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How to make your own lightbox for tracing on watercolor paper

homemade light table


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

you can fit everything in the box to carry

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

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{ 20 comments… add one }

  • Sue October 6, 2015, 11:56 am

    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 !!!

  • Sherry August 31, 2015, 7:47 am

    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.


    • Sandrine Pelissier August 31, 2015, 9:00 am

      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.

  • Tash August 12, 2014, 3:18 pm

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

    • Sandrine Pelissier August 19, 2014, 2:04 pm

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

      • Tash October 6, 2015, 12:05 pm

        Awesome to know! Thanks so much 😊

  • Virginia July 10, 2014, 4:17 pm

    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

  • Gloria Westerman October 24, 2013, 6:15 am

    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

  • Janet Camposano July 2, 2013, 8:35 pm

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

  • Gloria Westerman June 5, 2013, 7:12 pm

    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….

  • Pauline May 30, 2013, 12:11 am

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

  • jenny February 22, 2013, 1:55 pm

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

  • Kathie Vezzani September 11, 2012, 11:55 am

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

    • Sandrine Pelissier September 11, 2012, 12:17 pm

      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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