Build Your Own DIY Slide Light
Are you ready to come along on a fantastic voyage? No time travel to throwback music videos required.
We were thinking a voyage to the hardware store to gather building supplies for the coolest tutorial yet — a DIY slide light.
It’s a minimalist light box that can display pictures, and it sure looks good doing it. Whether you shoot film, digital, or even Instagram (remember this tutorial?) – the slide party is open invite!
Think of this project as a way to create a mini gallery, with which to show off and rotate tiny versions of your photography.
To start you’ll only need one more power tool than your average tool-free craft project. Totally coolio, huh?
p.s. Photo Week (from our buddies at creativeLIVE) is coming up! RSVP for 6 days of free live workshops with primo instructors.
Why It’s Cool
We were so inspired by the most awesome light ever that we wanted to make one ourselves! Like the hits of our rapper friend Coolio, Slide Light has been rocking it since the 90’s. Completely classic.
Although your cameras aren’t out for this tutorial, you can still pay homage to your beloved craft by building a beautiful home for teeny photographs. Isn’t that thoughtful of you?
Since keeping fingers intact for future shutter clicking is priority, all measurements used to build this light are based on standard sized cuts. No saws or reasons to fear tools! Your new slide light will be easier to assemble than, well… just about anything from Ikea.
- 24” Fluorescent cabinet light
- 32” by 24” sheet of acrylic
- Two 36” by ¾” Aluminum Angles (L shaped)
- One 6ft 1” by 3” piece of pine wood – (cut in half at store)
- One 6ft 1” by 4” piece of whitewood – (cut in half at store)
- One piece outside corner finished moulding (see photo)
- Small piece of balsa wood (or sub any thin plywood)
- Eight 1 ¼” #8 phillips round head screws
- Six 1” #8 phillips round head screws
- Ten 1/2” #4 phillips head wood screws
- Power Drill with 1/8 & 5/64 bits
- Phillips screwdriver
- Staple gun
- Box cutting knife
- Measuring tape / straightedge
- Vellum paper (enough to cover 32” by 2.25”)
- Spray adhesive
STEP 1: Measure, Mark, and Mount
Off-center the cabinet light on a 1″ by 4″ board, with power chord positioned near the outside left edge. Leave at least 1” of space on all sides (to build the frame around the light). Use two #4 screws and follow the instructions on the package to mount your light to the board.
After mounting the (unplugged) light, ensure the switch is in the “on” position. Once the light is enclosed in the box, the plug will become the on/off switch.
Starting at opposite ends, mark both your Aluminum “L” angles 4 times, spaced every 12 inches. Use this same spacing measurement on the top and bottom edges on the back 1″ by 4″ board of the light.
Next, mark both of the 1” by 3” boards three times along the 1” side. Offset marks on the left side by at least 1 ½” from the edge. The other two marks will go in the middle of the light and 1 1/2″ from the right edge. When the frame for the light is assembled, these marked edges will face forward.
Use a permanent marker and a straightedge to mark the acrylic sheet so it is 2 1/4” tall by 32” wide.
STEP 2: Cutting and Prepping
Find a safe, level surface for cutting. Use the box cutter and a straightedge to score both sides of the acrylic along your guide line. Repeat this step as many times as it takes to ensure a deep cut.
Next, line up the the scored cut with a straight edge of a table. Use your forearm (for evenly distributed pressure) to press down on the side of acrylic that is not supported not on the table.
Keep applying pressure till it breaks! Feel free to clean up a jagged edge with wire cutters or sand paper… although, this edge isn’t going to be visible so it’s more important that it fits the dimensions.
Use spray adhesive to attach vellum paper to the piece of acrylic. Smooth out any bubbles and trim away excess paper.
Use scissors to cut the outside corner molding to the same length as the acrylic.
STEP 3: Pre-drill, Pre-drill, Pre-drill! Oh… and tack.
Because the wood is 1” thick in a lot of places, you’ll have more control installing the screws by hand when you use pre-drilled pilot holes as a guide.
Line up the acrylic along the left corner and trace the spacing of the marks from the side of the top 1” by 3” board. Use the ⅛ bit to drill holes in the plastic where marked.
Use the 5/64 bit to drill holes in the aluminum along where marked (see step 1 if you missed it!).
With the staple gun, tack moulding to the inside edge of the bottom 1” by 3” board. Make sure the lip (edge that will hold the slides) is sticking out slightly to the front.
Next, line up the boards in a “U” shape. The 1″ by 3″ boards are the sides of the “U” and the 1″ by 4″ board is the base. Level the sides and use the staple gun to tack the top and bottom boards to the 1″ by 4″, so they will stay in place when you secure the frame.
Flip the attached pieces so the back of the light is facing up. Use the ⅛ drill bit to drill eight pilot holes on the top and bottom edges of the 1″ by 4″ board holding the light. If tacked down securely, the pilot hole should extend a little into the attached 1” by 3” board.
STEP 4: Business Time
When installing screws, apply pressure to the surfaces being connected until you feel the screw has engaged.
Install all eight 1 1/4″ #8 screws in the coordinating pilot holes along the back of the light.
Flip light over. Line up the acrylic with the top board so that the bottom of the plastic rests in the lip of the moulding. Use the 1/8 bit to drill pilot holes through the holes in the plastic. Install the six 1” #8 screws in the locations you marked. Although there is no plastic attached to the bottom board, the screws will ensure the bottom aluminum angle is flush with the rest of the light.
Position aluminum angles with the pre-drilled holes on top and on bottom. Use the 5/64 bit to drill pilot holes through the pre-existing holes, and install eight 1/2″ #4 screws.
STEP 5 – Finishing Touches
Trace the edge of both sides on the balsa wood in pencil. Return to your cutting surface and cut out end caps using box cutting knife.
Make a hole for side with plug and feed chord through the hole prior to stapling the balsa wood along the open edges of the light frame. Attach hanging hardware of your choice and hang on wall. Mount your slides and flex/change/rearrange to your heart’s content.
**note: as with most electrical dohickeys, do not leave on and unattended for extended periods of time. Remove the top aluminum angle and acrylic when the bulb needs to be replaced.
Taking It Further
- Use the opening on the right side of the light as a mini library for your extra slides! Or get creative with your leftover materials to make a storage box.
- Make Instagram slides using transparencies. Print on vellum paper for bold colors.
- Let your slides work together! Use photo-editing software to adapt this tutorial and resize a wide landscape photo so it fits over several slides.
- Enlist the pros at Digital Slides to turn your digital photos into 35mm slides!
Jenny Sathngam is a tutorial writer/photographer for Photojojo, based in Austin, TX. If she’s not shooting or editing, you’ll find her building, crafting, or scheming up the next big project.