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How to Make Light Boxes From Picture Frames

By Adam Benjamin ; Updated September 15, 2017

An inexpensive light box made out of picture frames can make it easier to draw patterns and shapes onto tracing paper. The light shining up and around the item to be traced highlights fine details. The light box can also be used for viewing slides.

Disassemble the frame. Select a frame large enough to frame your largest pattern with 2 inches inside the inner frame edge. You want to use both the frame and glass to make the light box. Take any backing off the frame. Remove the front frame piece from the glass.

Clean the glass. Any spots on the glass show when light shines through a pattern. Use water and light rags to clean off the glass front and back. Clear away fingerprints, oils and dust. Do not use any soap or chemicals that leave a residue. Dry the glass with a rag.

Build the light box body. Use a box with a top large enough to fit the frame. At least an 8-inch depth gives you enough room for the lamp and ample space between the light and the glass. Cut out the top flaps or pieces. Make the top edges even to prop the glass and frame on a flat horizontal. Secure the bottom with masking tape; use enough tape to make the bottom strong enough to hold the lamp. Cover the interior with white paper. Fit one sheet to each face inside the box; tape in with double-sided tape.

Place the lamp in the center of the box bottom. Select a bright bulb that gives off full, even light. Flip the switch to see if light fills the box and shines clearly through the glass. If not, use a brighter bulb.

Secure the glass and frame on top of the light box. Carefully place the frame on the glass and border the glass with colored tape, attaching the frame firmly to the glass. Tape the back side of the glass in with masking tape. Set the frame, with the glass, on the open box top. Place the glass center over the lamp. Finish the light box by securing the left frame edge to the box, using two strips of masking tape. Open the light box by lifting the frame and glass. Flip the light on and lower glass. You are ready to trace on top of the glass. Place a pattern, a picture or a drawing on top, within the frame, and cover with a tracing paper.

Tip

For softer light, you can place filter papers, such as tissue paper, on the glass before laying on the pattern and tracing paper. You can also use the light box to view slide photographs. The light shining through the back brings out the subtle details.

About the Author

Adam Benjamin Pollack is a San Diego native dedicated to the great sentences on civil society. He authored the Subchapter S Report to tell legal news for the American Bankers Association. He holds a Juris Doctor from Indiana University and a Master of Public Policy from University of California, Berkeley.