spinhandspun designs


K’Nex Lightbox Tutorial

After months of photographing my work with so-so results, I decided it was time to invest in a lightbox. And what better way to do it than to Do It Yourself? In search of the perfect supplies, I raided my parents basement and came across my favorite childhood toy: a box of K’nex!

If you’re wondering what a lightbox can do for you, look no further than my dingy-yellow digital ‘graphs in the K’nex building portion of this tutorial, then compare those to these images taken inside of the completed K’nex lightbox. Lightboxes keep your colors looking bright, reduce shadows, and make sure your images look clean and professional. Follow the tutorial below to create your own…


Knex lightbox.
Knex structure without screen.


Screen removes to photograph both from top
and side.


Photographing from the top.


Photographing from the side.


Three eyelets per corner.


Eylets overlap onto Knex to hold screen in place
at corners

What You Will Need

K’nex
8 red connectors
8 yellow connectors
20 white connectors
46 blue connectors
134 purple connectors
96 white rods
32 blue rods
32 yellow rods
105 red rods rods
Remember! If you don’t have enough of a certain piece, improvise (e.g. two blue rods and an orange connector = one red rod)

Other Materials

  • Lighting (utility lights, photography lights, and desk lamps with bright bulbs will work)
  • Sewing machine
  • Two yards of white fabric (for a 60″ bolt — I used 100% cotton stretch jersey in bright white)
  • White thread
  • At least twelve 1/4″ eyelets (and eyelet setter, though pliers and creativity will also work)
  • Rubber hammer
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Pencil

    K’nex Lightbox Structure Instructions (with clickable images!):

    My apologies for the yellowish image quality, but unfortunately I did not have a lightbox for my lightbox!

    Note: In the first four steps, I have indicated places where blue K’nex/red or white connectors take the place of white K’nex/purple or blue connectors in the general model using an *asterisk symbol. These longer blue pieces are used as ground supports on the bottom, and as places where the eyelets of your screen will catch along the top or side of the structure (depending on which direction you are photographing). Furthermore, not all blue replacements have been indicated with an asterisk — just those that are hard to see. Keep an eye out for these subtle changes in the general structure!

    1. Make the bottom most piece (Note: here I have used two blues and an orange connector to replace eight red pieces where I ran out)

      Outer Bottom
    2. Construct bottom supports, noting places where blue rods have replaced white ones

      Inner Bottom (upside down)
    3. Join the two bottom pieces together so that blue rods slide into their red and white connector pieces, creating feet.

      Bottom Structure
    4. Make for side supports as follows:

      Side Supports
    5. Connect side suports to their appropriate positions on the bottom support

      Bottom and Side Supports
    6. Make topmost piece (easy!) noting the asterisks where blue rods replace white:

      Outer Top (upside down)
    7. Construct top supports, noting locations where blue supports replace white

      Inner Top (upside down)
    8. Connect two portions of the top structure together, so that blue rods slide into place, while white rods make solid connections to the remainder of the structure

      Top Structure (upside down)
    9. HURRAH!

      Finished piece!

    Lightbox Screen Sewing Instructions (It’s easy! You are making an opened box shape!):

    1. Iron fabric flat
    2. Cut the following: One “bottom” square measuring 17.5″x17.5″ and Four “side” squares measuing 17.5″x20″. [Remember: Jersey material is stretchy, which is great for pulling the screen across the sides of the lightbox, but treacherous in the cutting department. Be careful not to pull the fabric while cutting or your squares will come out wonky-shaped.]
    3. Pin and sew all four side pieces to four sides of bottom piece (Using a 1/2″ seam allowance)
    4. Iron all four bottom seams flat
    5. Pin and sew adjacent edges of side pieces together (Using a 1/2″ seam allowance), thus completing the box shape.
    6. Iron all four side seams flat
    7. Pin and finish the circumference of the opening with 3/4″ seam by folding the unfinished edge underneath itself
    8. Iron the finished opening flat and trim loose thread

    Eyelet Application

    1. Fit the finished lightbox screen over the K’nex structure with the opening at the top, and seams along all four corners
    2. For each side, pull the flap across the top so the screen fits snugly around the sculpture with two opposing sides overlapping their adjacent opposing sides
    3. On all four corners, use a pencil to mark the eyelet placement at all three points where the blue K’nex poke outwards from the frame
    4. Remove screen from K’nex structure
    5. Cut small holes at each point where you have made a pencil mark for an eyelet opening
    6. Hammer eyelets into each opening using a rubber hammer and an eyelet setter (Lisa at U*handbag has a great eyelet tutorial if you need a visual for this part)

    Questions? e-mail me at spinhandspun@gmail.com Otherwise, happy photographing!

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    […] Boehm has posted a great detailed tutorial on how to make a lightbox out of K’Nex pieces for product photography. She was digging for the perfect materials and stumbled across a box […]

    Pingback by K’Nex lightbox tutorial | Diy all the Way

    While highly inventive, this project is almost ridiculously overcomplicated. Ideally, a lightbox of this type does two things, evens out the light, and removes distracting reflections from shiny or glossy objects. This box does a pretty good job at the first, but not such a good job at the second. All those colored rails and connectors would be a real problem if you were photographing something like silver or gold jewelry, as the color would reflect in the surface. I might suggest sewing a cube out of translucent fabric, and then attach the corners via fishing line to a frame built out of rails….

    Comment by mfophoto

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    […] K’Nex Lightbox Tutorial « spinhandspun designs spinhandspun.wordpress.com/2009/10/14/knex-lightbox-tutorial – view page – cached After months of photographing my work with so-so results, I decided it was time to invest in a lightbox. And what better way to do it than to Do It Yourself? In search of the perfect supplies, I… (Read more)After months of photographing my work with so-so results, I decided it was time to invest in a lightbox. And what better way to do it than to Do It Yourself? In search of the perfect supplies, I raided my parents basement and came across my favorite childhood toy: a box of K’nex! (Read less) — From the page […]

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    cool Tutorial! Quite a bit different from the lightbox that I made using fabric, cardboard, and paper…

    I like it

    Comment by Dream Lane

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    A lot of trouble for what you could basically have done with a lamp shade.

    Comment by Barbara

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    great work for that box…really awesome

    Comment by Wayan Parmana

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    You can use PVC as well and the PVC joins to structure it, anysize and it breaks down easily. Glue the peices together you want to stay together when breaking down.

    2 boxes for the sides, then 4 peices to make a box ou of those 2 sides.

    Comment by scott

    The point made about photographing silver/gold/metallic articles, is valid. However, all one must do is paint the entire structure in flat/matte white paint and this will reduce (but not eliminate) those pesky reflections. A high enough “key” light might wash out any structural shadowing of the K’Nex pieces.

    Comment by Nawlins Jeaux

    i like your tutorial, very good, thanks

    Comment by jack

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    This is awesome I want to make one for hack factory!

    Comment by Paul

    […] 2010/04/06 at 4:35 am · Filed under Awesomeness, Handy and tagged: diy, how-to, k'nex, lightbox, photography, to do From SpinHandSpun Designs K’Nex Lightbox Tutorial « spinhandspun designs […]

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    That’s really neat. I like the way you set up the piece count and the instructions.

    Comment by knexkorner

    thanks! to quote another commenter, this project may have been “almost ridiculously overcomplicated”… but your k’nex site is fabulous — i feel like i have found a partner in constructive-creative-crime.

    Comment by spinhandspun

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