I am revisiting my previous tutorial of a DIY lightbox; this time with a bit more detail.
The light box that I have made is designed with single miniatures in mind. Bigger stuff, like tanks, may fit in but would more likely be a very tight squeeze. The goal of the lightbox is to create a box with diffusing material on it’s side and top to allow photography of the subject with minimal, but ideally, no shadows.
The other goal of this model is to do it on the cheap!
On with the tutorial:
There is definitely no specialist equipment needed, as you can see. I resurrected an old washing powder box from the recycling. One thing to note here; make sure the box is empty! Spraying dregs of old washing powder all over the place is NOT going to make you friends.
One advantage of this box is the flip top lid and the ability to cut out a fold down front panel.
This particular box has a “lining” box inside of it. Use masking tape to help keep it together. You may want to run a strip of masking tape all around the top just to be sure.
You will want to mark out lines, no more than 10mm deep to create a lip that the diffusing material will stick to (in this case, common Kleenex tissues). Ideally, tissue paper is more robust. However, the house of Spruegrey apparently is all out. Ahem.
“I shall now make the first incision”. Use the steel ruler as a guide and with a SHARP blade, cut out the marked panels on the top and sides. The box is made from fairly durable cardboard, but don’t press too hard with the bade or the box will crush. A number of light cuts is better than one heavy cut that destroys you box (see below!).
And you’re about half way there. The top panel has been removed along with both side panels.
Next you’ll cut out the front folding panel. Only cut down two sides of the front to leave a hinge along the bottom that the front panel will move up and down on. It helps to maintain the shape of the box when not in use.
NOTE: At this point, hindsight kicks in. Once the front hinged section is done, the lightbox becomes a lot less stable. Leaving a strip (cutting both sides and a thin strip) across the top would improve the resilience of the lightbox in the long run. Or, stick a 10mm strip of rigid card to support the top.
Once the fold down front panel is cut, the lightbox structure is finished. You might want to go over the lightbox structure with masking tape to hold together or reinforce some parts that may have been weakened in the cutting phase.
Now you add the light diffusing material. In this case, 2-ply tissue. Ideally, the material should be as thin as possible. Therefore, it’s a good idea to separate the 2-ply into 1-ply (and then it goes twice as far!). Sparingly apply PVA glue to the strips that you left bordering the panels and CAREFULLY place one piece of the 1-ply tissue paper over the glued area. The PVA glue, being mostly water and adhesive, will hold the tissue in place while it dries.
The danger to watch out for is the high water content of the PVA glue weakening the cardboard. Thankfully, the people at the washing powder company make your lightbox from sturdy stuff.
Now you repeat the process on the other side panel and finally the top panel.
PVA glue will dry quickly, so the drying process should be ABOUT twenty to twenty-five minutes at room temperature. As with any PVA glue based process, increasing the heat will reduce the drying time.
Once the glue is dried, trim the excess tissue paper, fold down the front flap and you’re ready to start taking some shots of miniatures with no pesky shadows.
At this point, you’ll notice that the cardboard backdrop doesn’t make for high quality photographs. Backdrop colour can depend on the subject and an A4 sheet of white card, black card, or my favourite, light blue card can be slid inside the finished light box for a professional looking background.
Lighting is another consideration and there are a few schools of thought on how much light is needed. A setup like the following can be easily achieved by a few cheap desk lamps with daylight globes in them placed at the side and above the lightbox.
One final reminder. Tissues are not strong. You will put fingers and toy soldiers and brushes through it without trying. One way to fix a tear is to cut the tissue out and re-glue another piece on. For small tears, a small blob of PVA on the tear will hold a small piece of tissue on as a patch!