enough end to poke through the painted canvas. I’m sure there’s a tool out there that would be better for the job, but that’s what I had on hand.
After trying out the lights in the holes, I wasn’t happy with the white parts of the canvas showing through and I also thought the whole design needed a little more oomph. So, I outlined the letter in Martha Stewart’s yellow glow-in-the-dark paint and added a matching border around the canvas.
Step 7: Insert the lights
If you plan to hang the canvas on the wall, this step is very important.
Once you have the holes, inserting the light bulbs is straightforward. The trick at this stage is to work the wire in such a way as to keep it from protruding too much from the back and causing a problem when you want to hang the canvas. The lights I used had a stiff wire and deep sockets and, as a result, they didn’t naturally lie flat at the back of the canvas. Along with using a deeper canvas, I found it was also helpful to zig zag when inserting the bulbs so that the wire was stretched out enough to lie flatter.
Once the lights are in, the battery pack can be taped or glued inside the frame of the canvas at the back, or to the bottom or side of the outside of the canvas for easy access.
Aside from the constant “on” position, these lights also happen to have a twinkle setting. So, along with the glow-in-the-dark paint there was much for a little man to enjoy and now that the days are shorter, the extra lighting in his room is a bonus.
Let me know if you give this a try, I’d love to see what you come up with.