Light Boxes: DIY vs. Buying One

DIY Poster Light Box Construction

Posted on 06, February, 2015

Last Modified on 21, February, 2019

The internet is a great way to find DIY (Do-It-Yourself) projects to save on money and/or to create something that is customized to your liking. Some projects are cheap and simple to create with little time involved. Poster light boxes on the other hand can be a bit more challenging to make yourself. To create a single or double-sided light box, you must have experience and knowledge in woodworking and electrical wiring. The information below details the pros and cons of DIY versus buying a pre-made illuminated poster frame.

Building A Wood Poster Light Box Frame

There are a few things to remember if you are going to build a wooden light box from scratch. Even when everything is built, restaining or adding another coat of polyurethane to the frame must be done every few years. The light bulbs will also require replacement from time to time. That said, if you do decide to construct your own light box frame make sure to keep in mind that the light box must have an access feature, so the LED or florescent bulbs can be replaced easily. If you were to fully encapsulate the box it would be extremely hard (if not impossible) to replace the light bulbs.

Poster Light Boxes with Snap Frame

Light Box with Snap Frame

One of the best reasons to purchase a poster light frame is that modern designs are very easy to use. For example, many include snap frames which make replacing posters simple and quick. With these hinged edges, you can easily snap open each side of the frame, remove the clear film and replace your desired poster. Simply close each side of the frame and lock if available. Double-sided poster films are great because they add more rich illumination by having the light pass through two strips of film.


If you want to build your own poster light box, below are most if not all the materials you will need as well as an estimated cost of each material. Remember, this does not include the required tools you must purchase if you don't already own them.

QTY Material Cost
16' 1" x 1" aluminum angle $23.20
18' 1 x 4 poplar $21.69
1 3' x 4' x 1/8" sheet Masonite $6.50
16' Embossed quarter-round poplar trim $15.80
16' 3 ridge pine screen mold $4.32
4 2-1/2" square poplar accent blocks $6.28
1 3' x 4' x 1/8" Plexiglas (non-UV filtering) $15.51
1 3' x 4' x 1/8" Plexiglas (UV filtering) $16.30
1 3/8" x 1/4" thick x 17' foam weather seal $4.50
1 Plexiglas cutter tool $2.49
1 Electronic ballast $25.00
6 Leviton fluorescent tube holders $7.00
3 T8 30 watt; 36" warm white fluorescent lamps $20.91
20' #16 AWG wire $1.40
1 Toggle switch $3.70
1 Semi-gloss, spray paint by American Accents (Rust-Oleum) $3.47
1 Fuse and fuse holder $3.50
1 Package of wire nuts $1.99
1 Package of wire staples $1.44
1 3 wire #16 AWG extension cord $7.71
1 Gold spray paint antiquing kit by American Accents (Rust-Oleum) $10.04
25 #6 - 3/4" brass particle board screws $2.99
30 1-1/2" drywall screws $2.89
30 1" paneling nails $1.19
1 Plastic wood filler $10.00
1 Wood glue $2.47
2 White spray paint $3.47
1 Mirror mounting kit (30 lb rating) $3.05
Total: $228.81

To Build or Not To Build

As you can see from above, for roughly $200 (if you own all the tools needed) you could build your own fluorescent poster light box. Now with technology growing every day and the cheaper cost of materials, there are light boxes that cost the same. Some might end up being cheaper than your desired DIY light box considering the labor involved. While a pre-made unit might not be customized to the extent that you want, it will likely save money, time, and frustration. The wiring will also be optimized for reducing energy consumption, so you could also see lower operating costs with a purchased unit.

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