Its easy and inexpensive to create your own lightbox. A home made lightbox is just as effective as a manufactured lightbox, it’s just made of more common materials, like cardboard and a Clamp Lamp.
I have made many types of lightboxes and have developed a style that is easy-to-make and durable. I find the instructions in the “Let There Be Light” book confusing and overly complicated. Those directions also produce a lightbox that doesn’t stand up to heavy use because no matter what type of tape you use, it will either melt off or dry out over time from the heat of the lamp.
That’s why I wanted to develop a lightbox that doesn’t use tape. I’ve simplified the process and made the homemade lightbox more durable. Here’s how to make it:
- One Aluminum Clamp Lamp from hardware store, without a wire guard. They come in several sizes: 8 or 8.5-inches is perfect for full body tonations and most uses. The 6 inch is smaller and more portable. This is a very handy size for tonating a smaller area, and can still be used for full body tonations if placed a little further from the body. You can also get clamp lamps that are 10 or 10.5 inches, but these are almost too big.
- Aluminum foil
- 25 to 40 watt bulb (no higher)
- One cardboard box, slightly smaller than your clamp lamp or flat corrugated cardboard (the kind used to make cardboard boxes)
- White glue (Elmer’s is good)
- Ruler or yardstick
- Box cutter or Exacto knife
- Roscolene filters
If you are lucky enough to have found a sturdy cardboard box that is slightly smaller than your clamp lamp, the basic form of your lightbox is already created. Simply cut off the flaps on both sides, leaving four sides with no ends, line it with aluminum foil (glue it down), create your slots and its done.
You can also start with a sheet of cardboard (you can get them free at places like Costco and Sam’s club. They are used as dividers to separate layers of cans or toilet paper and other products).
- Measure the circumference of your lamp (the distance around the rim).
- Measure and mark your cardboard the length of the circumference plus 1 inch and 10 inches wide. Or calculate it. The circumference of a circle can be calculated from its diameter using the formula: c = pi x diameter. For a 10 inch clamp lamp, this will be 31.4. Rounding out to 31.5 is fine.
- Mark 3/4 inch from each end across the short sides. This will be your overlapping seam.
- Divide the rest of the length into equal fourths and lightly draw a line across the width of the cardboard. You will be creating the frame of your lightbox with this.
- You will need to score the cardboard to produce four even bends. Scoring cardboard compresses the internal support system of the material without cutting it. Cutting through the cardboard weakens its structure and causes it to tear at the bend point. Here’s how to score without cutting:
- Lay the cardboard flat on a work table or flat surface. Lightly mark the bend at two points on the face of the cardboard with a pencil.
- Find a ruler, yardstick or other straightedge. Align one side of the straightedge with the two marks representing the bend location.
- Retract the ball point of a retractable pen. Set the end of the pen on the surface of the cardboard with one side of the pen sitting against the aligned side of the straightedge.
- Press the end of the pen toward the surface of the cardboard. Apply just enough pressure to collapse the cardboard, but not tear or cut it as you pull it along the straightedge. Sometimes, ball point pens are still too sharp, even retracted. If so, find a duller tool that will create an indentation, but not cut through. Repeat the process of pulling the pen along the straightedge until the cardboard has a visible indentation.
- Holding the straightedge firm on the surface of the cardboard, bend the cardboard up against it at the indentations. If some parts won’t bend, continue the scoring process with the straightedge again. Some parts of the cardboard may require more pressure to create the bend or the bend won’t be uniform along its length.
Making the Gels:
Cut ‘frames’ of light cardboard or posterboard just a little smaller than the size of your box (about 3/8 smaller).
Cut a large circular hole in each frame, leaving about a 1/2-3/4 inch margin at the narrowest point.
Cut gels into squares about the same size or a little smaller than the size of your frame. Compile the gels needed for each color combination and staple them to the cardboard. Label each compiled gel with the name of the color and the numbers of the gels that went into it.
To use your gels, simply drop them into the slot of your lightbox.
(Illustrations coming soon)
For at even easier setup, here’s how to make a how to make a lightbox sleeve that goes over an existing lamp in only 10 minutes.