Build A “Westcott Spiderlite TD3” Backlight Kit

Build A "Westcott Spiderlite" TD3 Backlight KitI love strobes, anyone who reads this blog knows it. But more and more I find myself attracted to the lure of continuous light. No pop blinks, no need for modeling light, and pupils are smaller. Kirk Tuck has a post about continuous lights with LEDs. Similar, not as intense but way cheaper solution is using CFL bulbs for lighting.

In the following post photographer Tony Zeh will walk us through building a CFL driven Westcott Spiderlite TD3 Backlight Kit. This backlight is part of his CFL based studio – check the last picture for more info about that.

While searching fluorescent backlight kits I found the awesome TD3 Backlight Kit
from Westcott (B&H) at about $369. I built my own with a 5500K fluorescent bulb for about $130 including stand.


2_General Materials

  • Acrylic Globe($10 Home depot)
  • Light Base ($7 HD)
  • cover plate($3 HD)
  • cord and switch($6 HD)
  • Sliver foil tape ($4 HD)
  • Silver Paint ($4 HD),
  • 5/8 light stand stud ($4 B&H)
  • 3/8 x 3/4″ bolt and washers
  • 5500K day light fluorescent 27w or 45w depending on how much light you need. I have both and can switch it our based on my needs.
  • Backlight stand ($20 B&H)

Step 1 – Prepare the globe mount

3_Arcylic Globe

I used this globe, which is the largest one I could find at Home Depot.

4_Light Base

This is the base you will attach the globe to. In the main picture you will see an added a riser to this to allow for the larger 45W bulb. The raiser was created using a 3 to 4″ PVC pipe transition. ($2 for the riser at HD)

6_Base Plate

Drill a half-inch hole through the baseplate to run the wire.


Add a grommet so the metal would not cut into the cord.


9_attach stud

Now it is time to attach the lighting stud. Do This using a couple of fender washers and  couple of cut washers, a 0.375 x 0.75″ long bolt and, of course, the lighting stud.

Step 2 – wire the light

This is where we put the standard electricity is dangerous warning. If you are not sure what you’re doing, or lack the proper training, please, PLEASE get some help from a certified electrician.


You can use a standard extension cord for this. Cut it close to the socket part

11_Wire base

Run the wire through the base plate and connect it to the lamp base using wire nuts.

12_attach bottom

Attach the bottom baseplate to the lamp base.

13_add Switch

Add a switch to the wiring. I am not going to show how this is done. If you’re not sure how to do it – go see your neighborhood electrician.

Step 3 – Coloring the globe

14_prep globe

Tape over and cover half of that using painters tape and masking paper.


lightly sand the exposed half with the green scrubber pad, this will give some tooth for the paint to adhere

16_Silver Paint

Use silver paint to paint on the outside of the globe. I had to do three layers to close any light leakage.

17_Silver foil

18 Silver Foil covered

And the last step is to cover half of the interior with aluminum tape. do it in a way that will reflect the interior light towards the translucent side of the globe. The foil tape can be found in the heating duct area of the Home Depot.

There you have it

19_Final globe

The globe finished

Sample Portrait and Setup

The portrait below was taken using the setup shows after. It employs an array of lights modifiers, all powered by CFL bulbs.

Build A "Westcott Spiderlite" TD3 Backlight Kit

Build A "Westcott Spiderlite" TD3 Backlight Kit

The backlight (a bit hidden behind the chair) is using a 27W CFL, the main soft box is using 3 27W CFL bulbs, I used 1 27W CFL in the kicker softlight box and a 27W CFL in the hairlight small octo-box.

Have you used continuous lighting? Do you like it? In a poll we had about a year CFLs were popular with only 4% of DIYP readers. Has this changed? Share with us in the comments.