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How to make your own lightbox for tracing on watercolor paper

Make your own lightbox on ARTiful, painting demos by Sandrine Pelissier
Crafts / Drawing

How to make your own lightbox for tracing on watercolor paper

When painting with watercolors, it is easier to draw on newsprint and then transfer your final drawing on the paper. That way you can make as many corrections and erase as much as you want on your newsprint paper without risk of damaging your watercolor paper.

I sometimes transfer my drawing with carbon paper or by rubbing charcoal and graphite on the reverse side of my newsprint, those methods are working but you get a very dark line and you will most likely get a few smudges on your paper. I prefer the lighbox method.

I have been looking for a way to make a light box fast and easy at an affordable price and after browsing the internet and putting different ideas together I came up with that design, the cost of the lighbox is about 100 dollars, it is quite big and took me 5 minutes to put together:

Here is what you need:

clear storage box for homemade lightbox
  • A storage box, I chose clear Rubbermaid latch storage box
fluorescent linkable under cabinet light
  • 4 fluorescent linkable under cabinet lights. You want fluorescent to have enough power and not too much heating.
  • A cutter
  • A multi plug adapter
  • a piece of Plexiglas, I already had one that had been sanded, so it looks frosted, It is helping diffusing the light.

All you have to do is cut a few holes on the side of the storage box so you can connect the linkable fluorescent lights together, as shown in picture. Because the lights are fluorescent they won’t heat very much and can be left on the plastic.

connecting linkable fluorescent lights
home made light table

The frosted Plexiglas helps diffusing the light. You can make frosted pexiglass simply by sending a sheet of transparent Plexiglas.

you can fit everything in the box to carry

you can fit everything in the box to carry, except the Plexiglas that is a bit bigger in size.

4/5 - (5 votes)

Comments (34)

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  2. […] You might also be interested inHow to make your own light box […]

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  4. Sue

    Question…wow first of all I have been pricing these and what a great Idea…what is the dimension of the plastic latch able box ? So happy to know it can work through 300lb paper. I use Arches 140 cold press so it should work great for this weight paper. Hoot hoot thanks solo much !!!

    1. Thanks Sue:) The box is about 16 x 27 inches and 10 inches height.

  5. Sherry

    Great idea! What is the purpose of “linked” lights? It looks like it holds the lights in place but is there another advantage? I guess you put the multi-plug adapter in the box as well and cut a hole for the plug. I think I can do it but first I have to underestand it. Thanks so much.


    1. Thanks Sherry,
      The fluorescent lights I bought were linkable, so it was easier for me to build the light box that way. The wires and the holes in the plastic are keeping everything in place too. You could make it work with non linkable lights as well but will have 4 wires going to the power supply instead of one.

  6. […] If working on paper, you can use a lightbox (Click here to see how you can build your own lightbox) […]

  7. Tash

    Hi there, thanks for the tutorial! Just wondering if you know how thick a piece of watercolour paper this will work for? Thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Tash, It worked with the thick 300lb paper, although it is a bit more difficult to see the details.

      1. Tash

        Awesome to know! Thanks so much ?

  8. […] Click here to see a post showing you how to build your own light box to transfer your drawings on wa… […]

  9. […] You might also be interested in : Making your own lightbox to transfer drawings to your watercolor p… […]

  10. […] The first step was to transfer your drawing on a piece of watercolor paper, here I used carbon paper, but you could also use a light box. […]

  11. […] You might also be interested in: How to make your own lightbox for tracing on watercolor paper […]

  12. Virginia

    Wonderful idea and very clear instructions. I need a lightbox and I’d rather make it myself. I
    really enjoy your blog and the generous sharing that you do. Your a wonderful artist. Virginia

    1. Thanks for your comment Virginia !

  13. […] Here is a link to a post that shows you how to build your own light box to transfer a detailed drawi… […]

  14. […] Click here to see how to build you own light box […]

  15. I made one of these too…but I couldn’t find any large enough plastic boxes (Wal-Mart) so I had to get a battery operate light to fit into my box….. it cost me around $25…the acrylic sheet I got at a local glass company for $15..very please with it….looks just like yours…but I think a lot smaller….love it…tfs

    1. Good! Yes , a battery operated light is a good idea too 🙂 thanks for sharing.

  16. […] found instructions for how to create your own light box and I thought I was good to go – until I completely […]

  17. […] Build your own lightbox […]

  18. Janet Camposano

    Wonderful idea for lightbox!! Thanks for sharing this demo. You are a very talented and generous person.
    Also the waterlily are amazing!!

    1. Thanks Janet 🙂

  19. I just saw this post and I’m so glad I did….I’m in a need of a bigger light box and this is prefect….so thank you so very much for sharing this with us….love it….and I love your work….please keep the coming….

    1. Thanks Gloria!

  20. […] Build your own lightbox […]

  21. Pauline

    Hello Sandrine
    Again Many Thanks for sharing your techniques and expertise, you are doing a wonderful service for us painters. Delightful work, really beautiful.

    1. Thanks Pauline, I am glad you liked that post 🙂

  22. jenny

    this was a great find! my girls have school projects that require a lightboard on more than one occasion and this will be perfect!

  23. This is great! Under the plexiglass reference, did you mean sanding a sheet of plexiglass?

    1. Thanks Kathie,
      Yes that is what I did, I did sand a sheet of pexiglass I had from before, it was all scratched anyway…

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