Neon Sign Making: Practical Tips & Techniques
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


  1. Choosing the right materials for neon signs
  2. How to bend the glass tubes
  3. Filling the tubes with neon or argon gas
  4. How to seal the tubes
  5. How to install electrodes
  6. Testing the neon sign
  7. Mounting and installation of neon signs
  8. Maintenance and cleaning tips
  9. Troubleshooting common issues
  10. How to design attractive neon signs

Imagine walking down a bustling city street at night, the glow of neon signs illuminating your path. These vibrant lights are more than just pretty—they are the result of a cool process that involves science, design, and a bit of elbow grease. If you've ever wondered how these signs come to life, you're in the right place. This blog will give you practical ways to improve your neon sign making skills. Let's get started!

Choosing the right materials for neon signs

The first step in getting better at neon sign making is to choose the right materials. The quality and type of materials you use can make or break your final product. Here's what you'll need:

  • Glass tubing: This is the backbone of your neon sign. The thickness and color of the tubing can affect the final outcome of your sign. Clear glass tubing works best for basic neon signs, but colored tubing can create interesting effects.
  • Neon or argon gas: Neon gas produces a red glow when electrified, and argon gas can produce a variety of colors depending on the type of phosphor coating inside the tube. Remember to handle these gases with care, and always use a reliable supplier.
  • Electrodes: These are what make the magic happen. They create an electrical current that lights up the gas inside the glass tubes. You'll need electrodes that are durable and compatible with your chosen gas.
  • Transformer: This is the power source for your neon sign. Make sure the transformer you choose is safe and has the right voltage for your sign.
  • Mounting materials: Once your sign is complete, you'll need to install it. The type of mounting materials you use depends on where the sign will be displayed.

Now that you know what you need, it's time to roll up your sleeves and start getting better at neon sign making. In the next section, we'll walk through how to bend those glass tubes to create your sign.

How to bend the glass tubes

One essential aspect of getting better at neon sign making is mastering the art of bending glass tubes. It might sound a bit challenging at first, but with a little patience and practice, you'll soon get the hang of it. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you out:

  1. Heat the glass: You'll need to heat the glass tubing over a flame until it's pliable. A ribbon burner or a crossfire burner are commonly used in this process. Remember, safety first—always use heat-resistant gloves and goggles.
  2. Bend the tube: Once the glass is hot enough, carefully bend the tube to the desired shape. It's important to do this slowly and gently to prevent the glass from breaking. You might not get it perfect on the first try, and that's okay. Practice makes perfect!
  3. Cool down: Allow the tube to cool naturally. Don't rush this step—rapid cooling could cause the glass to shatter.

It's worth noting that bending glass tubes is a skill that comes with time and experience. Don't be discouraged if your first few attempts don't turn out as you expected. Keep trying, and you'll see improvement in no time. Remember, getting better at neon sign making is an exciting journey, not just a destination!

Filling the tubes with neon or argon gas

Now that you've got your glass tubes bent to perfection, the next step in getting better at neon sign making involves filling those tubes with gas—either neon or argon. This is what gives your neon signs their vibrant glow. Here's how you can do it:

  1. Prepare the tube: Before you begin, ensure that the inside of the tube is clean. Any dust or debris could affect the brightness and clarity of your neon sign.
  2. Attach the tube to the manifold: A manifold is a device used to control the flow of gas into your tube. Carefully attach the tube to the manifold, ensuring a tight seal.
  3. Evacuate the air: Using a vacuum pump attached to the manifold, remove all the air from the tube. This is important because air could interfere with the glow of the neon or argon gas.
  4. Introduce the gas: Once you've evacuated the air, you can introduce the neon or argon gas into the tube. Neon gives a red glow, while argon can produce a range of colors depending on the type of phosphor coating inside the tube.

Gas-filling is a delicate process that requires precision and care. But don't worry—like every other step in neon sign making, it gets easier with practice. Soon, you'll be filling tubes with neon or argon gas like a pro, taking your neon sign making skills to the next level.

How to seal the tubes

Once you've filled your tubes with neon or argon gas, the next step in getting better at neon sign making is to seal the tubes securely. Here are some tips to help you do just that:

  1. Use a glass torch: The end of the tube is sealed by heating it with a specialized glass torch until it melts and closes off the tube. Be careful not to overheat the tube, as it could change its shape or damage the phosphor coating inside.
  2. Allow the tube to cool: After you've sealed the tube, let it cool naturally. Rapid cooling could cause the glass to crack, which would let the gas escape and ruin your neon sign.
  3. Check the seal: Once the tube has cooled, inspect the seal. It should be smooth and free from cracks or holes. If it's not, you'll need to reseal it.

Sealing the tubes is a vital part of neon sign making. It takes a steady hand and a keen eye, but with practice, you'll be sealing tubes like a pro. And remember, the seal not only keeps the gas in, it also helps give your neon sign its distinctive glow. So, take your time and do it right!

How to install electrodes

Now that your tubes are sealed and ready, it's time to install the electrodes. This is a key step in getting better at neon sign making. The electrodes are the parts that create the electrical discharge that excites the gas in your tube and produces that iconic neon glow.

  1. Pick the right electrodes: Electrodes come in different sizes, so you'll need to choose the right one for your tube. The diameter of the electrode should match the diameter of the tube. Plus, it's a good idea to use electrodes with a glass stem, as these are easier to install and can handle higher voltages.
  2. Attach the electrodes: The electrodes are attached at both ends of the tube. Heat the end of the tube and the electrode stem with a torch, then carefully join them together. It's important to do this quickly, before the glass cools and hardens.
  3. Seal the connection: After joining the electrode and tube, you need to seal the connection. Heat the area around the joint until the glass fuses together. Once again, let it cool naturally to avoid cracks.

Installing electrodes may seem tricky at first, but don't worry. With a bit of practice, you'll be able to do it smoothly and confidently. Keep in mind, the better your electrode installation, the brighter and more reliable your neon sign will be. So, keep perfecting your technique!

Testing the neon sign

Once you've installed the electrodes, you're ready for the exciting moment—testing the neon sign. But, hold on a minute! Before you plug it in, there are some safety checks you need to do. Remember, when it comes to getting better at neon sign making, safety is as important as creativity and craftsmanship.

  1. Check the wiring: Make sure all the wires are properly connected. Loose wires can cause a short circuit, so double-check everything. Also, make sure you're using a suitable transformer for your sign. It needs to match the voltage requirements of your neon sign.
  2. Test the connections: Use a multimeter to test the connections. A multimeter is a handy tool that can measure voltage, current, and resistance. If the readings are off, there might be a problem with the connections or the components.
  3. Check for leaks: Look for any signs of gas leaks in the tubes. If you find any, seal them up before you proceed.

Once you've done these checks, you're ready to test the sign. Plug in the transformer, switch on the power, and watch your sign light up. If it doesn't, or if it flickers, don't panic. It might be a simple issue like a loose connection or a small leak. Fix it and try again. You're learning and getting better at neon sign making, remember?

Seeing your neon sign light up for the first time is a great experience. It's a sign (pun intended) that you're on the right track. So, enjoy this moment, but also learn from it. Take note of what worked and what didn't, and use this knowledge for your next project. Remember, every neon sign you make is a step towards mastery.

Mounting and installation of neon signs

After making sure your neon sign is glowing perfectly, the next step on your adventure of getting better at neon sign making is to mount and install it. This part is just as important as creating the sign itself because a neon sign is only as good as its display.

  1. Select the right spot: Where you place your neon sign makes a huge difference. It should be visible, but it should also complement the surroundings. Be mindful of the background color, lighting, and other elements in the vicinity. Does your neon sign stand out? Good, because that's what you want.
  2. Measure before you drill: Use a tape measure to ensure your sign will be centered and level on the wall. Mark the drill points with a pencil. Remember the old saying: "Measure twice, drill once."
  3. Use the right mounting hardware: Depending on the size and weight of your neon sign, you might need special mounting hardware. Sometimes, regular screws aren't enough—you might need wall anchors, masonry screws, or even a mounting bracket. Don't skimp on this; your neon sign is a work of art, and it deserves a secure display.

Once you've mounted your neon sign, step back and take a look. Does it shine brightly? Does it capture attention? If you've followed these steps, it most certainly will. And guess what? You're getting better at neon sign making—each step, each mistake, and each success is taking you closer to becoming a master neon sign maker.

Maintenance and cleaning tips

Now that you've successfully installed your neon sign, keeping it in tip-top shape is your next challenge. How do you keep your neon signs looking as good as new? By getting better at neon sign making and maintenance, of course! Here's how:

  1. Dust it off regularly: Dust and grime can dull the glow of your neon sign over time. Using a soft cloth or a feather duster, gently clean off the dust. Make sure to do this when the sign is off and cool to the touch, to avoid any accidents.
  2. Use a damp cloth for stubborn spots: If dusting doesn't do the trick, lightly dampen a soft cloth and gently wipe the surface of the sign. Remember, water and electricity don't play well together—ensure the sign is off and unplugged before you attempt this.
  3. Regularly check for flickering: Flickering isn't part of the neon sign aesthetic—it's a sign of problems. If your sign starts to flicker, it could be a power issue or a problem with the gas in the tubes. Don't ignore this; get it checked out.
  4. Keep it safe: Neon signs are durable, but they're not indestructible. If you're expecting rowdy guests or if there's a chance of physical impact, consider turning off and even removing the sign for safekeeping.

Remember, the key to getting better at neon sign making isn't just about the creation process—it's also about knowing how to keep your signs in great condition for many years to come. With these maintenance and cleaning tips, you're well on your way.

Troubleshooting common issues

Even the most seasoned neon sign makers run into issues from time to time. As you continue on your path of getting better at neon sign making, knowing how to troubleshoot these common issues can be a game-changer. Let's dive into some solutions:

  1. Sign won't light up: First, check the obvious—is it plugged in? Is the power switch on? If it's still not lighting up, the problem might be with the transformer. You might need to replace it.
  2. Flickering or dim light: If your neon sign is not as bright as it should be, or if it's flickering, this could point to an issue with the gas pressure in the tubes. It might be time to refill them. Also, check your power supply to make sure it's delivering the right voltage.
  3. Breaks or cracks in the glass: Cracked or broken glass tubes can't be fixed—you'll have to replace them. But hey, this gives you a chance to practice your glass bending skills again!
  4. Color issues: If the colors of your neon sign aren't as vibrant as they used to be, it might be time for a refill. Remember, neon gives off a red glow, and argon can create a range of colors depending on the type of fluorescent coating inside the tube.

Most importantly, don't be discouraged by these issues. They're just stepping stones on your journey towards mastering neon sign making. Troubleshooting is all part of the process, and with each problem you solve, you're getting better at neon sign making every day.

How to design attractive neon signs

Design is the soul of your neon sign. It's what catches the eye and makes people stop and stare. But how do you go about designing a neon sign that's both attractive and effective? Well, here are some tips to help you get better at neon sign making when it comes to design:

  1. Keep it simple: When it comes to neon sign design, less is often more. Too many colors or overly complex designs can confuse the viewer. Stick to simple shapes and a few colors to ensure your message is clear and attractive.
  2. Choose colors wisely: Neon signs can be made in a variety of beautiful, glowing colors. However, not all colors work well together. Opt for colors that complement each other and stand out against the sign's background.
  3. Consider the size: The size of your neon sign will depend on its placement and the distance from which it will be viewed. A sign that’s too small won’t be seen, but a sign that’s too big might be overwhelming. Find the right balance.
  4. Focus on the message: What is your sign meant to convey? Whether it's the name of your business or a catchy slogan, make sure your design emphasizes the message.
  5. Use appropriate fonts: The style of the text can greatly affect the overall look of your sign. Curvy, script fonts can create a classic, vintage feel, while straight, bold fonts can give a more modern vibe. Choose a font that aligns with your brand or message.

Remember, the goal of any sign is to draw attention and communicate a message. So, as you work on getting better at neon sign making, keep these design principles in mind. And don’t forget to let your creativity shine—after all, that’s what neon is all about!

While neon sign making and acrylic painting may seem unrelated at first glance, the artistic principles and techniques behind both can complement each other. If you're interested in honing your artistic skills further, check out the workshop 'Improve Your Acrylic Painting Skills' by Rachel Christopoulos. This workshop will provide you with valuable insights and advice on how to enhance your overall artistic abilities, which can be beneficial when creating eye-catching neon signs.