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DIY back-lit photo lightbox for under $10

All > Tech > Hacks/Mods > Gadgets > DIY back-lit photo lightbox for under $10 by illuminator
My client loved the way photos & images look when back-lit but could not
afford the high price of a modern and ultra thin lighbox. I will reveal
how a 4x6 up to a 8x10 photo or document viewing lightbox system is
created for only $8usd in materials.

The most crucial part in the design of a great lightbox is of course
(THE LIGHT)...In this particular design I used dual white (5000K)
cold cathode tubes. These are the same lights used to power most
l.c.d. television sets. These ultra thin (4mm) tubes are expected
to last at least (30,000)hours. I buy these lights from a computer
mod. company for a steal of $3.99 a set. made by logisyscomputer they
come in many diff. colors and are useful in a variety of lighting applications. (i.e. auto interior & exterior, cabinet lighting
cove lighting, edge-lighting)...just to name a few. The drawbacks
are you can only drive 2 lamps per inverter and these tubes can
get a kinda hot. Set up to run off 12vdc you will need a transformer
if not using them in a car or with a battery pack. A cool upside
to this particular cold cathode system is it comes with a on/off

For this generation of lighbox I cut both ends off the aluminum switchplate
to make it sleeker & easier to install...
To install the switch I drill a hole in the side of the box and use JB weld to secure it in place. In this picture you can see the switch installed plus another great feature of the lighbox (the velvet kickstand)
This aluminum shadowbox was also quite a steal for $4.00. This is the
4x6 model but they also come in 5x7 and 8x10 for exactly the same price!
I found this box while browsing the picture frames at my local discount
depatment store. Talk about a blue light special. When I saw the price on
these shadowboxes I got my entrepreneurial urge to buy all the rest they had in stock. I managed to fight off that urge and buy only what I needed for my
client and a few extra for presentations & samples.
The main modification on the shadowbox is the aluminum matt. It needs about a
quarter inch cut off the border to sitt flush inside the lightframe.

The most innovative part of this lighbox system is the custom optics I designed for
the cold cathode tubes. Once these tubes have warmed up for a minute you can twist them free from thier acrylic housing unleashing their full potential...
Now you have a super bright illumination source thats only a scant (4mm) in diameter

The material I installed the ccfl's into is called coroplast. I have experimented
with electro-luminescent wire and coroplast before but I never used ccfl tubes
until now! Warning! some ccfl's can get to hot and melt your coroplast. After experimenting I was able to find a coroplast that won't melt. Other than thermal management issues this design is an excellent back-light and diffuses light very well and gives great optics for back-lit photos.
For this generation I simply mounted my photo with 3-m transparent tape. I used a
mounting tape to secure the inverter inside the lighbox and to hold the wires out of
the photos way. The light system is simply fastened to the inverter and it stays
suspended in midair illuminating the photo. The velvet backing board with kickstand
simply slides into place.
There you have it, for $8usd in materials a modern sleek lighbox equiped with an
on and off switch. Depending on use; the light system will last around 9 years and
only consume around 6 watts of electricity. Sure Beats pasting pictures to a glass jar
with an incandescent light inside of it! P.S. For this system I simply used a
regular digital print. No special translucent printing material needed!
check out my website for more unique products and innovations
If you like what you see here and are interested in displaying photos...
please build your own. If you like what you see here and you are a supplier or agent
who is looking for a lighbox source or a custom design please contact me at

Any comments positive or negative are always welcome, please participate and
leave feedback!
The Illuminator and always on the bleeding edge of innovative
lighting design...
One of many boxes were various lighting systems go to relax after a long day of R&D

More creations by illuminator

More creations in Gadgets


Posted by illuminator 8 years ago ( 16-Apr-2007 06:06:43 ), comment hidden (show)

The fusion of art & light. My goal is to
create unique lighting systems that fill
a void in the current scene. I innovate
with (electro-luminescence)(l.e.d.)
(gobo projectors)(mist-transducers)
(laser engravering)(water jets)(HID lights)
(sanblasting)(backlighting)(screen printing)(foam&polyurethane)(aluminum)
(cove ligting)(undercabinet lights)(drop ceilings)
(star ceilings)(acrylics&polycarbonates)(laser etching)
The lighting systems I design are, Edge-Lit Displays
Illuminated Tables & Furniture, Image projectors, Illuminated
marker boards, Auto & Moto FX lights, Illuminated art,
Star Ceilings, Illuminated wall & Ceiling Murals, back-lit images
various color changing wall wash & mood light FX.
Some artists that inspire me are:Escher, Alex Grey, Vasarely, Kandisky & Dali...
My goal is to provide innovative, exciting &
affordable lighting designs for my clients & friends...

This comment was edited at 2007-04-17 09:12:17

Posted by versii 7 years ago ( 18-Feb-2008 16:01:03 )

Can you adjust the brightness? Do you just print photos to be darker, editing them in PhotoShop or something if it looks too bright with both litghs? And where did you get the coroplast that wouldn't melt?

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