One of the first things I wanted to get started on for the upcoming Marvelous Jedi group cosplay is actually an accessories project. I want to make an acrylic pin with each superhero’s logo on it for each costume, and have them light up with LEDs. I found a pin on Pinterest that showed how to make some of those standing lighted acrylic LED signs, and decided that could be modified to make what I want. But it would require some testing in terms of process and materials. I actually began this work back at the end of January, so I have messed around with it over the course of a month before posting this, heh. Anyway, here is a little tutorial on how to make these!
- Craft foam, preferably in the color you want to light your final product
- Small LED strip lighting – $9
- Small round clear acrylic pieces (mine are 4″ diameter, 1/8″ thick) – $12 for pack of 4
- Heavy paper for logo stencil
- Straight edge
- Dremel / grinding tool – $20
- Dremel bits for carving/engraving acrylic / plastic – $11
- Good, fast drying, clear setting glue (E6000) – $5 at Jo Ann’s
- Draw (or trace & transfer) the stencil for your logo onto a heavy card-stock paper using your pencil.
- Trace the outline of the acrylic pieces onto your piece of foam.
- Measure the circumference of the acrylic with the LED light strip wrapped around it once. Trace a strip that long and the same width as the LED strip onto the foam.
- Use the straight edge to carefully cut out the stencil pieces that you want lit up on your final pin.
- Use the straight edge to carefully cut out the foam back and sides.
- Tape the stencil onto one of your acrylic discs. Make sure you have removed the sticky protection coating on the outside.
- Trace at least the outline of your stencil onto the acrylic with a Sharpie. You can also trace the inside if you’d like, which is what I did, figuring I’d know when I had done enough grinding by the lack of Sharpie.
- Remove the stencil from the acrylic.
- Bust our your dremel with one of the finer point engraving tips and engrave over the outline of your design.
- Change tools to a winder grinding tip to do the inside of the design. When done, you should no longer have any Sharpie visible on the acrylic piece.
- Place the engraved piece in between two other pieces of acrylic, and place the stack on top of the foam backing you cut earlier.
- Test the design with the lights to make sure you have engraved enough with the dremel.
- Measure the amount of LED lightstrip you need to encircle the acrylic and cut between the lights of the strip so that you don’t break the circuit. There is an obvious line in between each piece where you can safely cut.
- Put glue on the outside of the three pieces of acrylic, and then put the LED strip with the lights facing in onto the glue. Press together and hold for about 5 minutes.
- Remove sticky back paper from the LED strip and stick these together. Make sure you stick the battery pack wire through the side of the foam at the back.
- Trace the shape of your pin onto some sticky backed craft foam, cut it out, and attach the sticky side to the back of the acrylic pin. I found out the hard way that even clear glue can change the appearance of the acrylic. The top photo below is after attaching foam to the back of the acrylic with clear glue. The bottom photo is no glue.
- Glue 2 large pin backs on the the foam backing of the pin. I don’t have any costumes ready yet to show the finished pin attached yet.
- Turn on your lights to the color you want (apparently the mode and speed buttons don’t actually matter much on the controller).
- Using the dremel on the acrylic does result in some very fine acyrlic dust as you grind. I wear glasses and this was sufficient eyewear for me, but do be safe with your tools! There is also definitely a smell associated with grinding acrylic if you do it for a while, so you may want a disposable face mask or something like that.
- Make sure when you build your costume that you think about where you plan to place the battery pack for this pin. Probably you will need to build in a pocket somewhere, or plan to hide the battery some other way.
- When I did my second round of these acrylic pins, I discovered a shortcut for steps 1 and 4-9. If you buy the exact same acrylic I did, which comes with a thin white film coating each side of the clear acrylic, you can draw your design on that film and use the straight edge to cut just the white film layer. I imagine other acrylic comes with a similar film, but this is all I have bought so far, so I can’t say for sure.
Then peel away the white film in the places that you WANT to grind down (the spots you want to be lit up). Take your dremel and go to work. You do have to be careful not to grind away the film, but it was a pretty nice result.
Good luck with your acrylic logos! I really enjoyed this project and think this will be a skill I can use for a long time for various projects in my future. So much potential!