Light box set up

How do you set up your light source for botanical illustration?

Quite a bit of paper, ink and conversation has gone into proper light source set up. When i was taking classes at the Denver School of Botanical Illustration, there were a couple of options given for light box construction. One was a foam core board cut in a certain way so that it could be erected as a box for use when drawing, but then collapsed easily for transport. I never could figure out how to cut it so I did not use the foam core idea. However, the other day while at the super store, I did come across a collapsible fabric storage bin. Huzzah! This was the other idea used in class.


You can set up your box one of two ways. You can either cut a hole in the upper left side of the box wall, or you can place the light source as I have it in the photograph.

The purpose of a light box is to keep too much light from bouncing around on top of the item, or items, you wish to draw.

I just love the details of this shell. So much to study.

My box is not pure white. It is just slightly cream or off white in color. Not enough to compromise the colors of the items. I recommend not buying a box in any other color other than white or off white.

While I was taking the, Light on Form class, I had not set up a light box for my assignment. The teacher could tell that there were multiple light sources. Even though I had used the intense light source in my set up, the curtains were open and that extra light, from another direction, was enough to create variations in the drawing. Double shadows, double highlights (as in from different directions, etc.). If you do not use a light box but try to use natural light from a window, you are causing more work for yourself because daylight shifts. A single light source and items in a box is the scientific way to do botanical, and natural illustrations. Your light source must be at a 45° angle at about 10 or 11 o’clock. I say ‘or’ because I have read both in instructional books. For those of you in the digital world who may not understand what I mean by 10 or 11 o’clock

cute dog head tilt - Daily Picks and Flicks

this is what I mean.

Clipart - 11 o'clock


See how the hour hand is on 11? Think of your items being inside of a sphere. The light ‘hangs’ above them at 11 o’clock… at a 45º angle.

Questions? Leave them in comments.