DIY: Light Box Tracing

Written by lisabeth hughes
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DIY: Light Box Tracing
A light box makes copying an existing design much easier. (light bulb image by Photosani from

Using a light box to trace and copy original designs or artwork can help you complete your task faster and more efficiently. The light shining through the original design causes the lines of the design to stand out, making tracing easier, quicker and more accurate. Before computer software programs, architects used huge light tables to complete their blueprints. Today, light box tracing is especially helpful for people like tattoo artists who need to copy a client's design or homeowners who want to decorate their home with unique stencilling. Kids will love being able to trace any design using a simple light box.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Box
  • Frosted acrylic sheet
  • Drill
  • Medium sized drill bit
  • Utility knife
  • Fluorescent light bulb
  • Light socket with cord
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Thin, white paper

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  1. 1

    Obtain a box. Any kind will do as long as it is at least 6 inches square. Unless the box is clear, remove one side of the box that you will use as the drawing surface, then use a piece of acrylic plastic for the top.

  2. 2

    Cut a hole for the light cord in the side of the box. Drill a hole using a medium drill bit if the box is made of a hard substance. Cut a hole with a utility knife if you are using a cardboard box.

  3. 3

    Put the light into the box, threading the cord through the hole in the side, and turn it on.

  4. 4

    Put a piece of clear acrylic plastic evenly on top of the box. You should leave the acrylic top loose so you can change the light bulb with ease in the future.

  5. 5

    Place your design on top of the acrylic.

  6. 6

    Place a piece of thin, white paper over the design on top of the acrylic plastic. The paper can be regular sketching or printer paper, but thicker paper like parchment will not provide the best results. You should be able to see the design quite clearly through the unmarked sheet of paper. Begin tracing the design onto the white paper, using your eraser when necessary.

Tips and warnings

  • You can reverse the design's direction by turning the traced design over on top of the light box and tracing it on the other side of the paper.
  • Tracing paper works best.
  • Keep the tracing paper in the same place on top of the design by taping them together.
  • Designs originally imprinted on cardboard, poster board or other opaque surfaces are generally not easier to trace using a light box.

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