I have been a huge fan of LED lighting since it debuted at Lightfair ages ago. What makes it so great? Apart from massive energy savings, LED lights don’t generate a lot of heat. That means they’re perfect for all kinds of creative projects, especially a DIY nightlight. As long as you have an LED nightlight that stays cool to the touch, you can customize it with interchangeable paper shades. Adding custom silhouettes is easy, too.
The basic idea is to make a paper shade from craft sticks and fun paper. Then use some removable adhesive mounting putty to stick the frame to a stay-cool LED nightlight. If you want to add a custom silhouette to your DIY nightlight, simply cut out a shape and slide it behind the shade. Let’s start by making a shade first.
Here’s how to make the nightlight shade
Since all LED nightlights are a little different, I’m going to outline the basic idea, which you can modify for your own DIY nightlight. The most important thing is to make sure that the shade is bigger than the lit part of the nightlight. That’s the part that lights-up, not including the plastic housing around it. A shade that is about 1-2 inches larger than the lit part of the nightlight will provide a nice, diffuse light. It’s up to you whether you want to hide the plastic housing as well.
I found that 4 1/2″ long craft sticks work well for my nightlight. That’s enough to hide both the plastic housing and the lit part of the nightlight. It also means that I don’t need to cut the craft sticks, which is helpful.
Making the shade frame
Once you have decided on the right size of craft stick for your DIY nightlight shade, find four that are reasonably flat. This was harder than I thought it would be. The craft sticks all looked nice and flat in the package, but when I opened it, it was a whole different story:
Lay the four craft sticks out in a square, and put a little glue on each end of the top and bottom sticks like this:
Then, position the other two sticks on the glue spots to make a square frame. Align the ends of the craft sticks as well as you can:
It doesn’t really matter if the frame is not a perfect square, since the paper shade on top of it will be. You can make the frame mostly-square by aligning two edges to something with a square corner, like a piece of card stock:
Attaching the shade paper
Next, cut a square of the paper you want to use for your shade that is a little bit larger than the frame on all sides. That way the fame won’t show, and you won’t have to worry about rounding the corners. Adding about 1/4″ to the length of the craft sticks will ensure about 1/8″ overlap, and makes the math easier.
Flip the shade paper upside-down. If there is a print, make sure that it is still in the orientation you want. For this one I had to make sure that the flamingos weren’t upside-down or sideways.
Here’s where it gets a little tricky, so practice this to make sure you have it right before you glue the paper to the frame. You want to glue the shade paper to the top and bottom of the frame only. That way the silhouette can slide in and out from the sides and rest on the bottom of the frame. Like this:
When you have everything aligned right, flip the frame over and put paste glue on the top and bottom craft sticks:
The reason we’re using paste glue here is because wet glue could wrinkle the paper and show-through.
Now flip the glued-up frame over, making sure to keep the orientation correct, and center it on the upside-down shade paper:
Press down a bit so the paper adheres all the way along the craft sticks at the top and bottom. Just one more step and your shade will be done.
Making a spacer
The last step in making a DIY nightlight shade is the spacer. This will allow the shade to sit a little bit in front of the light for a nice, diffuse effect. We’re going to use craft sticks for this part, too. You just need to figure out how many you need for your LED nightlight.
To do that, hold the shade up to the lit nightlight with a few craft sticks stacked flat behind it. You want the light to be soft on the shade and not show a harsh outline of the lit part. I found that three craft sticks pulled my shade forward enough to blur the square of light behind it.
Once you know how many sticks you need, it’s time to glue-up your spacer. Put a little of the all-purpose craft glue (or wood glue) all the way along all but one of your spacer sticks. Like this:
Then, stack them up, aligning the edges. Since we know those craft sticks are anything but flat, use some binder clips to hold them in place while the glue dries:
Putting your DIY nightlight together
Once your spacer is dry, you can glue it to the back of the shade, at the bottom. Like this:
Next, put a little adhesive putty on the LED nightlight where you want your shade:
Then press your shade in place, and your DIY nightlight is ready to use!
The great part about using adhesive putty is that it lets you change the shade whenever you like:
I find it’s easiest to twist the shade a little to get the putty to release.
How to make silhouettes for your DIY nightlight
If you want to take the DIY nightlight one step further, you can make some silhouettes for it. I think of these kind of like secret messages since you can’t see them until the nightlight is turned on.
All you need to make a silhouette is a piece of card stock and something to trace or cut around. Start by cutting the card stock so the length is the same as the craft sticks (4 1/2″ for me). Then cut the card so it fits between the top and bottom craft sticks when you slide it behind the decorative shade paper.
Next, draw, trace, or tape your silhouette image on one side:
Then, very carefully, cut out the image using the X-acto knife. Be sure to keep your fingers behind and away from the blade. It also helps if you turn the card as you cut, instead of trying to turn your hand.
When you’ve finished cutting out the image for the silhouette, slide the card behind the decorative paper:
The bottom of the card will rest on the frame, and the sides of the frame will hold it in place.
To change the silhouettes when your DIY nightlight is plugged-in, just slide them gently into and out of the frame.
Now it’s time to get creative with the silhouettes. I made this silhouette by tracing a cookie cutter:
Here’s a dog paw silhouette you might recognize from the DIY graphic design project:
What you will need for a DIY nightlight
- LED nightlight, specified as ‘cold/cool to the touch’
- Wooden craft sticks
- All-purpose craft glue or wood glue
- Glue stick (glue paste)
- Decorative paper that is somewhat transparent (construction paper might be too thick)
- Card stock
- Metal ruler or scissors to cut card stock
- X-acto knife and cutting mat
- Small binder clips
- Removable mounting putty
- Paper designs or things to trace
After you get the hang of making the frames, you can make lots more with different papers.
DIY nightlights are such a simple and fun way to customize a room. I hope you have fun making lots of them, too.
As always, feel free to ask questions or leave comments. Don’t forget to subscribe to Creatorvox to get new posts right in your email. You can also follow Creatorvox on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more tips and tricks between posts. Thanks for reading, and happy making!