How to Build a Light Box (Video)

DIY Light Box

A while back I posted an entry called “What Is a Light Box?” In it, I explained how a light box backlights a photo or other visual image, and I showed several examples of DIY light boxes I found on the Web. The secret truth is that by explaining to you what a light box is, I was really teaching myself so that I could build one. Well, now I have built one! And it was easy, fun, and made a pretty excellent gift. Here’s a video I made documenting the process.

I had seen a lot of types of light boxes, ones that made use of wine crates or picture frames, so I knew that there were a lot of directions I could go with this project. I live near an antique market, so I headed over to get inspired. I was immediately drawn to a gathering of used windows in one vendor’s area. I found a window with a single glass pane and decided it give it a go.

The next step was choosing a photo (the hardest part!). I knew I was going to give the light box to my wife as a surprise, so I figured a picture of our son would be the way to go. But which one of the thousand we have? I was tempted to use a high resolution photo, but I really wanted to see if it would be possible to complete this project using an Instagram picture. As you can see, using an Instagram picture worked perfectly even blown up to fit the window, which is about 19×15 inches.

I phoned the local FedEx Kinko’s and told them I was building a light box to back light a photo. They were happy to inform me that they carry material made expressly for the purpose of backlighting photos. I sent them the .jpeg file of the photo I had chosen and picked up the blown up image the next day. The rest of the process is detailed in the video.

This was a really fun project, and it made my wife so happy. I recommend this project as a gift. Remember to give it your own touch and appeal to the interests of the person for whom you’re making the light box. My wife and I have a kind of rustic aesthetic, so I left the screws visible and didn’t add any paint to anything. Please adapt this project however you want! And please share the results of your labor!


Tom Sowders

After majoring in creative writing at NC State, I worked in the home remodeling industry. Then, I attended graduate school for a really long time and gained experience as a writer and writing instructor. I live in the Raleigh-Durham area with my wife and baby boy, and you can find me around the Triangle anywhere there's good music and/or NC-style BBQ.