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*Cheaper* Than Dirt Lightbox May 7, 2013

Posted by Sindy in Tutorial Tuesday.

You would not believe what dirt costs these days! A bag of it at the garden center is $2.30! Of course, you wouldn’t believe how much light boxes cost either. The cheapest I found on Amazon was $30, and it was big and bulky.

Well, today I’m going to rescue the wallets of artists everywhere! I’ll be showing you how to make a super easy, super portable, lightbox for only $2! Let’s get started shall we?

Cheaper Than Dirt Lightbox


– Battery operated LED lightbulb from the dollar store (or any bright omni-directional light if it doesn’t get hot – even a bright glow stick would work)
– Picture frame from the dollar store
– Page from a picture book from the dollar store (hmmm, are you seeing a pattern here?) or whatever picture you’re tracing
– Blank copy paper from anywhere
– Pen, pencil, paint brush, or whatever drawing implement you’re going to use

(You may have noticed that I only counted the lightbulb and the picture frame in the $2. I assume you have the rest of the supplies on hand or can get them cheap or even free.)

Lightbox - supplies

Now, there are 2 ways to do this. Here’s the long, complicated way:

Step 1.
Open the frame and remove the cardboard and paper. Keep the glass (or plastic) in there, and don’t forget to bend the tabs back into place to keep the glass in.

Lightbox - open frame

Step 2.
Sit in a chair. The deeper the chair the better.

Step 3.
Place the lightbulb between your legs as far forward on the chair as you can. It’s best if you don’t have to hold it with your legs since that will cover the light too much.

Lightbox - lightbulb between legs

Step 4.
Turn on the lightbulb.

Lightbox - light on between legs

Step 5.
Place the frame over your legs.

Lightbox - frame on lap

Step 6.
Lay the picture you would like to trace on the glass of the frame.

Step 7.
Lay a blank page over the picture. (Note: You may tape the two papers together and to the glass to keep them from shifting.)

Step 8.
Trace your picture.

Lightbox - trace your picture


Phew. And now for the short, easy method:

Step 1.
Take everything out of your frame except the glass.

Lightbox - empty frame with glass

Step 2.
Turn on the lightbulb and place it between your legs, and put the frame in your lap.

Lightbox - frame on lap

Step 3.
Put the picture and blank paper on top of the glass and start tracing.

Lightbox - trace your picture

You may now be telling yourself that these two methods are the same, but they are not. There’s a major difference: One is long with a total of 8 steps, and the other is three easy steps. 😉

Now you, in behalf of your wallet, are welcome to comment and thank me for allowing it to be that much fatter for at least 2 minutes longer than it otherwise would have been. Or you could let me know in what unique ways you used this handy lightbox. Would it work with photos? Could you trace Uncle Bob and put him in a mountain scene instead of asleep on the couch at the family reunion? Perhaps you could trace parts of jewelry in ads and create your own diamond-encrusted masterpiece. I would love to see what you come up with!



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