How to build a light box for drawing

Updated July 20, 2017

Light boxes have a variety of uses in drawing, drafting and transferring artwork. Whether you want to work on structural plans or trace a drawing, having a light box on hand can make your work easier. Making your own light box often is a cheaper option than buying one from a drafting or art supply store. Its simple construction makes it a moderately easy project you can make yourself. You can make a light box in any size, but in this article you will be shown how to make an 28 by 35.5 cm (11 by 14 inch) box suitable for large pieces of drawing paper.

Measure out and mark the masonite board in the following measurements: one piece at 28 by 35.5 cm (11x14 inches); 2 pieces at 7.5 by 35.5 cm (3x14 inches); 2 pieces at 7.5 by 26.5 cm (3x10 1/2 inches). If your plexiglass piece is larger than needed, measure out and mark an 28 by 35.5 (11x14 inch) piece of plexiglass.

Cut out the pieces and set aside the 11x14 inch pieces of plexiglass and masonite. The masonite piece will be the bottom of the box, and the plexiglass will be the top.

Build the frame of the box by arranging the 7.5 by 35.5 cm (3x14 inch) pieces as the top and bottom of the frame and the 7.5 by 26.5 cm (3x10 1/2 piece) as the sides. The shorter pieces should be flush with the ends of the longer pieces. Nail the frame together using at least two nails at each joint.

Drill a 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) hole (or bigger depending on the size of the cord) at the bottom of one of the short frame pieces. The hole should be drilled at the edge of the board so you end up with a semicircle notch where the florescent light cord will exit the box.

Affix the fluorescent strip light to the 28 x 35.5 cm (11x14 inch) piece of masonite according to the manufacturer's instructions. Make sure the light is positioned so the cord easily will fit through the notch drilled in step 4.

Set the frame down on a solid surface with the notch facing up. Place the bottom piece on top of the frame and nail it in place, spacing the nails every 5 to 7.5 cm (2-3 inches). Turn the box right side up.

Place the Plexiglas piece on top of the box. Pre-drill holes around the edges every 5 to 7.5 cm (2-3 inches), then nail the Plexiglas in place. Plug in the light, and the light box is ready to be used.


If you cannot find frosted plexiglass, you can buy regular plexiglass and use a spray-on frost, purchased from a hardware or craft store.


Make sure the cord does not get pinched between the boards when you are assembling the box.

Things You'll Need

  • 81 by 35 cm by 6 mm (32x14x1/4 inch) piece of masonite board
  • 28 by 35.5 (11x14 inch) piece of frosted plexiglass
  • Florescent strip light smaller than 30 cm (12 inches)
  • 60 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) nails
  • Saw
  • Drill
  • Drill bits (1.25 cm (1/2 inch) or bigger and 3 mm (1/8 inch))
  • Hammer
  • Measuring tape
  • Marking pencil
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About the Author

Based in Farmington, N.M., DelSheree Gladden has been a contributing writer on since 2008. Her primary topics of interest include yoga, dance and gymnastics, the field in which she currently works as a certified fitness intructor. DelSheree has an associate degree in English from San Juan College.