Projection box in use

DIY Tracer Projector


Today’s post is about an image tracer projector I made.  It’s been a while since I posted!  I started working on this back in January or February, but got side tracked by many different things… events, appointments, tax prep, and finally COVID-19.  

I looked into making a tracer projector when I had an idea that required me to enlarge an image.  A projector, which can cost between $50 and $100 (or higher), was more than I wanted to spend for what could be a one-off use.  Next step was YouTube.  I honestly don’t know what we did before YouTube.  There seems to be tutorials for pretty much everything.

To make this you will need a cardboard box, duct tape, painter’s tape or masking tape, a box cutter, and a clear plastic sheet.

For the projector box I used this video from Home Made Simple:  If you plan to use your cell phone’s flashlight as your light source, you can omit cutting a hole in the bottom and just use the projection hole to position your phone.  In this version the maker uses a lamp as the light source.  I didn’t find that worked for me, maybe the lamp was too tall, so I opted to use my cell phone flashlight.  I also used a roll of duct tape to raise the phone inside the box.  For the image stencil or tracing material cut the hole to be slightly smaller than the material you are using so it will lay flat against the box, then tape it to the box along the top with some tape (I used painter’s tape, see images at bottom).  

For the holder for the cell phone, I used scraps from cutting the holes in the box and this video by In the Event with Karem:

It also shows how to make a box from scratch if you don’t have one the right size.  I used an old small appliance box.  

Once the box and holder were built, I focused on material to use for the image.  The maker in the first video used a clear plastic bag. Most of mine are well-used and I found the image to be too fuzzy.  I had some duralar, which is a clear plastic sheet.  I traced my image onto this and the quality when projected was good.  I think any unblemished, smooth, clear plastic should work (e.g. page protector).  

You can also use it to project words from stencils.  Just remember to turn the stencil over so it is backwards.  Here is the finished project, using a word stencil for demonstration:


When setting up the projector, you need to have space to move it forwards or backwards to get the image size you want.  You will also need a somewhat dark space.  Because I was projecting onto a large sheet of paper, I used my hallway and closed all the doors to minimize the light.  If you are projecting an image onto a wall, you may want to cover the window(s) with extra sheets or blankets.  I used books and old DVD cases to prop up the projector to get the right position.  

In my next post I will show you the artwork I created using the projector.  






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