How to Make an LED Light Box




About: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is Sam and I'm a community manager here at Instructables.

This is how I made a simple LED light box.

There are hundreds of instructions around on how to make light boxes (aka, tracing light boxes, animation boxes, etc.) . . . from quick-and-dirty versions, to fairly technical versions.

This one falls somewhere in the middle. It is solidly-built with minimal cost and has some features I really like:

  • durable plywood case
  • tempered glass top
  • perfectly diffused, uniform LED lighting
  • handle
  • no soldering required to make; just needs an unmodified LED strip glued inside
  • doubles as a party light, mood light, strobe light, etc.

The main cost was an rgb LED strip which cost about $20. The rest of the materials were things I had on hand, or that I picked up for next to nothing. If you want to make yourself a nice little light box, perhaps you'll consider this design.

Thanks for taking a look!

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Step 1: Materials

I wanted to use a piece of tempered glass for the top rather than any kind of plastic. I kept my eyes open and eventually found two 14" x 14" panes of tempered glass at a thrift store for $.50 each. That was a good find!

I used one of these panes of glass for this light box. If I had not found these, my next option was to use the pane of glass out of an old printer/scanner.

Other than the glass, here's what I used:

  • plywood (I used 15mm birch ply)
  • flexible LED strip similar to this set
  • 1/4" vinyl-faced mdf
  • sheet of dollar-store foamboard (Adams brand--the kind with translucent paper)
  • woodworking tools
  • wood glue, hot glue, other miscellaneous general supplies

Step 2: Box Sides

I made my box sides 6" tall.

Using a router mounted in a table, I cut rabbets (or "rebates" for my UK friends) along the top edge to hold the glass, and along the bottom edge to hold the mdf panel.

The length of the sides were made as needed to fit my specific pane of glass, with two opposing sides having rabbets cut on the ends to add just a little strength to the corner joints.

Step 3: Dry Fit

The box sides were dry fit to check that the glass would fit correctly. In my case, I had to cut the top rabbets just a little deeper to provide enough clearance for the pane of glass.

Better to have to fix that now, than after the box was assembled!

Step 4: Paint Inner Walls

The inside walls were painted with a few coats of white spray paint.

Step 5: Assemble Box

The box was assembled with wood glue and brads. The brad holes were filled with putty and sanded smooth once they were dry.

The box was sprayed with a few coats of spray lacquer, and a handle was fastened to one side.

Step 6: Glue in Glass

I used E-6000 (available on amazon, but can be found cheaper at places like Walmart) to glue the pane of glass into the recess on the top of the box.

I squeezed a small bead of the glue all around the inside corner of recessed cut, and simply dropped the pane of glass in place. I left this to cure for about a day, and when I came back it was firmly fixed in place.

Step 7: Foamboard to Diffuse Light

I toyed around with a few options for the step.

In the end, cheap foamboard provided what I thought was the simplest and best way to evenly diffuse the light. Make sure you use the kind of foamboard with thin, translucent paper. (Some foamboard has thicker opaque paper, and that stuff will definitely not work.)

A piece of foamboard was cut to fit perfectly against the inside of the glass.

The inner glass was cleaned thoroughly, and the board was pressed into place. It was a snug fit, so the piece of foamboard is not going to budge.

Step 8: Add Light Power Boxes

For the lighting, I also toyed around with a few options.

I had a SEKOND cord set from Ikea that I was tempted to use along with an LED bulb, but it did not cast the light as evenly as I preferred.

So instead I went with this strip of sticky-backed rgb LEDs, which worked beautifully. I love the fact that the color and brightness are fully adjustable, and if I'm in the mood I can trace to my heart's content to a pulsing strobe light.

Holes were drilled in the side of the box for the power cable and IR receiver. The power boxes and cables were hot glued in place along the base of the box walls (what will be the down-side when the box is right-side-up).

Step 9: Affix LED Strip

The LED strip was stuck in place round and round the walls, spaced about an inch apart on each pass.

The sticky adhesive on the LED strip was a little suspect, so I reinforced the strip everywhere with copious amounts of hot glue.

Step 10: Bottom Panel

The bottom panel was cut to fit and screwed in place with the white side facing in.

Step 11: Finishing Touches

I added four squares of sticky-backed craft foam to the bottom corners as bumper feet.

The remote was fastened in place with some adhesive-backed velcro.

That's it. Happy tracing! :)

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    15 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Excellent job! I love this one the most out of the dozens that I've seen because you paid attention to detail. It's perfectly made, so simple but amazingly beautiful. I'm quite positive that this is the one I'm going to attempt to construct for myself. Again, well done!

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    That's wonderful to hear! Thank you for the nice comment - I hope you make one :)


    Reply 3 years ago


    I bought the LED strip on amazon - there's a link in step 1 ;)


    3 years ago

    Very cool, this is quite similar to a project I made a while back...should probably get around to posting that one of these days!

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    A note on the glass; I've used light tables in the printing industry for many years and we just used double strength glass, usually with the edges rounded so you can handle them safely when needed. (That is when the glass wasn't frosted, but laid on top of a light-diffusing plastic.) Tempered glass would be best, but it isn't readily available and it can't be cut if you find one that is too large. Something from a picture frame would probably be too thin.

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    A dead flat screen computer monitor will yield much of the parts needed for this. Plexiglas, diffuser, frame, and if you're lucky, the backlight might work. Strip out the video electronic guts and polarizer sheets.


    3 years ago

    Looks cool.


    Treasure Tabby

    3 years ago

    I have an old light fixture already in a box form with tempered glass that my dad recently removed from the kitchen ceiling. All I need to do is just add the LEDs. but then my thoughts on it are, its kind of heavy. So I'm still thinking about it. :)


    3 years ago

    I like your thoughts on the glass, tempered is a safer choice, I have recovered glass from scanners and printers and they use simple, inexpensive window pane that fractures into saber- like pieces.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    Oh, that's good to know. I have a pane out of an old scanner, and I'm glad I didn't use it!