Recently I discovered tracing images and photographs for making artwork. A quick survey at a few un-named retailers showed these things were expensive (~$80-100). A bit of reading, I figured I could build my own for less than $40, which would have more functionality and suit my needs better than what was on the market. I'm glad to say after using this for the last month that I'm thrilled with my light box.
This was one trip to Home Depot and a bit of patience. Great finished product though IMO.
The Tracing Light Box is a flat Rubbermaid box with a locking lid, on top of which is mounted a pane of glass as a drawing surface. Inside is a battery-powered LED Light bar controllable with a remote control, which you can leave next to the box as you're drawing.
Rubbermaid Container with Locking Lid, Glass Pane, Double-Stick Permanent Adhesive Tape, Duct Tape, Battery-powered under cabinet light bar, Aluminum Foil
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Step 1: Light Source in the Box
The battery-powered light bar is the heart of your light box. This should fit inside the Rubbermaid and have a remote on/off switch so you don't have to adjust it every time you need to change your lighting.
Install your batteries and check the light bar mounting position in the center of the Rubbermaid. Don't mount it yet- we'll be lining the interior with foil as a reflector to ensure maximum brightness on your tracing.
Step 2: Foil Reflector Lining
Lining the Internal surfaces of the box prevents light leakage from the sides, making sure the intensity of the light bar is directed at our tracing area.
A side-trick of the locking mechanism on the Rubbermaid is you can carry a pouch of pencils/erasers and masking tape inside, as well as paper and drawing materials. With lining with foil, adding a surface sealing of mailing tape will greatly improve the robustness of the interior so when you're traveling, it doesn't get torn up.
Make a couple of holes in the foil to expose the Rubbermaid internal surface to act as mounting points for the light bar- don't mount it directly to the foil. Not the strongest stuff.
Step 3: Drawing Surface
NOTE: Glass breaks and has sharp edges. Treat carefully. when installing!
Remove the glass panel from the packaging and apply double-stick tape in the pattern show. Center on the lid of the Rubbermaid container and ensure that when the locking latches close the glass does not obstruct.
Once centered and mounting, use Duct Tape to fasten and protect the glass edges along the four sides of the glass panel. You can use a straightedge and razor knife to remove extra Duct Tape so when you place a sheet of paper on the glass, it doesn't run onto the duct tape surface.
You'll also see at this stage the 'first light of your light box. Just about there! Once the lid is complete, you can seal up the box. Note the lid is your main drawing surface and also the most fragile part of the box. I advise carrying the box in a canvas bag between uses.
Next, we'll talk about using this to make your artwork!
Step 4: Use to Make Whatever You'd Like! My Method Below
At this point you have a complete light box! Now you can start drawing!
I'll show my method here- it's a few steps, but I find it works well for my uses.
1. Find your picture
2. In PowerPoint, set color to 0 (Black and white) and adjust contrast/brightness to taste.
3. Print on 8.5' x 11' copy paper
4. Lay another piece of paper on top and fix with two small pieces of masking tape. I call this a 'stack'
5. Lay the 'stack on the glass plate and center. Use four small pieces of masking tape to fix the corners.
6. Light up the box and get to work!
7. Insert a piece of black construction paper between your drawing and the edited image you're tracing. This will prevent shadows during scanning.
8. Scan the image to a TIF or JPG file
9. In PowerPoint, adjust brightness/contrast to taste, will also remove finger smudges
10: Print on card stock. Sign and frame!
Step 5: Enjoy!
Thank you for your time reading this Instructable! Enjoy and happy sketching!