Studio Lighting – Soft Panel Frame Designed for Hotlight

A stand made of 3/4″ PVC to hold a diffusion panel made of ripstop nylon that slides up and down and tilts. Sliding joint is made of a “Slip-Tee” as described in the Tinker Tubes document at “”. Total cost, including 500W light stand, nylon and PVC parts is about $50. I also got a similar quartz-halogen 250W clip-on light for about $15 that I hung above to add some highlights to the hair.

A 250W light was hung above and slightly to the right and behind the subject to add some highlights to the hair.


Initial setup

This was the initial setup I used to test the system to get the photo shown in the next frame. This was a first try without any experimenting with moving lights or changing exposures, which I plan to do later (my subject only had time for a couple of quick shots).


Soft Panel Details

Fabric is hemmed on all sides, then stichted along the shorter 3′ ends to create a loop into which the PVC pipe slides at top and bottom. Measure carefully for a snug fit or cut side pieces last to take up any slack. Fabric folds around sides of frame and is held by clips made from short lengths of 1″ PVC cut at about 270° or slightly less so they snap on snugly over the 3/4″ frame.


500W worklight was purchased at Lowes for $31. It tilts, swivels, and is adjustable up and down on the included collapsable tripod.


I still have to figure out which pieces to glue and which not to glue, so as to make it as sturdy as possible, yet allow disassembly for storage and transport. (we’d like to put the car back in the garage soon 😉 


This joint is moveable in two directions: The larger 1″ tee with 180-degree cut pieces glued inside creates a slip joint that allows the fabric frame to slide up and down on the outer frame. The 3/4″ Tee of the fabric frame fits directly inside larger 1″ Tee to create a movable tilting joint. If the slip joint is too loose, drill holes through the T and frame and insert a nail to keep it from slipping. It may also be necessary to drill a series of holes through the junction of the two T-couplers to keep them from pulling apart, and also to lock the panel at the desired tilt angle.


Overall View

Overall view of the lightstand frame, showing parts list with dimensions. I bought five ten foot lengths of 3/4″ Schedule 40 PVC pipe and had some left over, plus you need a small amount of 1″ PVC. Connectors can be purchased cheaper by the bag. I may make a stand for a slave flash with the leftover piecess.


This is sport nylon of the type used to make flags, which feels coarser and thicker, but is more translucent than the rip stop nylon. Item number 1997089 at Jo-Ann Fabrics, 60″ width @ 6.99/yard. Update: Caution! Sport Nylon may give your images an undesirable color cast. I would recommend RipStop nylon, but you can test before you buy – See Soft Flash folder for more information. Ripstop Nylon is Item number 263-7783 at Jo-Ann Fabrics, 60″ width @ 5.99/yard.


View showing how material is cut to fit around the T joint in the frame. A small (1″?) square of fabric scrap (not shown) is folded in a triangle and stitched into the corner of the V cut during hemming to strengthen it and prevent tearing at that point.


Nylon fabric was trimmed to fit the frame, allowing extra material for folding several times and hemming around the edges.


This is rip-stop nylon, which feels thinner but is more opaque than the sport nylon. Item number 2637783 at Jo-Ann Fabrics, 60″ width @ 5.99/yard.

© 2002 Brian L. Zimmerman,