Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tutorial: How to Make a Light Box

When I was little, my mom used to let me play with her Barbie tracing set that she played with when SHE was a little girl.

For a visual: me, as a little girl, with my brother

The Barbie tracing set involved a purple and white box that lit up when you plugged it in. There were a ton of templates of old school Barbies and Kens with outfits and accessories, and you could use them all to trace your own scenes. [Now that I'm thinking about this thing, I hope it still exists somewhere. Mom?]

A little more recently, I was trying to figure out how to trace an embroidery pattern onto dark navy blue fabric, and I remembered the purple and white light box. Since a Barbie tracing set is not something I currently own, I thought I'd try to make a light box with a few standard things lying around the house.

It absolutely ended up working. I could see the embroidery pattern very clearly through the solid navy blue cotton fabric. 

It even lit up a slide I had from an old photography class.

traffic cones are so poignant

How to Make a Light Box
aluminum foil
wax paper
bright flashlight [make sure the batteries are fresh]
glass from an 8x10 picture frame
small stack of paperbacks

First cut a large rectangle [about 5x7] in the lid of the box and a smaller square in one end. The square should be big enough to just fit the end of your flashlight. Then tear some sheets of foil, crinkle it up and open it back up. Press the wrinkly foil into the inside of the box.

Lay the wax paper over the open hole in the top of the box. Cover with the glass. Rest the end of the flashlight into the square hole in the end of the box. Use the stack of books to prop the other end of the flashlight up so that it points down into the foil.

Turn on the flashlight. Voila! Light box! Trace away.


  1. Oh, the lightbox! Thank you for that!

    I am off to find a shoe box and the rest of the ingredients. I have an embroidery design that I need to transfer onto fabric and just didn't know how I was going to get that done. Now, I have the answer!

    Thank you, thank you!


  2. Brilliant! I tried (and failed) holding a picture frame with just glass over a lamp with no shade that was between my knees...this sounds much safer for my poor burned knees. =D Thanks!

    1. burned knees are no good! glad to be of service :]

  3. A bit of time on google let me figure out the set was called the Barbie Electric Drawing set, and I think you can find various ones on eBay even now. Such a cool toy!


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