Picture of DIY Lightbox build with Ikea Lack table.
I have  wanted a lightbox for years, I live in a small flat and don't have the space to store a large lightbox. I decided to build a photo/tracing lightbox into my Ikea coffee table. I picked up all of the equipment on ebay and put the whole lot together in a couple of hours. The table is an Ikea 'Lack' and cost about £5, they come in many different colours. 
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Step 1: Choosing Correct Acrylic

Picture of Choosing Correct Acrylic
-Ideally I would have made the top from one single thick sheet of acrylic with a routed out step around it's edge. However to do this I would need a router and a acrylic cutting router head... which I don't have. Instead I ordered two sheets of Acrylic. One 8mm thick transparent  sheet and one 3mm thick Opal coloured sheet. I had the clear sheet cut slightly smaller (which the acrylic company did free of charge).
-Lack table top measures 550x550mm
-Clear Acrylic 8mm 480x480mm
-Opal 3mm Acrylic 500x500mm 
-I purchased these materials on Ebay from, they gave me cheap combined postage and next day delivery. 

Step 2: Measure and Cut

Picture of Measure and Cut
-Carefully Measure out the aperture on the top of the table. Check your measurements and offer up the thickest sheet of Acrylic, make sure it will fit correctly as the chance are it probably wont be perfectly square. 
-Use a brand new stanley blade and a non slip metal ruler to carefully cut through the table top. Be patient because it takes quite a few cuts to break through. 
-Peel off the cut away section and remove the cardboard reinforcement. 
-Check the acrylic fits and cut/sand away more if it doesn't.
(tip. Mark one side of the table and acrylic sheet with small strips of masking tape, this will make sure you relocate it the same way when you put it back) 
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Started making my own table and only need led lights and wanted to check which is best to use 3528 or 5050.

Hi there Christopher,
I think I used 3528 I think... No doubt both would work. here's the link to the ones I used...

jaimeiniesta2 months ago

A friend told me about electroluminiscent panels. It looks like it would have been a good alternative to LEDs: it would be simpler (no cutting required), with a more homogeneous lighting, and probably cheaper.

What I don't know if EL panels are bright enough, and if they can change colors as well.

What do you think?

Mr Chutney (author)  jaimeiniesta2 months ago

Hi Jameiniesta,
I've never heard of EL panels before. Just spent some time researching them and they look absolutely brilliant. They seem to be very cheap for small sizes however once you begin to reach about A3 size they cost about £60-£70. I'd love to see one in action. I would love to see how bright they are... I also couldn't determine whether or not they generate heat?
The technology behind them is fascinating. Thanks for bringing them to my attention.

jaimeiniesta made it!2 months ago

We made it! And it can change colors :)

Thanks for sharing this!

Mr Chutney (author)  jaimeiniesta2 months ago

That looks absolutely brilliant, what a creative touch you've added.

sarah.fukami made it!3 months ago

finished mine and it's great for making my art. my cat seems to enjoy it, too.

Mr Chutney (author)  sarah.fukami3 months ago

AH HA! Fantastic Sarah! I am an enormous cat fan so this makes me very happy. The table looks brilliant!

dan30087 months ago

Wow, and I was just about to throw out my old lack table... Not any more :D

Feynmaniac10 months ago

This went right on my "to-do-next-weekend-list" ^^

mdhold1 year ago
I just made this on my days off with the white coloured lack table. Very easy to do and is very funtional. Most plastic stores will sell translucent white acrylic for relatively cheap. I wired up a rocker on/off switch and installed it on the side of the table top. Thanks for thinking of this.
Mr Chutney (author)  mdhold1 year ago

Excellent to hear about your success Mdhold! I have a little flip switch just begging to be fitted into my table but as yet i haven't found the time. Hope your table is still going strong!

lucyvigax1 year ago

This exaclty what we were looking for at our preeschool!!!! We begin this project tomorrow, we will let you know how they came out, we need to do 4. Thanks so much, just one question, why do you need two acrylic sheets, the clear one and the opal?

Mr Chutney (author)  lucyvigax1 year ago

Hello there Lucyvigax,
I hope that your building process is going well! I used 2 separate sheets of acrylic for a few reasons... I wanted to be able to hide the roughly cut aperture (made for the first sheet) by overlapping it with a larger second sheet. From what I recall it was also much cheaper for me to buy 5mm clear acrylic than buying both sheets in opal. The thickness of both sheets combined also makes the surface much stronger and less likely to flex.
Hopefully that answers your questions, let me know how you get on!

Throcken1 year ago
This is just awesome. Already commented on another lack light hack that I have to make one for lightbox purposes. Then I found your instructable! I have to give this a try!
Beautiful. I'll add this to my "to-make" list.

mstaples32 years ago
This is awesome. Definitely going to be the final fate of my current lack table.

Could i ask you how much both sheets of plastic combined cost you in the end?
I got mine from the same place and paid ~£29 delivered.
Mr_o_uk2 years ago
Here's some pictures.

Don't know how to post them on here (I'm on a phone).

I didn't take any photos inside before doing it all up which is a shame, but the connector is glued around the hole on the inside and also to the leg support.

I was going to have it flush, but there wasn't room between the Perspex and the bottom, so had to push it through a few mm. It made it stronger and tidier though.

I like the fact that the opal is smaller than the top, that and the screws, makes a feature of it. A flat complete top would look too plain in my eyes...
Mr Chutney (author)  Mr_o_uk2 years ago
The table looks fantastic!
I hope it serves you well.
Mr_o_uk2 years ago
I just spent the afternoon making one of these out of a white table.

I think painting it white inside is a must. I used 2 tester pots from b and q as i didn't want to buy a brush or pot of paint. Each tester pot (50ml) did one coat. I gave it two coats.

The hardest part was the drilling of the Perspex. I think I would go slightly bigger on the Perspex (maybe add 5/10mm all round to both sheets) as I found the fixings were very close to the edge of the clear Perspex, and so one corner broke off a little (makes no difference as it doesn't move on the plane as its sat in a recess so that fixing is only holding the clear one down).

The only changes I made were...

1. using washers under the fixings (I still used the dome screws like you as I liked the look of them) but I wanted to spread the load a little!

2. I didn't like the hanging cable connector, so instead drilled a hole the size of the connector just off one of the leg supports, so that I could just poke it through a little and then glue the rest of the connector to the leg support so that it was solid.

Got the LEDs and power cable from eBay. £12.

Paint pots from b and q. £2.20.

Perspex from Trent plastics. £29.

Table. Free.

So £45 total. Not bad for a light box that size!

All in all, was a good instructable, Thanks!
Mr Chutney (author)  Mr_o_uk2 years ago
Congratulations on the build, would be fantastic to see a picture! I like the sound of your power cable modification. I would especially like to see what that looks like. I had considered at one point making the Perspex the same size as the whole top of the table and just glueing it down on top, I ended up deciding against this as I wasn't sure if the Perspex would be cut perfectly square. Id like to see someone do this with a white table as the light box would almost be entirely hidden. SO MANY POSSIBILITIES!
trishas52 years ago
This looks wonderful for my preschool class! We love using our light box for various activities. Most light tables/boxes for schools are lined/painted with silver instead of white. Do you think that would make a difference in the reflection of the light...making it show through the top more instead of being absorbed by the white paint. Since it's such a shallow space I'm not sure it would matter?? Also, I was thinking of just getting a rope light or fluorescent lighting. What are your thoughts on that? I'm kind of "building impaired." :) Thanks so much!
Mr Chutney (author)  trishas52 years ago
Hello the Trishas5!
I'm glad you like the project, I can certainly understand your students loving light boxes. They are surprisingly useful. You are absolutely right about silver being a better reflector, however silver objects reflect SO well that the reflection almost exactly mirrors the light source. Ideally the light in a light box is diffused and spreads evenly across the drawing surface, you don't really want to be moving the paper around the board to find the best light spots. Although the acrylic sheet helps the diffusion you would be surprised how much of a difference the white interior makes.
I considered using fluorescent lighting however it gets extremely hot and there simply isn't enough space inside to allow proper air circulation. The table is only 5cm deep and I think the plastic would melt pretty quickly. Rope lighting should do the trick though! Most rope lighting is LED based so you don't have to worry about the heat issue. Have a look on eBay for different options because LED lighting is INCREDIBLY cheap. I bought 5 meters for less than £10. Hope that helps!
shoerice2 years ago
I love this! In the midst of building one but my area only offers acrylic sheets up to 3mm thick. Will stacking 2-3 layers clear for the bottom work?
Mr Chutney (author)  shoerice2 years ago
Hello Shoerice! Glad to hear you're having a crack at it yourself! I had a similar issue when I decided to build mine. I went to a specialist acrylic dealer and asked them what they thought about stacking several sheets up (because it was cheaper than a single thick sheet) They thought it wouldn't work as well. they pointed out that any dust or dirt that got in between (which is hard to avoid because the sheets generate static)would show up really clearly. I also suggested glueing them together and they had similar reservations. HOWEVER I still think that it probably would have worked reasonably well. The table top might end up being slightly more flexible and I would probably use 3 clear acrylic sheets for the bottom and 1 opal acrylic sheet for the top. If flexibility did turn out to be a problem I think you could probably construct a small supporting piece from acrylic for underneath. Failing that you could try eBay for 8mm acrylic. Even with postage it was much cheaper than my local specialist.
Best of luck with the build! Be sure to post pictures when you're done.
Can I just use white acrylic rather than the opal?
Mr Chutney (author)  Adambowker982 years ago
Good question, To be honest I don't know. You could buy a small sample and test it although I get the feeling that it'll be too opaque. The opal stuff is perfect because it's actually designed to let light through. You want it to be as bright as possible.
KingPeter2 years ago
Any one have any good places to pick up some Acrylic sheets in the Colorado area. Or any good websites?!?

derte842 years ago
LOVE IT! I added to my famous guide 'HACK THE LACK' and for sure I'll make it in the near future
Mr Chutney (author)  derte842 years ago
Fantastic, Thanks very much for adding me to the group! Make sure you post the pictures if you do make one.
I think I'm going to make this, or a smaller version out of something else.
I've always wanted a lightbox!
Thanks for posting this!! :D
Mr Chutney (author)  juliatheninja2 years ago
Make sure you put some pictures up! Would love to see some other versions!
Very nice instructable “thebunnykingofnowhere” and very well presented.

I would like to add a few tips of a slightly different approach.
As an old school graphic designer I used light boxes most of my life, not just for viewing transparencies (slides or films) but to also use them as montage tables.
The difference from the ones I build (of this size) is that I used a circular fluorescent light (remove all its components from the metal casing and remount them inside your table/box), then I glued some wooden stripes on the inside perimeter to create a step deep enough to hold flash a white acrylic sheet and a glass top over it. Open a few big enough holes at opposite box sites for air ventilation and to cool it down. No screws are necessary as the weight of the two tops will keep it in place nicely and flash, also it’s easy to remove and change the fluorescent if needed. Some times if the diffusion is not enough you may add a sheet/s of tracing paper between the acrylic and the glass or use a white glass. At the site you can mount an on/off small light switch.
Thank you Steliart,
It's nice to hear everybody's different approaches. I was thinking about using a fluorescent ring as that's what they have at the photo lab where I work. However it does get very hot and I was a little worried about mounting it in a table which is only 50mm thick. I think if I built one from scratch then that's what I'd do.
anke-art2 years ago
Wonderful project, what a bright idea (yeah, lame pun).
meldinov2 years ago
Nice instructable.
I really dont know a lot about lightboxes, but why do you need 2 acrylic sheets?
doesnt it work just as good only with the opal one?
It's so that it nests nicely inside the table- structural, not functional.
Mr Chutney (author)  scrutables2 years ago
That's right, I wanted to use one single sheet with a routed edge but I don't have the tools necessary. I also sort of thought that using a thin layer of opal and a thick layer of clear would allow more light to pass through. Less diffusion etc...

Oh and also they only seem to make Opal acrylic up to 5mm which is a bit to thin.
augur452 years ago
How do I nominate you for "best idea of the year" award?
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