How to Build a Lightbox... Cheap! :D

Hello gentle readers. It is Pink Wednesday but my Orly Rock-It mani is still perfect and I am enjoying it too much to remove it. So, no Pink Wednesday post, this week. :)

Instead, I am going to yap about how to make a lightbox. This is an easy and very inexpensive project. In fact, mine cost less than ten dollars to construct. And that was because I had to buy a roll of white craft paper and packing tape. If you already have everything you need lying around, this will cost you nothing. If you need to buy scissors or a knife, it will cost a bit more. But, mine was... Seven dollars or so, out the door.

You will need:

A cardboard box. About... 15"-ish on a side... This can vary according to what you have on hand and what you need. This is a custom project, so do what will work best for you.

A roll of white craft paper. It must be white if you want it to bounce light and provide a crisp, clean background for your photographs. I bought mine at my local JoAnne for about four or five clams. There is a ton of paper on the roll, I have plenty to re line my box when the interior gets dusty or torn or for other projects.

A roll of clear packing tape.

Scotch tape.


A box knife or a sharp paring knife.

A marker, Sharpie, pen, pencil. Hell, you could use a crayon, if that is all you have on hand. lol

A ruler or something with a straight edge. I just ripped the plastic cover off of a notebook. It did the job. *smirk*

Okay, before we begin, I constructed this flying by the seat of my pants, so it was a bit disjointed, but the process does work. I have an idea for improving my own lightbox and plan to do it, soon. And, well... Just read on. :)

Some of the stuff I used.

I started off by removing all of the flaps. Turns out, I should have left one attached. I ended up reattaching it, later. So, leave a flap behind, so that you have a little platform off the front of your lightbox. I like my platform and find it very useful.

 Removing the flaps. I started out using my bread knife. I soon switched to my paring knife. And yes, I moved my CDs in this box, almost three years ago. :D

 Flaps off. Remember to leave one, at what will be the floor of your lightbox. ;)

 Time to cut the "windows" in the box. I used my notebook cover and Sharpie to mark lines about an inch-inch and a half in from the edges and corners. (Ignore that light off to the side. It didn't work and was returned.) Now, I am not really concerned with absolute precision so I didn't really measure anything. I eyeballed stuff and just went for it. If you are a precise type, tho feel free to get your anal on. (Okay, that sounded really, really wrong, didn't it? :P)

 Click to enlarge to see how I marked the lines. 

 Start cutting along the lines to cut out the windows. I found, as I cut through a sticker on the box that my knife slid through the cardboard more easily. So, I put packing tape over all of the lines I drew and it made it seriously easy to make the rest of the cuts. Trust me, unless you have a screaming, razor sharp box cutter you might want to take a few minutes to tape your lines. Taping the lines also made the cardboard stronger so that it didn't tear or fall apart. 

 Windows on three sides of the box all cut out. I suppose I could have skipped this step, but I thought that I would be lighting this from the outside. (That didn't work.) But I still like that the windows are there. For some reason, I think that it makes the light look prettier, somehow. I don't know. Maybe I am out of my gourd. heh heh. 

 Use packing tape to "seal" all of the edges on the box. This will not only make everything smooth and nice, the extra tape stiffens and strengthens the structure a bit. It is far less likely to tear or collapse after being all  taped up. 

 Get out your paper and wrap your lightbox like the gift it will be to you. Wrap it as tight as you can without tearing the paper or collapsing the box. An extra set of hands would come in handy, here but I did it alone. I taped it up in the back. In fact, the back of mine? Not too terribly pretty. But I don't care. No one sees it. 

 Now line the inside of your box. Here is where I could do a little refining. And will, in fact do so. The seams at the inner corners show in some of my photographs and don't make me happy, so I need to fix it.

 Wrapped, from the side.

 Insert a piece of paper that starts at the top and runs down the back out to the front. Leave a smooth curve at the back bottom of the box so that you have a smooth, white field with no seam or fold visible. 

My completed lightbox:

 This is after I realized that I wanted my lightbox to have a front porch. I just used a long piece of cardboard, about a foot or so long and a few inches wide and attached the strip to the underside of the box with packing tape, then taped it to the flap off the front also with packing tape. Then ran the paper out over and wrapped it under and taped it. You could use a strip and packing tape to reinforce your front porch, if you decide to have one.  (Did that make a damned bit of sense? lol) 

I have too many layers of paper in there and I need to tear them out and fix that, as it makes some of my bottles stand not perfectly straight. Told you I need to do a little refining. You will do it much better. :D

My lightbox in action. The lamp is an OttLight that I bought at JoAnne. It wasn't the exact style I wanted but it was the least expensive one in stock. And, since money was tighttighttight when I bought it, I got the one that was most affordable. Mine was 40% off and cost me $35.00. And, while I am not crazy about how it looks, it works like a charm! And that is what most matters, in the long run. :D 

I was photographing some new China Glaze polishes for a haul post, in this photo. I like to get my room as dark as I can, all incandescent lights off! of course, to avoid yellow light leaking in and spoiling things. See how white and clean the light is? I love it. 

It is easy to use my lightbox to photograph products and my swatches. It lives in my closet in a corner on top of a big storage container where it is safe, when it is not in use. It is light as a feather and easy to move around, is big enough to do the job, but not so big that it is hard to find a place to set it up for use. I use the top of my five drawer chest for this purpose. It is the perfect height and size. 

My next acquisition needs to be a tripod. or two. Maybe a short one and a tall one... They aren't terribly expensive and I think that having one (or both... I am a greedy biotch!) would make getting the clearest, sharpest photographs much easier. Right now, I am holding my camera in my hand and the amount of shake I can get means that my photos aren't as sharp as I would like them and need them to be. A tall one would be nice for landscapes, too... 

Oh! As of publishing this post, JoAnne has OttLights on sale for 60% off! So, if you are lusting after an OttLight, now might be the perfect time to snap one up. Here is a link to their site. You should be able to get the same deal in your local JoAnne store, too. 

Okay, so I hope that this is helpful. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to leave a comment and I will do the best I can to answer it or help in any way I can.