Friday, August 28, 2015

How To Make Your Own (inexpensive) Light Box

When learning animation, the best idea is to learn the basics traditionally and then work into digital media even though, lately, many consider traditional a "dead" art form. to that I have to say SHUT UP! There is lots of room for traditional and digital animation. look at these links, Mr. Bad Attitude.  Despite this, one thing is completely obvious, YOU GOTTA LEARN THE OLD SCHOOL WAY BEFORE YOU JOG OFF INTO THE DIGITAL REALM. Why I - I - I'm getting off the subject.
Where was I? Oh yes, light boxes.
Anyway, if you've got the cash, I'd recommend the Artograph LightTracer Light Box available in many online stores. It's a great portable light box and the 18" x 12" size is perfect for your animating needs but retails for $89.99.  There is an Artograph LightTracer that is 10X12" $44.09 at this writing. But I think it's too small for standard 12 field animation paper.  It's hard to find these in stores so you'll have to order them online but then there's shipping and all that implies.

As an alternative,  may I suggest checking out your local hardware store, they might have everything you need to make your own light box for a much lower cost with no buying or cutting of wood necessary . These are the supplies you need below:
1) A "Really Useful Box" (That's it's name really) 11 liter clear box. I got mine at OSH, my favorite hardward store. It's a sturdy and durable 16x14" box that has a depth of 3.5".
It has blue locking handles which hold the lid shut and a solid honeycomb molding for the bottom.  Most importantly, the lid itself is clear and flat, great for a large drawing surface.
Another feature of this box has a lip that lines the outer rim of of the lid which is prefect for placing your pencils so they don't roll away and for taping your peg bar in to.

The second item (but labeled #4...whatever) is simply a sheet of aluminum foil to act as a reflector of your light source.  You can get foil anywhere and I'm sure you have some in your kitchen somewhere, when you're not using it to wrap up your head, you can pull out a length about as long as the box and put it it in.
 No heads were wrapped in the making of this post.

Next, you'll need something like 2) a portable light socket.  The one I purchased has a 4 foot cord attached and on/off click switch. These are usually about 5 bucks.
3) Next you'll, of course, need a bulb.  Be sure to get a LED bulb so it won't over heat and melt your box. What you see here is a 7 watt TCP LED bulb. You can also get a higher wattage bulb if you'd like.
You need not drill a hole in your box, the lid can be placed over the cord and there is no noticeable pinching of it.
 With these four "ingredients", you are set to draw! Total cost is around $22, no shipping required!
5) If your work surface is too far away from an outlet or your socket cord is too short, you can purchase a cheap extension cord. You probably have one of these laying around anyway.  I remember my grandmother had like 2000 of these things, so pay a visit to a loved one and sneak one of theirs. Purchase price goes up two bucks, so we're at $24 not including tax.
6) You can get fancy with a dimmer switch.  These are expensive but after animating for a while, the dimmer comes in handy and your eyes will thank you for it. Now, we're talking $15 more so it may be getting into a "just buy a light box from above" kind of price range but again, the choice is yours.
But once you get set up, you can start animating!  The light works well for seeing through your paper and rolling/flipping.

Though the box is functional, it's still a box...and not very ergonomic.
To fix this you'll need to raise the back of your box up.  You can sit with the front portion resting in your lap and the back on the table in front of you (not so great for your neck and back over time) or you can simply take some of the awesome animation books you have amassed and just put them behind your box as shown below. Add book to achieve the height that's comfortable.  This works two ways; your box is raised and you can get inspired by keeping your favorite books nearby.
When you're done, you simply clean up and place everything in your box to carry off.  That's right, the 3.5" depth allows you to place a full ream of animation paper, your bulb, cords, pencils, erasers and even the spare change you saved buying this set RIGHT BACK IN THE BOX!! Now that's a Really Useful Box!

 Now go get animating, and thanks for stopping by!

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