Softbox Light




About: I make and create anything that comes to my mind from skateboard hooks to garden rooms. And I footle around with electronics and instruments at night....and I have a passion for reducing waste packaging by m...

Easy to make circular + thin softbox light for photography or just to look cool in the corner of your room!

A softbox is a diffused light source often used in photography to add fill in light, gives a nice soft light...great for portraits and lighting objects.

Grab an old bicycle wheel and lets make our own...

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Step 1: Get Your Bits Together


An old 26" road bike wheel + tyre

White lycra material with stretch in both directions of the material 750mm x 750mm - available at any good fabric shop

White cotton thread

'Stretch' needles for sewing stretchy material

Elasticated cord 1300mm in length is plenty

2no. A1 sheets mounting card 1x black 1x white

Tin foil sheet [roasting sheet]

Spray mount glue

LED light strip + transformer - Natural light 4500k 12v

Some wire to extend lead if required


Sash window security bolt+ bolt to fit thread or alternatively use a tripod mount screw [to be adapted]

Evo Stick Strong Stuff glue mastic tube - also available as squeezable tube


Hacksaw or multitool with cut off blade

Sewing machine

Solder iron

General tools - knife, scissors...

Drill + drill bits or hole punches

Step 2: An Old Wheel?

The light is based around an old road bike wheel...

...the old tyre will act as an outer edge cover and give a soft outer edge to the light unit...

...if you want a more rugged look go for a mountain bike wheel + tyre.

Remove all of the spokes and the hub...

...either unscrew or cut out with a multi tool + cut off blade as I did.

Step 3: Card

The backing to the light is formed with mounting card... on one side [so not to unduly bounce external light] and white on the inside to reflect the light [if not using foil].

Lay the wheel rim on the card and mark out the circle...

...and cut out with a sharp knife.

The mounting card I had was slightly too short on its width...

...cut out some fill in bits and tape to the main piece on the inside face.

Take a second piece of mounting card and mark + cut out the wheel rim circle on the white side...

...mark a line in 40mm from the edge...

...and cut out.

This ring will form a light baffle to stop the LED lights from being seen directly through the fabric

Step 4: Rim + Bolt

Remove the inner tube from the wheel rim...

...use the valve hole for the attachment bolt.

The idea is to be able to attach the softbox light to a tripod.

A standard camera/tripod uses 1/4"-20 UNC thread.

It is possible to buy tripod mount screws that could be adapted though I found that a sliding window security bolt has the same thread.

Remove the locking spindle and use the internally threaded barrel...

Find a bolt with the corresponding thread and bolt through the wheel rim...

...the security bolt barrel will be long enough to span the tyre width.

Step 5: Light It Up

From my research online a Natural colour 4500k LED light strip is the best for photography... one with a transformer and the LED light connector [I have put a link of the one a used in the material list]

Poke the LED light connector wires through a spoke hole next to the attachment bolt [old valve hole]...

...remove the adhesive tape backing...

...and stick to the inside of the wheel rim.

Cut the light strip to length.

LED light strips have points along the length marked with a 'scissor' symbol where it can be cut to length [normally every third LED]

Plug it in to test that it is all working

Step 6: To FOIL or Not to FOIL!

The white of the backing card would act as a good reflector...

...though I was advised that scrunched up foil gives a better broken diffused light.

Lay out some lengths of roasting foil over the back board...

...scrunch up...

...and carefully flatten out... a textured finish to bouncy that light.

Add spray mount glue to the backing board and stick down the foil...

...trimming off the excess with a sharp knife

Step 7: Glue It

Glue the cardboard back and front light baffle to the wheel rim.

I found that a glue mastic formulated to stick to metal worked best, though hot glue or epoxy glue would work as well.

Step 8: Stretchy

The front of the light will have a white fabric cover to help diffuse the light.

Choose a Lycra based material that has stretch in both directions.

You want to cut out a circle slightly smaller than the wheel rim...

...Stretch out the material to the required tautness [slightly taut] and clamp out the corners to hold in place.

Mark around the wheel rim and cut out the circle.

Step 9: Sewing

The material will be stretched over the wheel rim and held in place with some elastic cord or tape.

This can be sewn by hand though a sewing machine makes the job a lot quicker.

Load up the white cotton thread and fit a 'Stretch' type needle...designed for stretchy materials

Sew a hem a few centimeters long...

...and thread your elastic through this pocket...

...continue sewing using the elastic cord as a guide.

This technique saves having to thread the elastic through the hem afterwards.

Tie off the elastic and trim ends

Step 10: Wiring

As I also want to use this light as an ambient light in my sitting room I didn't want to see the black transformer cable trailing down to the floor... solder some nicer looking thinner wire [suitable for 12v] to the LED light connectors...

...protect with electrical tape or electrical shrink wrap.

Stretch the white fabric diffuser over the front of the wheel rim

Cuttwo holes in the tyre for the attachment bolt + the wire to poke through the tyre...

...I used some hole punches though a suitable drill bit will give results as well.

Thread the LED light wire through its hole...

...and offer up the tyre to the attachment bolt, poking it through...

...carefully ease on the tyre over the rim... a nice finish to the edge and robustness in use.

Step 11: Switch On!

Get out your tripod...

...attach the Softbox...

...and switch on

Step 12: All Lit Up

Above are some test shots with the Softbox light

Step 13: Enjoy!

This was a great project and really easy to build...

...I hope you enjoyed it and will may make your own...

...I am entering this project into the Lights Competition and the Photography Competition.

If you have enjoyed this project, I would really appreciate your vote..

or if you really enjoyed it maybe you will vote in both competitions! Many thanks.

This project is part of my YouTube channel where I try to make cool and interesting projects.

Please check out my channel if you want to see more of the projects, if not there will be more coming to Instructables soon.

Why not check out what I am up to with

And also catch me on Facebook + Twitter

and now on Instagram!

Lights Contest 2017

Second Prize in the
Lights Contest 2017

Photography Contest 2017

Second Prize in the
Photography Contest 2017

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    24 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Cool DIY softbox, but if I got material with an image of the moon on it, it would make a cool wall lamp/ceiling nightlight too...

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Funny you should think original idea was to make it into a 'moon light' as a 'mood' light for the sitting room though when making I realised that it worked well as a softbox light . Should work well for both...maybe double sided? Let me know how you get on.


    2 years ago

    If you attached 2 bicycle rims together (either weld or bolt them together) you could potentially put another LED strip in the softbox... also if you have a 3d printer you could just 3d print the frame... although I have to say that making it instead of printing it would be more fun... nice job! I would have never thought of making this!

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks Ryan - good ideas, also could make the front baffle a bit wider and add more LED strips to it.
    As is, it isn't the brightest Softbox-Light out there though it does give a nice infil light for videoing in my cramped workshop, I just don't have the space for a deep softbox.
    Works well in confined space and the tyre protects it from workshop knocks.

    I have two smaller wheels from the illuminated sign project that I may try out your idea of how!ting together for a smaller light. Cool.


    2 years ago

    Great work sir , so very well explained with pics and gifs , the idea just glided in to the mind leaving almost no doubts or questions .The time devoted to prepare the instructable well deserves a prize .

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Prashant you are very aim is to make my Instructables as engaging and concise as possible... I'm glad it is working for you. Thank you for your support.


    2 years ago

    really cool


    2 years ago

    less work to buy a softbox? yes

    but 3211x less cool too.

    What a fantastic end result!

    Please keep up the less than easy work!

    1 reply

    2 years ago

    We can only presume you had the bicycle wheel lying about. But what if you did not? and still wanted to do this fun project. I jumped to Amazon and found this,
    a 24" flat pizza screen. then get a sheet of 24"x24" mylar film, and a 24" Pizza pan. Pop rivet the two pans to a fab'd bracket you make with the bolt and wire hole. Hot glue the mylar to the pan in back. Make concentric rings of hanger wire and hotglue rings of led's onto those. Stretch the white fabric across the pizza screen.

    Fun project, Or buy two 24" linco softbox lights for $50, Or buy the lights and the pizza pans - take pics of making the pizza with the lights and do an instructable of pizza making.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Hey Citcgroome - yes I do have a few old bikes hanging about that are really cool for repurposing.

    I like your some photos if you make it.


    2 years ago

    F***k S+ARK! You rock! :D


    2 years ago

    Interesting but way too much work. Just buy a soft box. By the time you'd collect the parts and do the work--the commercially made box could have been used several times. Plus, the LED strip lights don't have the lumen output to make this box practical past a few feet. Fun project if you want to tinker. Anyone who needs a softbox for serious work should look elsewhere. Still, clever repurposing of materials. Thanks for sharing.

    3 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    Not enough + not enough + not enough + not enough + not enough + not enough + not enough + not enough = better than store bought.

    Ok. Even less than that.

    But you get the point...


    Reply 2 years ago

    Interesting but way too much work. >> But it's fun!

    Plus, the LED strip lights don't have the lumen output to make this box practical past a few feet >> So use more LED strips...

    Fun project if you want to tinker. Anyone who needs a softbox for serious work should look elsewhere. >> Agreed! :)