How I built a DIY GOBO projector for under $30

Aug 8, 2020

Petri Damstén

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How I built a DIY GOBO projector for under $30

Aug 8, 2020

Petri Damstén

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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I wanted a device that can throw light patterns onto a wall or a model. There are some commercially available but they are quite expensive and I this was only for occasional use. I thought that this is something that can be 3D printed. I bought a Bowens mounting ring and some cheap macro extension tubes (For the Nikon F mount since I already have lenses for it) from eBay and designed an adapter between them.

The adapter that I made has slots for different kinds of gobos between the strobe and the lens

YouTube video

Making The Adapter

I designed the plastic parts in Fusion 360 which is pretty easy to use 3D cad program.

For printing, I selected PETG plastic which can stand up higher temperatures (90-110 °C / 194-230 °F) instead of PLA (70-80 °C / 158-176 °F) which I usually use. I would still not use this with incandescent model lights since they get much hotter. I used this GOBO with the Godox AD600BM that has a led modeling light and the adapter did not get too hot with that.

I originally printed it with white PETG but that was too translucent and I had to paint it black and tape the inside with aluminum foil tape. If you go with this project, I recommend going with black PETG from the beginning.

The adapter is designed so that you can print more middle rings if you need more slots for the gobos. Currently, I use three slots. One is always used for a diffusion ring and two for patterns and gels. I printed M5 threads directly to the plastic and they still seem quite robust after a few assemblies. They are not meant to be opened constantly so that seems to work even at a not so big M5 thread size.

I used threaded rods that go throughout the whole length of the adapter and gives it more rigidity in case it gets too hot. I mentioned that the macro extension tube was cheap. I had to fix/glue it even before the first tests. If this would be used daily macro ring mount should definitely be a more robust one. But for hobbyists like me, this is good for now. I still think though it’s better to buy strobe and lens mounts instead of printing. They are quite cheap and get more wear so they are better to be metal instead of printed plastic.

You can find the STL files here and Fusion 360 archive here.

Exploded view in Fusion 360
Aluminum tape and black paint job
Finished Build

GOBOS

I also printed some gobos which can be rotated approximately 180 degrees in their slots. I ended up making four kind of gobos:

  • Diffusion: Diffusion fabric glued to 3D printed ring. Without diffusion, you can see the flash head pattern.
  • Gels: Gel glued to 3D printed ring.
  • 3D printed: Completely 3D printed gobo. Fusion 360 accepts SVG files so you can import all kinds of graphics.
  • Laser printed: Laser printed image to a transparency that is glued to a 3D printed ring. Used for fine detail text.

First Photos

After finishing the adapter I did a small photoshoot in my home studio where I took some self- portraits and photos with my trusted model Frank “the skeleton“. You can get quite dramatic light with this which is something that I like. If you focus the light to the subject the patterns are very sharp too (of course this is not always wanted). I took five photos with different configurations. I printed the patterns quite large and when I print more I will do narrower slots and smaller shapes. With these gobos, I had to put strobe quite close to the subject which gave me some problems in placing the light. I’m quite happy with the result and since I’m a former engineer this also satisfies that side of me.

About the Author

Petri Damstén is an award-winning fine art photographer from Kuopio, Finland. you can see more of his work on his website, youtube, and Instagram. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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22 responses to “How I built a DIY GOBO projector for under $30”

  1. Camera operator Hong Kong Avatar
    Camera operator Hong Kong

    Build a diy gobo projector for under 30 USD?
    Get a 3D printer for 2,000 USD + a macro lens!

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      Or for $100 on eBay for an i3 clone. 3D printers don’t have to be expensive if you’re not an idiot. Do you shit on every DIY project that uses a tool you do not own?

      And you don’t need a macro lens. You need a macro EXTENSION TUBE (which are like $5) simply to give it a mount for your regular non-macro lens. :)

      1. Camera operator Hong Kong Avatar
        Camera operator Hong Kong

        If you are not an idiot; you can easily see that the cost is far for being under 30 USD to get it to work, whatever solution you are choosing.

        1. Alvis Kūms Avatar
          Alvis Kūms

          If you calculate how much did cost your picture, you always count in lens and camera price? For each photo full price of gear you have?

          1. Camera operator Hong Kong Avatar
            Camera operator Hong Kong

            I’m not sure I follow the analogy.
            I’m taking thousand of picture every month, the cost is divided by a large number
            On such particular DIY project, I will do it only once, so the cost of specific tooling is important.

          2. Kaouthia Avatar
            Kaouthia

            So, you buy a tool for a job and then throw it in the trash? And if you want that tool again in the future, you buy another one?

            I’ve got four 3D printers already. They’ve all already more than paid for themselves. I can make this for less than $30. If you can’t, that sounds like a you problem. :)

  2. udi tirosh Avatar
    udi tirosh

    Or use your library / local makers-space / innovation hub for 3D printer access. Those are pretty accessible today.

    1. Healing Care Avatar
      Healing Care

      Had this printed from my local version of craigslist/ebay for 30€ with a few extra gobos. A bit more than 30 USD, but the same ballpark. Didnt bother to get more than one quote at this price…

  • Ali Mckellar Avatar
    Ali Mckellar

    ‘under $30’ lmao!

    1. John Aldred Avatar
      John Aldred

      Are you suggesting that it isn’t?

    2. Ali Mckellar Avatar
      Ali Mckellar

      John Aldred um, I’m flat out saying it’s impossible!

    3. Keiran Blackwell Avatar
      Keiran Blackwell

      Ali Mckellar Did you read it? Because that’s exactly what they did. They have the advantage of the 3D printer, but for a little extra you can pay someone else to fabricate the parts for you.

      1. Camera operator Hong Kong Avatar
        Camera operator Hong Kong

        A little extra ? £381 is about $500 without delivery.
        It’s just 10 time the price, nothing to worry about ???
        (and you need the lens too)

        1. Healing Care Avatar
          Healing Care

          Find a better 3d print service. 381 is a ripoff for this.

    4. Ali Mckellar Avatar
      Ali Mckellar

      Of course I read it. You’ve just stated yourself unless you’ve got a 3D printer you need to pay more – ‘but for a little extra’, I just uploaded the .stl files to makeitquick.co.uk and got quoted £381 (and that’s not including delivery), I don’t need a currency converter to know that’s not less than $30.

    5. Udi Tirosh Avatar
      Udi Tirosh

      Ali Mckellar oh, come on, just go to your library or nearby makers-space. they’ll have a printer and a person to help you. Geesh, the negativity…..

    6. John Aldred Avatar
      John Aldred

      Ali Mckellar Impossible how? How is the need for a 3D printer ANY different than the need for a hammer or a drill or any other tool required in other DIY projects? Are they also a scam because you have to spend $300 on a table saw? Don’t be daft.

      “I just uploaded the .stl files to makeitquick.co.uk and got quoted £381”

      Then you’re an idiot. You can pick up a CTC i3 clone on eBay for £70 that’ll print this without issue and then… You know, you can keep printing more stuff because you own another tool that lets you do that. Like all the tools you buy for car maintenance, jobs around the house, etc. It’s not like the printer’s only good for printing this one thing and then it’s dead.

  • Allen Lee Taylor Avatar
    Allen Lee Taylor

    Basically try using what you might already have. Like what I did with an old Pentax me with lens, camera flash strapped to the open back with a printed out pattern on an ink jet transparency sheet on the flash.

  • Vincent van den Burg Avatar
    Vincent van den Burg

    Love it! Nice thinking❤️

  • Jessee Antillon Avatar
    Jessee Antillon

    Nice work!

  • Healing Care Avatar
    Healing Care

    A note: For EF Mount you will have to widen the opening a bit or sand it out. I could screw on my macro tube without glueing.
    Also decrease the length by 2.5mm.

  • Jonas Vaz Avatar
    Jonas Vaz

    How’s about power lost?