Thermal Imaging DIY

Updated April 17, 2017

Thermal, or infrared, imaging detects images based on radiation, or heat, instead of visible light. A thermal camera has many common uses ranging from home security and hobby photography to night vision and search and rescue missions. While some thermal imaging devices cost thousands of dollars, you can easily create a DIY thermal camera by modifying the lens of a common webcam.

Remove the screws from your webcam using a screwdriver and open the device. If your camera is not assembled with screws, slip a small flat head screw driver between the lips of the plastic casing. Gently take apart the plastic casing.

Locate the lens assembly of the webcam and remove it from the casing. Most webcam lens assemblies simply unscrew from the casing -- however some may require removing other components to reach the assembly. If you must remove other components, such as the printed circuit board, do so carefully. Damage to any electronic components may cause the device to malfunction.

On the back of the lens assembly -- the internal side -- locate and remove the small piece of reddish glass. This small piece of red tinted glass is an infrared filter. This specific filter prevents infrared light from passing through the lens into the digital camera. Removing the filter allows your camera to register infrared light and subsequently achieve DIY thermal imaging.

Create a new filter to block natural light. Cut two pieces of completely blank film negative to the same size as the infrared filter. The film negative blocks natural light, but allows infrared, or thermal light, to pass through. Affix the new filter with a small amount of super glue on the edges of the film. Be extremely careful not to get any glue on the portion through which the infrared light passes.

Place the modified lens assembly into the casing and screw it back into place. Replace any other components you removed back into their original place. Reassemble the webcam casing and replace the screws.


Use your infrared camera in natural light for unique results. Set up your infrared camera as a night time home security camera.


Thermal imaging will not work with energy efficient bulbs; these types of bulbs do not produce an infrared spectrum.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Webcam
  • Blank photo negative
  • Super glue
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About the Author

Jason Parnell is a marketing director and professional writer. He attended Rutgers University for a Bachelor of Arts in musicology and analysis.