Introduction: LED Tracing Light Box (simple and Awesome)

Picture of LED Tracing Light Box (simple and Awesome)

If you're into traditional animation, a light box is something essential. Here I will show you how to make a simple and great LED Light Box that has also a nice tilt for a more comfortable drawing position.

This is my first instructable and I've just thought of doing it right after I finished the project... so I apologize if any of the steps or pictures are not clear enough. I'll do my best!

Step 1: What You'll Need...

Picture of What You'll Need...

You will need just a few things to make this light box:

  • Methacrylate sheet (5mm, DIN A3): For the drawing surface.
  • Wood (30x40cm): For the base. Any kind of wood will work.
  • LED (I've used IKEA DIODER ): For the light.
  • Cardboard (23pieces of 3x40cm, 1piece of 1x40cm): For the methacrylate sheet support.
  • White paint (I've used tempera because I already had it but you can use spray or whatever you want).
  • Insulating tape.
  • Glue.
  • Scissors.
  • Soldering iron (optional).

Step 2: Cut and Glue the Cardboard

Picture of Cut and Glue the Cardboard

First of all, cut the pieces of cardboard needed:

  • 23 pieces of 3x40cm.
  • 1 piece of 1x40cm.

Once you have the 24 pieces, glue them on the wooden base like you see on the pictures:

  • For the back, use 19 pieces of 3x40cm.
  • For the front, use 3 pieces of 3x40cm and the piece of 1x40cm. The piece of 1x40cm is there to avoid the methacrylate sheet from sliding down.

Step 3: Paint the Base

Now that you have glued all the cardboard pieces, it's time to paint the wooden base in white. We do this because the white color will reflect the light better.

Step 4: Set and Fix the LEDs

Picture of Set and Fix the LEDs

Once the paint is dry, it's time to set up the LEDs. The best distribution that I've come up with is the one in the picture. The LEDs are fixed with a tape that comes in the package. The rest is fixed with insulating tape.

If you use the IKEA DIODER like I did, you may find the wires too long. That's why I've made them shorter by cutting, soldering and recovering the joints with insulating tape (the soldering is optional but recommended).

Step 5: Put the Methacrylate on Top And... Done!

Picture of Put the Methacrylate on Top And... Done!

Now the final step is to put the methacrylate sheet on top of the cardboard support. Don't glue it or anything, just put it on top. And that's it! You just made a fantastic light box!

Step 6: How Bright Are the LEDs?

They provide 30 lumen. I've recorded a video to show you how bright they are.

That's all! I hope you liked it and I encourage you to make one yourselves! If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments. And I'll be happy to see your versions of the light box.


technosapien (author)2016-05-19

Question, is the methacrylate sheet sturdy enough to resist bending when you're doing the tracing work? Asking mainly b/c this setup doesn't support the middle but if the plastic is thick enough it may not be a big deal, and I guess it doesn't take much pressure to trace thru. Thanks, this is a great idea and I may give it a try!

johannes87 (author)technosapien2016-05-20

Hey! These sheets come in different thicknesses. I used the 5mm one and it has held up perfectly, I haven't had any problem with that at all.Good luck with the project!

Manal Schutt (author)2016-01-15

This is such a great idea. Thanks!!! I have already purchased the lights from IKEA and so eager to start with my project so I can use the lightbox for my crafts.

johannes87 (author)Manal Schutt2016-01-19

Thanks for your comment, glad you like it! I'm sure it'll turn out great!

AnotherHowie (author)2015-02-04

When we bought our house, we found that we have hundreds of boxes of slides up in the attic. I'm planning to build something like this so we can look through them easily. I do have (some) fancy tools, so mine will have a wooden frame made from a spare 2x4 ($3) left over from remodeling work, and I found you can buy reels of 100 LEDs on an adhesive tape for about $15 (where you can cut the tape every 3 LEDs, and rejoin it), so I can make a real grid of LEDs. A few 45 degree cuts for the 2x4 and a nice recess cut with a router, and it should even look nice for about $40 all-in.

Actually, that's 300 LEDs for $15 on a 5m reel. Lots of people sell them, but the tape seems to be called '3528' tape.

johannes87 (author)AnotherHowie2015-02-04

That's nice! Post a picture of yours when it's done! :D

By the way, how do these leds work? I mean, how do you connect them, switch on/off etc?

ve1fsm (author)johannes872015-02-16

here are a couple pics of the LEDs he/she is talking about. The last one is a picture of the rigid ones that are available. I have used the flexible ones under my cupboards for about 3 years

AnotherHowie (author)johannes872015-02-04

There is a flexible conductive track in the tape - you can solder to it. So you attach a DC adapter on one end, and you can break the tape every 3 LEDs, to make the lengths you need, and solder wire between them. At the breaks, the conductor is fatter, so you can attach wires more easily. You can also buy link cables to avoid the soldering. It looks like it will be nice! I will post a picture :-) In the UK, this reel was about half the price of the IKEA DIODER, and for many more LEDs.

johannes87 (author)AnotherHowie2015-02-04

Wow thanks good to know!! I'll definitely have it in mind for any other projects!

Fikjast Scott (author)2015-02-07

the led idea using the IKEA dioder is great.

kryptoknightmk1 (author)2015-02-01

I love this, really. However, I have to wonder if it might be possible to get a more even light by adding in a sheet of light diffusion film above the LEDs.

I'm glad you like it! I'm sure its possible to add that sheet. However, I haven't found the uneven light a problem so far, I don't really notice it once I'm drawing because the sheet of paper already diffuses it a bit. And remember that the acrylic sheet is not transparent, is frosted.

ahorn8 (author)2015-01-29

I like how the project makes use of corrugated cardboard. In the past I´d often procrastinate a project because of some customized panel cutting that would perhaps require CNC or Laser for accuracy. There are plenty of high quality cardboards available which can be cut with a blade, stacked, laminated for home prototyping! This lightbox would work well to sort photographic slides and negatives.

johannes87 (author)ahorn82015-01-29

It happened the same to me! I saw some very cool light box instructables but they were too complicated. I don't have a workshop or any advanced tools so I had to keep it simple. And after giving it some thought I realised that all I needed was some light under the acrylic and something to support it. It didn't even had to be a box!

geckolover (author)2015-01-29

Interesting idea. Foam core comes in bright white and could work as a base. what about using a short string of white LED Christmas lights? I'm wondering if I can alter a clear acrylic cookbook stand to do this? How hard is it to cut the acrylic?

johannes87 (author)geckolover2015-01-29

Yes, foam core could work nice! The Christmas lights could work as long as they are bright enough (I've never had so I'm not sure), but if they are not too bright you can always try putting more LEDs instead of only 4 strings. The acrylic cookbook may be a great idea, and maybe you don't even have to cut it if it already has a comfortable tilt and position. I've never tried to cut the acrylic but I think it could be tough, depending on how thick it is. Mine is 5mm thick and I don't think I could cut it easily with the tools I have.

CrystalG3 (author)2015-01-29

This is such a great idea! I've been looking for a lightweight portable table that I could take to class & not have to mortgage the house to pay for it.

qayaqer (author)2015-01-29

I made a similar light-box some years ago. In that box I put a plastic mirror foil under the led-strips. The foil was corrugated between the strips to get an even more use and distribution of the light from the led-strips.

I like your use of cardboard! It´s very versatile, degradable and free from oil!

spydyrbyte (author)2015-01-28

The first thing I notice is that you could save yourself a ton of trouble by just using a three ring binder instead of the backer and cardboard. Simply remove the binder posts/rings by drilling out the brads (or even leave them in there for extra stability) then cut out a large enough square in the face of the binder to place your translucent layer. The binder already has the correct angle, or if you desire less angle then put your cardboard between the open ends to lessen the angle.

HollyHarken (author)spydyrbyte2015-01-29

I like that idea!! Might have to try it as I have a large selection of binders handy.

johannes87 (author)spydyrbyte2015-01-28

Thanks for sharing your idea! The problem is that maybe that structure would be less robust, because the binders usually tend to deform over the time. But if you try it, please post a picture, I'd love to see it!

cuafpr (author)2015-01-27

where can you get the methacrylate sheet?

johannes87 (author)cuafpr2015-01-28

Hello! I think that it can be found in crafts stores. It's also called plexiglass or acrylic sheet. Be sure it's frosted, not transparent, although there's also the option to buy it transparent and frost it yourself with a spray paint.
If you're not able to find it in any store, you can try online. I've found a couple of online stores (depending on where you live):
Or there's always amazon ;)

cuafpr (author)johannes872015-01-29

awesome thanks! i did a google for the formal name and didn't have much luck...

Gregbot (author)2015-01-27

Very nice! Thanks!!!

NomadHobbyist (author)2015-01-26

That turned out awesome!

MsSweetSatisfaction (author)2015-01-25

Oh man that is amazingly cheap in comparison to the real thing and it looks like it works just as well! Awesome job!

Thanks a lot! It does work very well, and I even use it as a light for the room, it gives a nice touch :D

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