Thursday, August 15, 2013

Light box project!

My old light box consisted of a wooden wine box covered by an inverted acrylic tray and an under-cabinet LED light strip. That was fine for pages that were the size of a regular sheet of paper; but what happens when you get a pattern on a sheet that's 22"x 30" and the block you want to trace is larger than the light box?

I've wanted an Artograph Light box for quite awhile now but have you seen their prices? A 17"x 24" retails at $350... Amazon sells them cheaper but still they're expensive. Not an option!

I needed to upgrade my own light box to a larger size if I was to start Yoko Saito's Mystery quilt. I thought of getting a glass top desk and installing lighting under it but there's no room in my studio for another surface. Nice idea though!

Options to a light box could be a window or a patio door! I have lots of windows in my house but they're all divided lights in a diamond pattern. I suppose I could tape these to the patio door but since I use a fine line marker to trace onto freezer paper, I have to write with the pen at an angle to keep the ink flowing. Not practical.

I had a frame that could work which I purchased at my favorite thrift store for $15 and decided to use that. So off to the LED store I went.

This is what I got... a lot longer than I needed at 5 meters but they deal in wholesale lengths! At least the adapter was included in the price. You can cut these to length too.

The materials I started with were:

1) one picture frame measuring 24 X 30" (with glass) and a frame thick enough for the LED strip
2) glass cleaner
3) needle nose pliers
4) white tissue paper
5) Krylon Repositionable Spray Adhesive
6) staple gun
7) foam board

Start by removing the backing in your frame. For me this involved removing all the staples, cardboard backing and the ugly picture.

You can reuse these if you don't have a staple gun.

Then wash the glass on both sides. See the reflection of my windows in the glass?

Next staple along the inside of the frame so that the staple sticks out and isn't pushed all the way in... the object is to prevent the glass from moving in the frame. You can use framer's points for this but I couldn't find mine. Use what you have on hand and make do!

The staples don't go in close enough to the glass so push them down onto the glass with the tip of the needle nose pliers. BE CAREFUL not to chip the glass or worse, break it... be gentle. And be generous with the staples... you can't have too many!

Once the glass is secure, it's time to "frost" the glass! Cut the tissue paper to the size of the glass; I needed 2 sheets with only a small section of the second sheet. 

Spray the glass with repositionable adhesive; starting at a corner, place the tissue paper on the glass; be gentle here too as the tissue paper will tear easily... best not to wear rings! Run your hand on the paper to glue it down.

If you find wrinkles rub them with your fingers until they disappear. The repositionable adhesive is good for this as it allows you time to work the paper. 

When your glass is covered with the tissue paper, it's time to add the lights! Working small sections at a time, peel off the paper on the sticky side of the LED strip starting at the connection of the power cord. Stick to the inside edge of the frame and work your way around the whole frame.

When you get to the start, decide where you need to cut. You can only cut at certain places and in my case it would leave a gap with no light in the corner so I went a little beyond. See the 4 copper dots at the level of the bottom of the red tape? I would've had to cut between those copper dots. I elected to go to the next cutting mark so there is one light overlap. It's no big deal. I taped down the power cord and stapled it to prevent dislodging. I'll come up with something different eventually but for now this will work.

Next staple your foam board to the back of the frame. 

And here's my new light box!

It's a great size at 24" x 30". That round spot is a reflection of my ceiling light and not a defect in the paper.

 And it works beautifully! Now if I had thought of it sooner, I would've covered the foam board with aluminum foil before stapling for added reflective light. I may do that yet! One can always improve on projects! Total cost of this 24 X 30" light box was $85= $70 for the lights and $15 for the frame; far better than $350 for a smaller surface! And had I been patient and ordered the LED lights in the length I needed, this would have cost even less. Nevertheless, I'm pleased with it.




  1. Ingenious, Lorette! What a smart cookie, you are!

    1. HAHAHA! Thank you! Stay tuned for the update to this project! You'll laugh!

  2. This is unique project that makes to use smart things in a easier way without wasting them to enjoy their benefits. This is informative website that helps to make home in smarter way as important in everyone to save everything and here I get how to save the electricity by using Energy Efficient Lights Bulbs in more smarter way.

    1. Thank you Bibershally! Please see the follow-up post that deals with the glass break issue! I LOVE my new light box.

  3. This image are totally awesome. LED Light Box looking supper cool. We can do many things by this. Thank you so much for your information.