This DIY Rustic Christmas Sign, complete with a cozy glow of Christmas lights and a verse from “O Holy Night,” is an inexpensive homemade Christmas craft and makes for a gorgeous piece of holiday home decor. If you’re looking to dress up a space with some rustic farmhouse charm this Christmas, or if you’re looking for a great idea for a homemade Christmas gift, this project is perfect for you!
This DIY rustic light-up Christmas sign is sure to bring a beautiful radiance to any room you put it in! I originally made this with a pre-lit, unfinished wood sign from Hobby Lobby, but because Hobby Lobby no longer carries that sign, I re-created this tutorial to show you how to make your own version of a light-up sign. I’m so excited to share this updated tutorial with you – this has been such a beloved homemade Christmas craft for so many people.
Though I was bummed when Hobby Lobby stopped carrying that pre-lit sign, I realized this version of the sign is much better for a few reasons:
- You can easily change the lights if they burn out
- The glow from the Christmas lights is much cozier than the pre-lit sign
- You can more easily customize it with more (or fewer) lights depending on where you’re displaying it in your house.
So, if you came over looking for a tutorial that looks more like this…
…the new version is very similar, super simple to make, and will likely last you longer than the original version. Let’s get started crafting!
Step 1: Collect all of your materials
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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED:
- A wooden pallet sign from Hobby Lobby (or you can create your own if you prefer – the sign I used from HL was about $7 on sale)
- Lettering printed out on 2 8.5″ x 11″ papers (you can get the exact document I made & used for the lettering on this sign at the bottom of this post)
- Scotch Tape to tape the papers with the lettering on them together
- Strand of Christmas lights (I used a 35-pack) – I personally used ones you have to plug in because the battery-powered ones don’t have a warm glow like I’d prefer
- Battery-powered drill (if you don’t already have one and you’re a crafter, this has been one of the most-used tools we have! This is the drill we have and are super happy with it.)
- Drill bit & drill bit guage (the width of your Christmas light bulbs – see tutorial for more details)
- Wood stain (that is what I used and would definitely recommend – I use it for almost every DIY project I do because it works so well for crafting. See my notes in the tutorial about why I love it so much, but overall, it’s the best because: it’s water-based, it dries very quickly so you can do this project faster, it’s very easy to clean, and it has extremely low odor, so you can easily do this project inside without stinking up the place. I can’t find it in home improvement or craft stores anymore, so I now purchase mine on Amazon.)
- Old rag or sock & small craft paintbrush to apply stain
- White or cream-colored acrylic paint (if you want to do a dry brush effect)
- Old paintbrush (to do the dry brush effect)
- Piece of white chalk
- Painter’s tape (optional – see tutorial)
- Chalk pen to paint on the lettering (this is the only chalk pen I ever use now – it’s just the best! Just like the stain, I’m very loyal to this particular product – I’ve tried so many others and this has consistently worked the best.)
Step 2: Print sign & tape together, place on wooden sign
Print out the two pieces of paper using the free printable download I’ve created for you to use for the sign (you can snag it at the bottom of the post). Tape together using Scotch tape – only tape on the front! Place the paper on the wooden sign where you want it placed. I made sure that the bottom line of text fit almost perfectly on one slat, just so the break in the slats wouldn’t break up the text. You can see from the photo above with that one slat peeking out on the right side – that second line of text is almost completely on that slat.
Tips for this step:
- Make sure the paper is centered on the sign, and make sure it’s parallel with the sign (not tilted at all)
- Mark the four corners of the sign on the wood so that when you remove it, you have it marked where it needs to be placed again
Step 3: Mark dots on sign & wood for the lights
Use a pen to mark dots on the sign (and press hard enough that there’s an indentation on the wood below) to for the placement of your Christmas light bulbs. I used a strand of 35 lights and did about 20 dots. In the picture below, you can see how I pressed hard to create the impressions on the paper and thus onto the wood.
Tips for this step:
- Once you’ve made your impressions on the paper/in the wood, remove the paper and use the pen to quickly color in the dots in the wood. This will help you go quickly when you’re drilling the holes in the wood.
- Make fewer holes than you have Christmas light bulbs. I started out using a strand of 20 lights and so I made 20 holes, but I realized later that you need more wiggle room with the lights. They don’t always stretch perfectly from one hole to the next. So, a strand of 35 seemed to be perfect for this project.
Step 4: Measure the Christmas light bulb & drill holes in sign
If you’re using a standard set of Christmas lights like I did, you can probably just use the exact same size drill bit that I used (13/64), but if you’re using other Christmas lights or perhaps battery-powered ones that are a different size, then you’ll need to take the correct measurement for your lights. You can see how easy this is using a drill bit gauge:
You want to have a good fit – a little snug – so that way the Christmas light bulbs fit snugly into the hole. Again, if you’re using standard lights, you can use the same measurement I used. Insert your drill bit into your battery-powered drilland start drilling holes where you’ve marked those dots on the sign. We did this in our garage – the floor is cement, and we had a cardboard box beneath the sign. That was plenty of buffer as we drilled holes straight through the wood.
Tip for this step: make sure you drill from the FRONT of the sign, not the back. The holes will be much cleaner when you drill from the front.
Step 5: Stain the sign
This part is SO easy! Once you’ve got your holes in the sign, grab an old sock or rag, squeeze the wood stain onto the wood, and quickly begin wiping the stain into the wood. This shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes.
After you’ve wiped all of the stain on the main part of the wood, use a craft paintbrush to get in the crevices.
As you paint in the crevices, quickly follow up with the old sock to prevent any stain from pooling and causing an uneven finish. Allow the stain to dry for about 20 minutes before moving onto the next step.
Tips for this step:
- Use this water-based stain for best results. The water-based stain dries much more quickly, and it also helps absorb the chalk paint for the lettering. The chalk paint will smear more easily with an oil-based stain. It’s also VERY low odor compared to any other oil-based stain, so you could very easily do this project inside without stinking up the house.
- Wipe quickly – this stain dries quickly (which is awesome, because then you can move onto the next step quickly!), so in order to get that even finish, you’ll want to wipe the stain onto the wood as soon as you squirt the stain onto the sign.
- Rub the stain into the wood by applying quite a bit of pressure with the old rag or sock you’re using. This will, again, help give it that even finish.
Step 6: Dry brush the sign to give it the antiqued/rustic look
Once the stain is dry (again, give it about 20-30 minutes or until you run your finger across the stain and nothing shows up on your finger).
Grab an old paintbrush and dip it into a VERY small amount of white or cream-colored acrylic paint. LESS IS MORE. Run the paint brush up and down the sign, on the edges, in the crevices, etc. You can always follow up with more paint later.
Tips for this step:
- Less is more. Seriously! Dab the brush into some acrylic paint, brush the paint onto some cardboard or paper to get a lot of the paint off the brush, and then gently begin brushing onto the sign. You can follow up with more paint later.
- Use a little bit of gold acrylic paint (same way you do the white) if you want a little bit of a shimmer to the sign.
Step 7: Chalk the sign
Using a regular piece of white chalk, turn the sign over on the back and color the entire back of the sign with the chalk. Make sure you get chalk over all of the lettering and the stars.
Step 8: Trace the lettering onto the sign
Place your sign back onto your wood where you marked it at the beginning. If I had painter’s tape when I was working on this, I would’ve taped down the edges onto the sign. But, since I forgot to get some before I started working on this, I just made sure to hold the sign tightly in place the entire time I did this step.
Use a pen or pencil and begin to press down and color in the letters. You want to press down hard enough that you’ll get an impression of chalk on the wood.
You’ll notice I only outlined the stars and the letters – no need to color them in completely. You just need the outlines transferred onto the wood so that you have a guide for coloring them in.
You can see how the chalk nicely traced onto the sign so that you can have an easy guide for coloring in the stars and letters.
Tips for this step:
- Make sure you’re pressing hard enough to get that chalk impression into the wood.
- Use a pencil or duller-tip pen for this, just so you don’t poke through the paper too much and get ink on the sign.
- You’ll see excess chalk on the wooden sign after this process. Don’t wipe it off yet! We’ll get there after we paint the lettering and stars on the sign.
Step 9: Color in the letters and stars with the chalk marker
While you can use any kind of white paint you’d like to do this step, I’ve done so many crafts like this, and I’ve consistently found this particular brand of white marker to be the absolute best. I’ve had issues with other white paint markers streaking and not having an even flow. This particular marker has just been so easy to use and produces a beautifully even look. I don’t purposefully use a chalk marker for this (as in, I don’t care that it’s a chalk marker v. a paint marker), BUT, because this has been the best white paint marker for projects, I continue to use it.
You’ll use your chalk marker to paint in all of the stars and the letters. If needed, use your paper to help you as a guide if some of the lettering didn’t perfectly transfer onto the sign.
Tip for this step: go back over any spots that you want to make darker with the white.
Step 8: Wipe off excess chalk
Using an old towel, gently wipe off excess chalk dust (not from the marker, but from when you chalked the back of the paper and traced the lettering from the paper onto the wood).
Step 9: Insert Christmas lights
Turn your sign over on the back and begin inserting the Christmas light bulbs into the holes. You’ll continue this until you’ve inserted all of the lights.
Because these lights fit snugly in the holes, I didn’t need to do anything to secure the light strand on the back of the sign.
You can see the light bulbs just barely poke through on the front of the sign. This helps give the sign that glow you’re looking for, but the lights won’t overwhelm the lettering.
This is what my strand of lights looked like once I inserted them all on the back of the sign:
Now you’re ready to turn your sign over, plug in the lights, and enjoy your gorgeous creation!
Merry Christmas & happy crafting! Hope this piece blesses your home and reminds you of the beauty of this Christ-filled season!