Easily Make Your Own Diffusion Panels For Less Than $30

Use A-Clamps to hang the diffusion blade.

Use A-Clamps to hang the diffusion blade.

Diffusion blades (or panels) are incredibly useful things to have laying around a photography studio. Why pay over $100 each for a blade when you can build them yourself quickly and easily for a 1/3 of the price? In this video tutorial, Tony Roslund shows us how he makes his own blades using easily resourced materials.

Things You’ll Need

Some of the items below aren’t exactly household items, so you may have to make a trip to your local art supply store. Here’s the list:

  • Canvas stretching barsThese wood rails come in a variety of pre-cut lengths and are really easy to assemble. Just pick out 4 strips that match the size of frame you want and throw a couple staples into the corners to hold them together. Cost: Depends on the dimensions but should be well under $20 in most places.
  • Diffusion material – Roslund likes the look of Rosco #3008 Diffusion material and happened to have a roll of it, but you can use any diffusion material you prefer and it can be found in pre-cut pieces so you don’t have to purchase a whole roll. Cost: Again, it depends on the dimensions but should be under $10.
  • Scissors or cutting blade – You’ll need these to cut the diffusion material to size, unless the piece of material you’re using was already pre-cut to size in which case you won’t be needing these. Cost: It’s safe to assume you already own one of these things, right?
  • White gaffers tape – Try to use some that is the same width as the canvas stretching rails for a seamless, more professional look. Alternatively you can just fold the edges over. Cost: You should probably already have some of this in your studio, but if you have to spring for a roll of it you can plan on spending about $10-15. 
  • Double sided tape – Roslund had a fancy double sided tape dispenser called an ATG gun, but a regular roll of double sided tape also works nicely. Cost: $2.

Building The Diffusion Blades

These blades are actually pretty simple to build. Putting the canvas stretching frame together is the hardest part and we already covered how to do that so the rest should be a cakewalk.

  • If you need to trim your diffusion panel to fit your canvas stretcher, just spread the material out on a cutting table, place the stretcher on top of it and using a cutting blade or sharp scissors cut around the outside edge of the stretcher so the material is flush with the edges. Obviously, if you ordered a piece of material that was the same size as your frame, skip this step. Lay the material to the side for the moment.
Use white gaffers tape to conceal the wood frames.

Use white gaffers tape to conceal the wood frames.

  • Begin covering the frame with white gaffers tape (see screenshot above). This is necessary (and important), Roslund says, to prevent the wood frame from showing through the diffusion material and casting shadows on your images. Take your time to make the tape look nice and make sure it is laying flat, this will pay off when you are trying to make the diffusion material look professional on your stretchers.
  • Which leads us to the double sided tape. This is what you’ll be using to attach the diffusion material to the frame. Apply the double sided tape around the edges of the stretcher rails onto the gaffers tape. Make sure there is tape in the corners and edges so the diffusion material holds taught and doesn’t begin to peel back from the frame.
  • Lastly, carefully lay the diffusion fabric onto the frame. Ensure it is straight and tight as you press around the edges to seal the contact with the material and the double sided tape.

As a product photographer, I use diffusion panels almost daily. I prefer the flexibility and control I get from them over softboxes, and they’re easy to store or pack flat for taking on location.”

[DIY Diffusion Panels For Less Than $30 via FStoppers ]

  • http://twitter.com/DannyTPhoto Danny T

    Direct sunlight is tricky – make it easier by building your own diffusion panel (for less than $30!) http://t.co/AjhnJi1zlr

  • http://wilcfry.com/ Wil Fry

    Is there an advantage of this kind over the circular diffuser that comes with a 5-in-1 reflector set? (I have a 42″ set that cost just over $30.)

    • Jake Engel

      Rectangles are generally better/easier to work with for shooting product. You can build these in very exact sizes with scrap wood, a big roll of ‘lux, and a hand saw. In about 5-10 minutes you can build a 4′x8′ diffusion panel (which is often necessary if you’re shooting large format top down shots). They’re cheap, easy to work with, and easy to store. When the ‘lux gets old and yellows, you scrap it and re-cover it with a fresh sheet. Most studios I was in were full of these, sticks in cans, and A-clamps. And giant 12′ pneumatic camera stands. One could go all day without seeing a single three-legged metal stand.

    • Tony Roslund

      Wil, the advantage of this is that I can change the diffusion strength depending on how diffused I want the light source. Additionally, I’m not limited to pre-sized circular panels, I can make these any size I want.

      • http://wilcfry.com/ Wil Fry

        Thanks for that, Tony. It makes sense.

  • Moe Film

    This his a great way to make a flexible size diffusion… but how do you hang it/Rigg it in front of different light sources? It’s one thing to diffuse a window, another to stop down a 1k light.

    • Tony Roslund

      Moe, I just either clamp it directly into a knuckle or I add A-Clamps and hang from a grip arm.