Instructables user bigtreehouse writes:

The goal was to make a light box for my students to use that didn’t cost me an arm and a leg. Went to the second-hand store and found a florescent light… ($4.99 with 50% off) then noticed a suitcase/briefcase ($3.99 with 50% off). I got them both and started thinking of ways to put them together.

Becky Stern

Becky Stern

Becky Stern ( is a DIY guru and director of wearable electronics at Adafruit. She publishes a new project video every week and hosts a live show on YouTube. Formerly Becky was Senior Video Producer for MAKE. Becky lives in Brooklyn, NY and belongs to art groups Free Art & Technology (“release early, often, and with rap music”) and Madagascar Institute (“fear is never boring”).

  • The Oracle

    Why bother?

    A cheap fluorescent lamp is going to have a poor spectrum and poor colour cast. It’s easy to see in the picture the light is not well diffused. For any real photographic work, using this would be worse than using nothing and holding your material up to a bright window.

    Tools are usually the worst possible place to cut corners because anybody is is only as good as their tools, and this is a great example.

    • Becky Stern

      I thought this was a great reuse project, but the primary thing I would use a light box for is to trace designs for embroidery or other line art, so no true color or perfect diffusion is necessary. It’s a little mean to rag on this guy, a teacher, who’s just trying to help his students succeed. This would be perfect for making simple stop-motion animations; I don’t think it was ever intended to be for “real photographic work.”

      • Marc de Vinck

        Yep! It was made specifically “old school animation” so it’s perfect!

        In fact, my lightbox is all scratched up because I keep it on it’s side in a closet, (not a great idea) this one has a lid, keeping the surface nice and smooth which is really important when inking.

      • Gareth Branwyn

        Yeah, the drafting-angle light box that I’ve been using for the past 20 year, that I bought when I had a graphic design business, has hot spots and poorly-diffused light, and it works perfectly fine for what it was designed for — which is tracing, cutting masks, etc.

        The one above also has an undeniable Repo Man appeal.

    • Roy

      I think Becky’s right on this one. From the instructable:

      “Now I am ready to do some old school animation! I will still use the computer to scan, color and compile… but that will come another time.”

      I think the author meant to call this a “Light Table in a Box”, rather than a “Light Box”, which has a specific meaning in the photography world.

    • Mark Frauenfelder

      Why bother indeed. I tried using this to heat my bathwater and received a nasty shock. It’s better to stick with store bought products.

      • The Oracle

        Hey, just because you can’t get it to work the way you want, don’t insult makers ;).

  • Gareth Branwyn

    Yeah. The one I have was sold as a “Light Table,” even tho it doesn’t actually have legs and goes on top of a table, so it really is a light box, but yeah, table vs. box might be the way these two tools are officially differentiated.

    • Becky Stern

      I went to art school and always saw a bunch of “pora-trace” brand things we called light boxes. Here’s a link that confirms some brands refer to a tracing box as a “light box” AND “light table”:
      I’m glad we’re talking about two different pieces of equipment, that way we can all be happy.

  • The Oracle

    I’m also glad it’s two different pieces of equipment and I appologize to the designer for the tone of my earlier post.

  • tony


    This is a WONDERFUL project, period.