About a month ago, I inherited my dad’s old DSLR camera. It was perfect timing because Caitlynn and I had just started setting up Thrifty Below. I dove into online photography resources, set up my mini studio in a sunny spot in our spare bedroom (which is more like a giant pile of yarn and craft supplies), and started taking test pictures with my new camera. Unfortunately, I quickly disillusioned. The lighting in my apartment is very inconsistent and it’s super frustrating to only be able to take pictures during the day. Enter my search for the perfect light box! The Lowel Ego Light came highly recommended, but at $125 a pop, it was too rich for my blood. Luckily others had the same complaint and Mawoca and Semi Sweet Designs posted their DIY light box (aka soft box) tutorials online.
I was pleasantly surprised by the price of this project! To make 2 light boxes, the cost was about $65. Had I bought 2 Lowel Ego Lights, I would have spent $250! At a savings of almost 75%, it’s an awesome deal, especially considering the project only took about 2 hours!
4 – 20×30 foam poster boards (mine are from Dollar Tree, but you can similar boards just about anywhere)
4 – 27 watt, 5500k Full Spectrum CFL bulbs
2 – Twin socket lamp adaptors
2 – Swag Kits from World Market or Hemma Cord Sets from Ikea
2- 30 x 36 rolls of Aida 18 Count fabric for cross-stitching (I purchased the Loops & Threads brand from the sewing aisle at Michael’s, the regular price is $7.99/each)
**Test out the electrical components and light bulbs before starting the project**
Tools On Hand:
X-Acto knife or box cutter
Pencil and eraser
Glue gun and extra glue sticks (I used 8 mini gluesticks)
While I liked the tutorials I found and was able to use them to create my soft box, they lacked a diagram or pattern to help measure and cut my foam boards. It took me a while to determine good measurements. Don’t worry though, my loss is your gain! These diagrams were made on MS Paint and are not to scale, but hopefully they’ll help you know where to measure, cut, and score your foam boards. The dotted lines are for scoring, and the solid lines are for cutting. To score, you’ll push lightly and make sure to get through the foam, but not through the paper backing.
Diagram for the main part of the light boxes. Cut two of your boards like this:
Diagram for the soft box bases. You’ll cut two bases from one board, don’t throw away the middle! We’ll use that too.
For the foam board you’re using to make the bases, you only need to fully outline one base. Once it’s cut and ready, you can lay it on top of the board and trace the outline for the second base. Use the yardstick or another straight edge to guide your knife and ensure your lines are straight.
When your bases have been cut and scored, fold up the edges along the score lines and set aside.
Using a yardstick and pencil, measure and put hash lines along the each 30″ edge (at 11 and 29 inches) of each main board, then connect the hash lines to make your scoring guide lines. Flip the board over and make scoring guidelines 1.5″ in on each edge.
Find the very center of the 30″ edge (it will be at 15 inches) and mark it. From the center of the edge, measure up 8 inches and mark it. This will be the center of the light hole. Unscrew the disc on the light kit, center the light bulb hole over the mark you made at 8 inches, and trace with your pencil. Cut out the circle. Try screwing in your light kit, if the hole is too small, you might need to cut a little extra off. It should be a tight, secure fit, so be careful not to cut the circle too wide.
Score your board and bend the edges. Don’t forget that the lines 1.5 inches in will fold the opposite direction! When you’re done, it will look like this:
Set the main boards onto their bases, double check to make sure the hole for the light is 8 inches from the base, and use push pins to keep everything in place.
Make sure everything is lined up, then hot glue the flaps from the base to the sides of the main board.
When your boards are secure and the glue is dry, screw in the light fixture.
Put your light bulbs into the Y-adaptors. Replace the top disc on your light and make sure it’s screwed on tightly.
Using the extra piece from the base board, measure and cut 3 strips (2 inches wide and 20 inches long).
On one strip, cut out four small pieces, 1.5 – 2 inches wide.
These small pieces will provide extra support for the top bar. Hot glue the small pieces to the outside edge of the light box, right next to the 1.5″ flap. Place a 20″ strip on the top of each light box, and line it up properly. Using your pencil, mark the area that hangs over the edge.
Using your knife, cut along the marked line and cut off the small triangle of overhang from each side of each of your 20″ strips.
Place the 20″ strip on top of the light box, line up, and hot glue when satisfied with the placement. It should look like this:
Lay out both rolls of your cross-stitching fabric and place on top of each other. Flip over one light box and scoot it toward one edge of the fabric, leaving 1.5 to 2 inches of fabric on the sides. Cut around the light box, through both layers of fabric, and make sure to leave the 1.5 to 2 inch border.
Separate the two pieces of fabric, and center a light box on each one.
Glue the fabric to the edges of the light box, carefully pulling it taught and neatly folding corners as you work. Other tutorials have used push pins, which would allow for rearranging of the fabric or later reuse, but I just hot glued everything.
But wait, you ask, what about my fourth and final foam board? Don’t worry guys! When you set up your soft boxes, you’ll lean the last board against the back of your display for extra light reflection. I use a full water bottle keep the board from falling backwards. Your full set-up should look like this:
I’m still learning the ins and outs of my camera, but the DIY light box has made a huge difference in my last couple photoshoots! What do you guys think?! Will you be making your own light box?