Homemade Movie Poster Light-box

Introduction: Homemade Movie Poster Light-box

     For my first ever Instructable, I am going to show you all how to make a light-box for movie posters, like at movie theaters!  Posters made for light-boxes are often referred to as double-sided, mirror sided or duratrans; their backs have a slightly faded mirror image of the front and they let light through.  You can get these off of websites like eBay, Amazon and collector sites.  You can also get the posters straight from the movie theaters themselves, all you gotta do is ask(mind you, many if not most theaters won't give them out to the general public).
  Commercially made light-boxes can cost over $400 new, sometimes $500!  This design will cost less than $100.
Knowledge in how to use power tools, electrical wiring and building is required for this Instructable.  Really you just have to know what you're doing.  If you don't know the basics, I can't help you.

Please ignore any inconsistencies with the pictures, I ended up having to redesign parts of it and some of the pictures may seem a little off.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Tools and Supplies

Supplies/materials you will need:
-two(2) 8ft. 1x4" poplar planks
-two(2) cheap 27x40" poster frames
-one(1) 27x40" aluminum poster frame
-two(2) 3ft. 1-Lamp T12, strip lights
-two(2) 3ft. T12 florescent tube light-bulbs
-a light switch
-a electric cord with a ground
-at least 4ft. of 12-14 gauge electrical wire__ Not sure
-a set of 2 2" hinges
-a set of 2 latches/locks
-wire nuts
-bright white high gloss enamel paint
-black or whatever color you want enamel paint
-1-1/2" & 3/4" screws
-pop rivets
-paintable silicone caulk/glue/sealant
-picture hanging wire or stainless steel wire
-really thin nails or staples

Tools you will need:
-a power drill/screw gun with Phillips & flat head bits
-a drill bit set with bits size 1/16-3/8"
-a table saw OR a combination saw and a jigsaw
-an adjustable square
-a sanding/grinding bit
-a 1 1/4" paddle bit
-a Phillips screwdriver
-a caulk gun
-a wire stripper
-a pop rivet gun
-a metal tapper

Step 2: Cutting Boards

Take the one of the poplar planks and cut off a 40 1/4" piece.  Now cut a 25 3/4" piece, repeat with next board.
[You can do this or in 38 3/4" and 27 1/4" lengths instead. Just depends on where you want the screws to be facing, the sides or the bottom.]

Step 3: Assemble Box

On this part you might want some help to hold things still.  Set the 25 3/4" boards in between the 40 1/4" ones and pre-drill the ends while holding them together.  Then insert the 1 1/2" screws.  Repeat for all four corners.  Make sure everything is completely square.

Step 4: Power Cord Port

Messure 1/2" from the back in the exact middle and drill a 3/8" hole through the bottom board for the power cord.

Step 5: Light Switch Switch Port

Bore a hole in the bottom board big enough for the neck of the switch to fit through, about 3" from either side of the box.  Then use the paddle bit to bore out a larger hole, from the inside this time, for the body of the switch to fit in.  Be very careful to NOT drill all the way through, you will be left with only about an 1/8" of wood left for the switch to rest on.
If either hole is too small, use a grinding or sanding bit to widen the holes. My switch fit in like this(2nd & 3rd image).

Step 6: Masonite Backing

Take the masonite back from one of the cheap poster frames and using the jigsaw(or table saw) cut into 25 3/4"x38 3/4" rectangle.  Then draw a line 1/4" from the back inside the box. Set the masonite into the box along the line and tack in the thin nails from behind.  Next caulk the inside edges of the box, gluing the masonite to the box.
Allow the caulk to cure(which will take a good while).

Step 7: Start the Lights

After the caulk is dry, turn the whole thing on its side and take the light fixtures and place them 1 3/8" from each end.  There should be places on the underside of the light fixtures for them to be screwed down.  Pre-drill the holes needed for the 3/4" metal screws and screw down the lights with a hand screwdriver.  Make sure it's all level and square.  Repeat for the other side.

Step 8: Painting

Remove the light fixtures from the box and paint the inside solid with the white paint.  This is to reflect as much light as possible through the poster.  You may or may not need to do two coats.  Let it dry.

After the white is dry, paint the outside of the box with the black paint(or whatever color you chose) and let it dry.

Step 9: Wire It Up

Reattach the light fixtures, attach the switch and insert the power cord.  Wire everything together with the wire nuts as it's should be, put in the lights and test it.  You'll want to attach the ground wires to the light fixtures before putting them in.

After testing, take out the light bulbs/tubes so they don't break while you finish the rest of the box.

Step 10: Attatch Hooks

Screw in the eyehooks(or D-hooks) on the inner sides in the back 10" from the top.  This is where I had to do some of the remaking and the D-hooks ended up fitting like this(last picture).

Step 11: Hinges and Latches

Assemble the aluminum frame as it should be and set it on the front of the box.  On the bottom of the box measure 3" from the outer edge for the hinges.  Make sure they're level and have room to turn outward.  Pre-drill and screw them in.

Then on the top of the box, measure 5" from the sides to attach the latches.  It depends on what latches or locks you chose on how you line them up; I chose the pull-down window latches.  Pre-drill and screw them in.

Step 12: Drill the Frame

Now while the frame is still on the box, mark and punch holes of the hinges and the tops of the latches on the frame with the tap.  Make sure the top latches will be snug but not too tight.
Drill the punched points with a 1/16" bit and then with the bit that fits the rivets, in this case 1/8" and 1/4"(I think).  Then attach the hardware with the right size pop rivets.  Make sure they're tight.

Step 13: Insert Poster

Take your poster and sandwich it between the two clear plastic sheets from the cheap poster frames(mine happens to be 'Sherlock Holmes').  Undo the top part of the aluminum frame and slide it in.  Be careful not to scratch anything and be sure that the mirror side pf the poster is facing the inside.
Reassemble the frame and use the metal fittings that came with the frame to hold in the poster.  Again, be careful not to scratch anything.

Step 14: Final Step: Hang It Up

Put in the light bulbs/tubes, shut it up and lock down the frame. Now turn the whole thing to its side and tie on the hanger wire to the hooks in the back.

This thing isn't very lightweight, so either put the nail or screw right into a stud or use a heavy duty screw anchor.  Wherever you put it, just make sure it's right above or relatively close to an outlet.
Switch it on and enjoy!

Step 15: Other Ideas

     There are dozens of ways to make and alter this.  You could make it thinner using thinner boards and lights, you could even use LEDs(if you're made of money).  Another thing you could do is instead of a second poster frame plastic use a thicker sheet of plexiglass so it's not so floppy.  You could even skip the hinges and latches altogether and use velcro, or put an outside shell on the box so the frame will slip right in.  Or even just ad some stuff to it to make it fancier!
     Now you should remember that I said that it would cost less than $100... That's only an estimate.  I had most of the supplies already sitting around or acquired for free(rivets, screws, electric cord, wire, caulk, etc.), so I don't know what it would really cost if you had to buy every single thing.  It would definitely cost a lot less than if you bought one.


1 Person Made This Project!


  • Finish It Already Speed Challenge

    Finish It Already Speed Challenge
  • First Time Author Contest

    First Time Author Contest
  • Space Challenge

    Space Challenge

12 Discussions


4 years ago

Great post! I was wondering, though -- wouldn't it be a good idea to use a metallic silver paint instead of white for the inside?


5 years ago on Introduction

Hello! Where did you get the slim profile aluminum frame that you used in your design? we started building the wood box per your dimensions before we got the frame, and just now realized we can't find anything that looks like what you used. Hoping not to have to start over. Can you recommend where to get it from?


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

@ben.honey check out http://www.displays2go.com/C-3840/LED-Light-Boxes-Feature-Backlit-Edge-Lit-Technology


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

I got the frame from Hobby Lobby. They issue 40% off coupons regularly, so you could get them fairly cheap.

I believe it's just a standard size poster frame. I doubt that you'll have to remake anything.


5 years ago on Introduction

Awesome project... Im looking for simple, cheaper, stronger and working with batteries one. I will try to next if i cant find.


5 years ago on Introduction

Awesome project... Im looking for simple, cheaper, stronger and working with batteries one. I will try to next if i cant find.


5 years ago on Step 15

i made a similar frame using LED and NO it's not as good looking as conventionnal fluo tubes. YAY for the FLUO :)


6 years ago on Step 15

Thanks a lot for a great instructable. I need about 6 frames so this will save me a lot!

Anyone out there know how to make one of these for on the side of a van? So i can advertise my wife's artwork website illuminated would be great in the winter months.

Many thanks


7 years ago on Introduction

Thank you so much for this instructable video, I just built one, I skipped the backing part, I just built the box and mounted the light separate straight to the wall, IKEA sold cheap 27x40 black poster frame,I used piano hinge, I used T5 fluorescent lighting 36" from home depot, came out really nice with mad hatter double sided poster. I did use plexiglass 1/8" but could have used 3/16" regular glass from local dealer, only 18 bucks but next time that's what i will do. Again thank you.


8 years ago on Step 15

You could do this much thinner and closer to the wall using led strips!
It wouldnt be much more expensive, youve just gotta know where to shop :P
But fantastic instructable recently got a poster print of an art print and ive been looking for new ways to mount it, Thank you for the brilliant idea!

Nicely done!

I like this idea although I am of the opinion that it can be done alot cheaper by using a posterframe from ikea and then hanging two lamps in that.

I actually have cinemaposter size posterframe in my room with see through posters.

I always buy them in my local cinema. They are quite cheap 5 euro for one :)