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
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
- You can practice forming the word that you want on your sign to get an idea of how much tubing you will need.
- You may need to cut the tubing a little longer than you think.
- 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.
- 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’.
- 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.
- Cut excess tubing and seal it with hot glue.
- 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.