Portable Light Table




About: I am a Goldsmith, Blacksmith, Leather worker, Anime freek, Rennie, Cosplayer, average guy.

Have you ever wanted to trace something, but no tracing paper to be found? Need to be able to take your tools with you? There have been many times I have wanted a light table, many of those times in places that would not be able to take a big bulky item. I have created a lightweight, small but big enough for a regular piece of paper, & powerful light table. In this Instructable I will show you how to make one for yourself. This project is fairly easy, without needing too many tools or materials.

Step 1: Gather Materials & Tools

The first the materials you will need:

1. A shadow box picture frame

2. LED light strip 5 meters with 300 LEDs (I used a cool white 3528 SMD non waterproof strip)

3. Power supply (check the stats with the LED strip that you buy, mine needed 12v 2amps)

4. Red & black wire

5. Foam

6. Female connector for power supply

7. On off switch

8. A handle (optional)

9. Rubber pads also known as bumpers (optional)

Next the tools:

1. soldering iron & solder

2. wire strippers (a good pair will cut too)

3. drill with drill bits

4. Screw driver

5. optional tools: saw, exacto knife, hot glue gun with glue sticks

Step 2: Take a Look at What You Have

The shadow box I picked up was 14"x11", large enough for a full sheet of printer paper with room left over. It is also deep enough for the foam to fit inside. You can make this with a normal picture frame, but you might need to do a few upgrades. Take the frame apart, mine happens to be plastic & easy to do so. I was also pleased to see that the back was substantial enough so that I would not have to make my own. Take the back & inside part of the frame, use a marker or pen to mark the back with the space that you have to work with.

Step 3: Add the LEDs

Measure the space you have to determine where to cut the LEDs. The strips come with 2 copper pads every so often. Cut at those spots, in the length that you need. Peel the double sided tape that is already attached to the strip, & apply to the back. I have the srtips alternating with + & - next to one another. I did this so that I can solder the wires without crossing the wires.

Step 4: Drill & Cut Holes for Power & Switch

Drilling the holes for the female side of the power supply, & power on/off switch. If you opt for the handle, now would be a good time to drill the holes for that as well.

Step 5: Solder Together

Prepare the wires. There are 2 lengths to cut. I have half of each length in red, & half in black. This way each side of the LED strips will look the same when done. Remember to keep one color for each charge. This will help keep things straight if you need to work on it again. Put in place the power switch, & plug. I used hot glue for this. Then solder these as well. I used some longer wires in between the LEDs & the plug & switch. I did this so that I could have the back off without strain on the wires.

Step 6: Finish Up With Final Assembly

Put the glass in place, I added a little bit of hot glue to secure it. Next the inside part of the frame. Screw on the handle, add the foam, & put the back on. I added the rubber pads around the back of the frame, far enough around the clips that hold the back on so that I can still remove the back.

Step 7: Plug in & Test

As long as all of the connections are fine, it should work. Have fun with your new light table. Take it to art class, keep it out in your dorm room, or wherever you need it. (Sorry for the quality of photos, my camera does not like taking pictures of it while it is on.)



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    71 Discussions


    Reply 3 years ago

    I got mine online. Good old ebay. By far the best $ rate that I have seen. You can find them in different places. Radio shacks had them for when you lost one for devices you already had. But their not really around anymore. I have found some at the thrift stores, but most of the time you have to buy the item they are to power as well. Some second hand computer shops will carry them.


    3 years ago

    Hey mate. Nice build. I'm making it right now. There's just one thing missing. The foam. Where did you buy it?

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    This type of foam is used as packing. I was able to save the foam from when new equipment came into work. I do not know where to buy it.

    I have found that 2 pieces of regular printer paper glued to the inside of the glass works just as well. Some people may like this better as there is nothing actually touching the LEDs.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    made one with an old lcd monitor, just separated the lcd from the backlight and left the control circuitry in the monitor so the button turns it off

    2 replies

    4 years ago on Step 3

    Very nice idea!!

    A year ago I got a portable PC that broke down. But the screen was ok...

    Does anyone knows how to conect that so I can make this effect using the monitor backlight??? is it possible?

    Best regards!

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Step 3

    Not sure on that one. Someone on here might be able to help you out. My suggestion is to add a surface that you can draw on like plexiglass. Thanks for the comment.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I have done this on the bottom side of glass shelves. I use the lights to help my plants grow (I get no sunlight inside during the winter and only morning sun in the summer. The first thing I learned is that making all those solder connections takes a lot of time and the end result was never as neat as i wanted.

    You can use aluminum foil tape and conductive epoxy to do the wiring in fare less time. Place a strip of foil on each side of the LED array right next to the electrical contacts. On strip will be connected to the positive terminal of the power supply and the other will be connected to the positive terminal. I then used a syringe to connect the tape to the appropriate terminal on the strip. Overall this method can be done in less than 30 minutes.

    Another alternative is to solder 2 wires to 2 or 3 strips and then run conductive epoxy on top of the strips to multiple contacts. The only problem I have had with this method were short circuits. I believe some of the epoxy got between the strips made contact at the edge and shorted. Fortunately all the shorts burned out on their own without doing any visible damage. So next time I will first fill the seams between strips with paint or some sort of glue.

    The conductive epoxy I used is Aom Adhesive 902LP 2.5gram single use package.\


    2.5 grams may not sound like a lot but I have always had excess .

    I used 3ml syringe with blunt needle to apply the Epoxy.


    1 reply

    I wonder about how that performs over time. It really did not take me all that much time to solder all the wires on once I set it up. I measured out the amount of wire I needed, & cut as many as needed all at once. Stripped them all, then soldered. it was like 15-20 min tops. If you cut each one out then solder it, the process is going to take much longer.


    As I have said in the comments before: I always have my laptop with me, but for what I payed for it, I would never use it in this way. I would hate to see someone trash one of their electronics that was not made to be use like this. Are you useing one of the older style of monitor with the hard glass screen? If not you might be doing damage that you can not see.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I wonder how this would be inserted into the side of a padded briefcase. (I use one for my crafting supplies, including crafts I have to trace for.) What is the minimum thickness needed?

    1 reply

    That depends on what you use for diffusion. An opaque plexiglass screen might do that with almost no space in between the LEDs. It might be worth it to try it out & see how the material performs. Another thing to think of is the switch & power supply plug in port. If you had them in another part of the briefcase, & had wires running to connect where needed, I do not see why it would not work.