Making DIY curtain lights is a lot like reading a choose your own adventure novel. You'll start at the beginning by creating a power source for your lights, then you have a choice to make. Will you choose the convenient path of already made light strings or will you choose the adventure of creating your own light strings to perfectly fit your space while also providing endless opportunities for customization? There is no right path, only the one that works best for you!
If we were to rate this adventure for difficulty, we'd say it's suitable for almost any adult reader, but it does require learning the basics about wiring accessories (don't worry, you don't have to be an electrician to figure this out!) and you'll have to be okay with us spoiling the ending. We simply cannot wait to tell you how this adventure ends, it's incredible.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so instead of us trying to explain the sheer pleasure that comes from reaching the end, plugging your curtain light project in for the first time, and seeing a spectacular wall of cascading lights so vibrant it almost feels alive...well, just take a look
If your mind isn't already racing with all the possibilities for where and how you can have your own shimmering wall of string lights, we have a few ideas we want to share!
Where to Hang DIY Curtain String Lights
Ready to start on your DIY curtain lights journey? Our adventure begins with the key to perfect curtain lights: symmetry. To achieve symmetry, we'll create a power source to plug all those lights in across one straight line.
How to Make DIY Curtain Lights
DIY Light String Supplies
(optional for custom light curtains)
*SPT1 & SPT2 indicate insulation rating. Always select zip plugs to match the insulation for your wire. For example, if your wire is rated SPT2, then your zip plugs should also be rated SPT2. Click here for more on wire insulation.
Make a Curtain Light Power Source Using Zip cord Wire & Inline Zip Plugs
Cut a piece of zip wire to the length of your space. The awning shown in the pictures above is 14 feet long, however we wanted extra length to hang down and reach the outlet, so we cut our wire at 20 feet.
Lay your wire out straight and starting at one end, place pieces of tape where you want the lights to hang. We chose to have 1 foot of spacing between each of our light strings, so we placed a piece of tape at 1 foot increments along the wire. By the end we had a total of 14 pieces of tape on our wire.
Install one female inline zip plug at each tape marker. Click here or scroll down for complete instructions on how to install an inline zip plug.
Install a male zip plug at one end of your wire and a female zip plug at the other end. These should not be inline plugs, meaning that the wire can only go in one side and cannot not come out the other side of the plug. Click here or scroll down for complete instructions on how to install a zip plug at the end of your wire.
Test each inline zip plug as you attach it by plugging in a set of lights to the plug to make sure you have a good connection. Make sure to unplug the cord before you add each new plug.
Install Your Power Source
Attach your power source to your hanging surface. The awning we used had a sturdy metal bar running the length of it, so we secured our wire to the bar using zip ties. If the area you are hanging your DIY curtain lights does not already have a natural support for your wire, consider cutting a piece of wood to the length you need or find a metal bar to provide support for the weight of your wire, plugs and hanging string lights.
Plug in your light strings! It's time to choose your adventure; will you use standard string lights or will you make your own? In one version of our project we used 8 foot long strings of LED lights. However, if you'd like to use larger bulbs or customize your curtain light colors, you can create your own light strings by cutting existing strings to the exact length you need and adding plugs to the ends. Click here or scroll down to find out how we made our own DIY string lights with globe patio bulbs.
LED Mini Light Curtains
DIY String Light Curtains
Create Custom DIY Light Strings
So you decided to continue your journey with a custom light design in mind? Welcome! Before we dive right into this, there are a few helpful hints you should know about light strings and zip plugs.
Light strings and spools can be found in lengths ranging from 15'-1000' and can be cut to custom lengths. For our project we needed 7 light strings measuring 8 feet long. We selected two 50 foot SPT2 light strings with 6 inch spacing between each socket. Each 50 foot light string could be cut into six 8 foot pieces, which was more than enough, but it's always good to have a little extra just in case! We chose 6 inch socket spacing because we planned to use small G30 globe lights, however if you are using larger G50 or C9 bulbs, 12 inch spacing may be preferred.
When choosing your light strings, you may notice they are identified by a series of numbers and letters: SPT1 or SPT2. This notation refers to wire insulation which is an important consideration, especially when planning longer term lighting installations. SPT1 wire is the standard for moderate to normal light usage, while thicker SPT2 wire insulation supports higher wattage bulbs and provides better protection against the elements, particularly in regions with extreme weather patterns and temperatures.
For this project, wire insulation is also important because you will need to match the insulation of your zip plugs to the insulation of your wire. Our light strings were created using SPT2 wire, so we made sure to use SPT2 rated male and female zip plugs as well. If you choose not to place a female zip plug at the end of your wire, you will need to securely wrap the end with electrical tape and make sure no wires are exposed.
In addition to light strings, light bulbs, zip plugs and electrical tape, you will also need something very sharp to cut the wire, we found that wire cutters work best.
How to Make DIY String Lights
Measure and cut your wire to match the vertical length needed for your curtains. Leave enough wire on the ends to attach your zip plugs. We cut our 50 foot strings into six 8 foot sections, each section had 16 sockets.
Install a male zip plug on one end of the wire. Click here or scroll down for complete instructions on how to install a zip plug.
Install a female end plug to the opposite end of the wire following the same steps you used for the male plug or wrap the exposed end securely with electrical tape.
After you've installed your zip plugs and wrapped any exposed ends, insert a bulb into one of the sockets and plug the male zip plug into a nearby outlet to check that your wire is working. Then unplug the wire, unscrew your bulb and repeat the steps above to create your remaining light strings.
Zip Plug Installation Guides
How to Attach Male & Female End Plugs
Click here to jump back to creating a Curtain Lights Power Source.
Click here to jump back to creating DIY String Lights.
How to Attach InLine Zip Plugs
Click here to jump back to creating a Curtain Lights Power Source.
If you're reading this, that means you've reached the end of this adventure and should be feeling pretty accomplished and impressed by all you've learned and created. Now that we've taken this journey through creating DIY curtain lights together, we would love to see your finished work! Send us your curtain lights photos in the comments or tag us on Instagram or Facebook, and if you really liked this post, share it with your friends too!