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How to Build a Light Box

10 February, 2011

If you’re an artist, light boxes are a handy item to own. My ‘How to Build a Light Box’ can help you make your own. A light box will enable you to replicate and reproduce images quickly without needing to redraw an image from scratch.

A light box is essentially a florescent light/tube that sits underneath a translucent, flat surface, allowing you to trace an image. This is done by placing a clean sheet of paper on top of an existing image, which makes copying the image more quickly.

I needed a light box for a project I was working on the other day and decided that it would be something I would use more regularly if I had my own. So, the creator (or perhaps the spend-thrift) in me decided to make one. The following outlines the process I used to build my own, should you decide you’d like one too.


1400mm x 30mm x 19mm pine
1400mm x 42mm x 19mm pine
350mm x 350mm x 6mm plywood
Florescent tube with switch
350mm x 350mm sheet of Perspex
PVA wood glue

(Note: lengths listed above are a guide only. These matched the sheet of Perspex I had lying round so I build my lightbox accordingly)

1.    Begin by laying out all your materials. This plan involves making two squared boxes, with one smaller sitting inside the other (using the lengths of pine). This creates a ‘shelf’ for the piece of perspex to rest on.

2.    Using the 42mm x 19mm lengths of pine, cut 2 pieces at 350mm and another 2 at 318mm. This ensures your box will be a square.

3.    Using the 30mm x 19mm lengths of pine, cut 2 pieces at 318mm and another 2 at 280mm. This ensures your box will be a square and fit inside the larger box.

4.    Now you should have 8 pieces of timber. Lay out all your pieces, placing each piece of timber with its corresponding lengths:

5.    Construct your square boxes using nails and wood glue. Corner clamps make this job much easier! Ensure each of the sides line up with one another.

6.    Place the smaller, 30mm x 19mm box inside the larger 42mm x 19mm box. Use a flat surface to ensure that one side is flat to rest on. This side will become the base.

7.    Glue and screw the boxes together (Tip: to make the box stronger, ensure that you don’t have the same type of joins together in your box in the same corners).

8.    The assembled box should look something like this:

Notice the ‘lip’ that’s been created by using smaller sized timber?

9.    Pick one of the sides, and using a drill, create a hole in the timber towards the bottom of the piece of timber. This allows a space where the light cord can exit.

10.    Cut a piece of MDF / ply to the size of the box. This acts as the base of your light box (I have used the plywood shown in the pictures above).

11.    Before you fix the bottom to your box, place the florescent light on the box base and affix.

12.    To finish, glue and nail the box base to the bottom of your assembled box, running the light chord out through the half-drilled hole you created earlier.

13.    Place your sheet of Perspex inside the box on the lip. Voila! Plug in your light box and test. DO NOT FIX THE PERSPEX TO THE LIP! You need the sheet free so that you can turn your light on and off.

14.    Create to your heart’s content.

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