What Paper to Use for a Soft DIY Light Box

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When building your own DIY soft light box for photography, the most common approach is to use a box or frame that uses paper in the window-like openings, to act as light diffusers. Most photographers use any paper they have on hand, but choosing carefully can also be a creative decision.

Paper Diffusers

  • The type of paper you choose to use for your homemade light box will determine the type of lighting and color you get in the photos you take. Most photographers use any paper they have on hand, and this is commonly plain printer paper. Differences in paper weight, quality and style will change how your photos look, however.

    Very thin paper, such as tissue or gift wrapping paper, will allow more light to shine through, so your photos will have more pronounced shadows. Layering two to three pieces of tissue paper together will diffuse the light more while still allowing plenty to shine through for lighting the object you're photographing.

    You can use tinted tissue gift wrap to create a different creative look in your photos as well.

    Plain kitchen wax paper is a popular soft box paper option because you don't need to layer it, as you sometimes do with tissue paper.

    While printer paper is a common choice for photo light boxes, the weight and quality of printer paper varies dramatically. Some printer paper is quite thick and fibrous, which won't let much light into your box at all. Medium weight and lightweight printer papers are useful too, and they'll also change the strength of the light available in your light box.

    Many printer papers have a decorative fiber, pattern, or color tint to them, and that will change the look of your photos as well. Tinted printer papers may cast an amber, rose, or other color shade that you may or may not want in your photos. The textured papers can create interesting patterns and designs in the photos, but they're not desirable in all cases either.

    Choosing a thin to medium weight plain white printer paper, or general kitchen wax paper is usually preferred because both allow in adequate light from your lamps or flashes without adding unusual color tints or textures.

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