Cheap Light Box UPDATE:




About: I have always like building... now I have the skills and equipment to do some really cool stuff.

The goal was to make a light box for my students to use that didn't cost me an arm and a leg. Went to the second-hand store and found a florescent light... ($4.99 with 50% off) then noticed a suitcase/briefcase ($3.99 with 50% off). I got them both and started thinking of ways to put them together.

4/2016: My daughter still uses this. Works great. Someday I will make another one.

Step 1: Painting & Light

Paint the inside of the suitcase white. Better to reflect the light out. Make it brighter?
Take apart the florescent light. You only need the power supply, light, light socket part and switch.
Then I positioned the light so it was in the middle of the case; using hot glue and rivets I secured the light in place.

Note: Got new two setting hot glue gun. Two setting: Low = normal glue gun, High = burn yourself, stays runny way longer and oh ya burn yourself.

Step 2: Cord Switch Action...

I used a plug (like on a computer power supply) so I could remove the cord when not in use. Cut a square hole (little smaller than the plug socket) and inserted the plug socket/base in the outside of the case. Next I drilled a 3/4" hole in the side and put in the switch that I took from the original light.

The cord for the light was about 12 feet long so I cut it to about a foot. I kept the plug/transformer and hot glued that at the bottom/back of the case. Didn't use the original cord because I wanted it detachable.

Note: Slide on speaker clips, with some pushing will slide right over the prongs for the plug. Why mess with something that works?

Step 3: Cover (Milky Plastic)

The next part was simple... the edge of the case is aluminum and has a little radius in each corner. I measured the case and ordered the piece of plastic. I wanted something thicker so the kids wouldn't cut through it of break it easily by pushing; so I used 1/4" thick Acrylite (lets light through). This piece was almost $20. I tried to talk them down, we brainstormed ideas, I negotiated... nothing. I had to spend the $20.

Used a jig saw to cut the radius's for the corners and the notch for the lid support.

Note: make sure you keep the protective covering on. Ask me how I know this.

Step 4: Holes, Screws & Glues

Drilled some holes in the plastic so it wouldn't move around. and glued the back part with some hot glue.

There were tabs in the case for a little divider so that is what I drilled into to hold down the plastic.

Step 5: Testing

Now try everything out and see if it works...

Success. Light putters and then starts up, switch turns stuff on and off, latches still work, cord fits in lid of case when not in use... All in all very nice.

Step 6: Clean Up and Sticky Feet

It's all done... slid around on a table.. so I added some little squishy stick on feet so it won't slide around.

Now I am ready to do some old school animation! I will still use the computer to scan, color and compile... but that will come another time.



    • Sew Tough Challenge

      Sew Tough Challenge
    • Games Contest

      Games Contest
    • Beauty Tips Contest

      Beauty Tips Contest

    56 Discussions


    10 years ago on Step 3

    RE: 'Milky Plastic' aka: Acrylic,Plexiglas, or Lucite; Acrylic being the generic term. The translucent white comes in two flavours: 1.) 7328 aka: Sign white; what they use for illuminated sign on store fronts. Lets enough light through to illuminate the surface well,very diffused, also masks the light source well. 2.) 2447 Very Translucent; more akin to rice paper. Light source may be more evident. Both can be found at Home Depot or other Hardware Stores. Avoid the light Lens material; it's styrene, and very flimsy. Yes; keeping the masking on while working Acrylic is a good idea; Its pretty durable, but can scratch easily.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Step 3

    Some of the light tables we have in my graphic design labs at college have clear plexiglass or clear glass. It doesn't matter whether it's clear or translucent as long as light can readily pass through your work, enabling your kids to trace their project. Yes, translucent white seems to work best, but it doesn't really matter much.

    I have a LightTracer light box from Artograph I purchased from an art store years ago. Still works very well after 8 years.

    To the author, nice Instructable.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I still can't believe no one has mentioned that this would work for a pulp fiction briefcase. I am going to try and do this with a cheap RC battery or something.

    2 replies

    8 years ago on Step 5

    Looks like most of the light is concentrated in the upper right quadrant of the box. Has this been a problem when using the box or does the picture exaggerate the effect?

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    luv the idea can be closed up n put away, way more storable than, say some of the wooden boxes ive made. i have a round florescent bulb n the balast. i got it frm a light up sign, should work awesomely.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Genius! I can't believe I didn't think of this idea! My grandmother has tons of these old briefcases. I'm about to walk over there right now and grab one. Thank you for taking the time to share your idea! <3


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome idea, i already have a suitcase and am starting to plan my new project!


    8 years ago on Step 6

    love! My school has several BROKEN light boxes, and due to budget restrains they are not fixing them yet. This is a GREAT solution to my Light Box Needs!!! Thanks!

    1 reply

    9 years ago on Step 6

    I really want to make one of these, it seems like it would work well for traditional animation. Just wondering what was the total price for everything you bought?


    10 years ago on Step 6

    this was and is a perfect idea for an artist who like traveling u might have a little issue with security if u r riding in a plane but other than that is perfect for the ever traveling artist.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Nice project/instructable. A light box is one of those projects that's perpetually in the back of my mind. I had always figured I design it around a stock size of tempered glass. Safe, and some what resistant to scratching from the tools usually used with a light box.