You love neon signs but don’t want to spend a fortune on them. To make common materials inexpensively glow, you can create a faux neon sign by using fluorescence.

Fake neon signs

This project requires only a few basic materials.

  • Flexible plastic tubing is commonly sold as aquarium tubing
  • Glue gun
  • Signs made of cardboard or another stiff backing are ideal for you
  • Fluorescent laundry detergent or highlighter pen
  • Water
  • Blacklight

Fake Neon

The plastic tubing will glow bluish under dark light. This means that you can make a sign using the tubing and then illuminate it with a UV lamp. You can get a brighter glow by filling the tubing with a fluorescent liquid such as laundry detergent in water (bright) or a highlighter ink pad (available in different colors).

Tip: Many highlighters referred to as “fluorescent markers”, aren’t actually fluorescent. To determine if the ink fluoresces, write a short note on paper. Yellow almost always glows. Blue glows less often.

Design the Sign

  1. You can practice forming the word that you want on your sign to get an idea of how much tubing you will need.
  2. You may need to cut the tubing a little longer than you think.
  3. Your fake neon can be poured into the tubing. Place one end of your tubing in the fluorescent liquid. Then, raise the tubing higher than the other. To avoid a mess, place the tubing’s lower end in a cup. Let gravity draw the liquid down the tube.
  4. After the tubing has been filled with liquid, glue its ends together with hot glue beads. Let the glue cool completely before you seal your ‘neon’.
  5. Use hot glue to attach the tubing to your backing. For your sign, form the word. You will need separate tubes if you make a sign with multiple words.
  6. Cut excess tubing and seal it with hot glue.
  7. Turn on a black light to illuminate the sign. While a fluorescent light fixture can provide some illumination, a dark light will give the sign a neon glow.

By Susan

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