How to Make a Scrim

As explained in the previous class, a scrim is a DIY lighting modifier that is often used by product photographers to create gradient lighting.

But why would you use scrims or diffusion material rather than softboxes? The key benefit of using a scrim over a softbox is that you have the ability to position it at different distances and angles from the light source and subject to create different gradient lighting effects while maintaining soft light. Best of all, they are an affordable lighting modifier that you can easily make yourself and use for many different types of photography.

In this class, you’ll learn the DIY techniques for making your own scrim for photographing products. This is something that Karl uses a lot in his work — in fact, for product and still life photography, a scrim is one of the most essential pieces of lighting equipment.

Observe the step-by-step process of creating a scrim as Karl talks you through what affordable equipment you’ll need and how to put everything together.

What you’ll need:

  • L-brackets
  • Screws
  • Drill/screwdriver
  • Saw
  • Tape measure
  • Lightweight planks of wood
  • Gaffer tape
  • Diffusion material/tracing paper (diffusion material is preferable as it is less flammable than tracing paper)

You’ll find numerous examples where Karl uses gradient lighting to photograph products — everything from bottles to cosmetics. These include our ‘One-Light Lipstick Product Shoot’ class and ‘Whisky Photography’ live show replay.

If you have any questions about this class please post in the comment section below.

Comments

  1. Hi Karl,
    When using a continuous light witch diffusion stop is more convenient ? I know strobes are more powerful than continuous light. I am using an Aperture 300d, is the 216 lee filter diffusion to strong or should I use a lighter one ?

    Thank You

    Juliette

    1. Hi Juliette, the 216 is a mid to light one, but this won’t matter if you are only shooting still life as you can extend your exposure time.

  2. Hi Karl – new member here and loving all the great info on your education website! My question is whether rip stop nylon (the fabric used for soft box diffusers) would provide the same effect as the Lee diffusion paper for building a scrim. And if not, what the primary differences between the two. Thanks!

    1. Hi Kay-Dee, thanks for signing up, no I’m afraid it’s not quite as good, it will work to some extent but the gradations are not as smooth as the LEE diff.

  3. Hi, just wondering about the Lee 216. I have found a place that seems reasonable, they sell by the roll or a sheet. The rolls are out of stock but the sheets are available, problem is the sheet size is smaller ie 1.22m x 0.53m. I was just wondering your thoughts about it only being 0.53 wide and if it would be a waste to get or not?

  4. Hello, not that I am opposed to making the scrim it seems pretty straightforward. However, I saw a couple on B&H (4×4) similar in price to the roll of Lee 216. Your thoughts? is it the size we are going for here? Thank you.

    1. Hi, when it comes to scrims two things are important. The first is the scrim big enough for what you are shooting and that all depends on what you are shooting how curved the object is, how big it is and how glossy it is. The next thing is how good is the diffusiuon property to the eye, does the diffusion create perfect radial gradients from a barb bulb, does the light fall of well on a linear gradient from a strip box etc etc. I don’t know the B&H one, some of the Rosco stuff I’ve heard is good my experience with some fabric ones is that you get a ‘starburst’ effect rather than a smooth gradient but if you hold one up to a small round light source like a ceiling spotlight you’ll be able to tell straight away. This live class will help you understand why size and gradient are important – https://karltayloreducation.com/class/sunglasses-product-shoot/

  5. Made my first scrim using Lee 216 – Really satisfying actually building something that will be so versatile to my photography rather than just buying it in from Amazon or a camera shop. Thanks for the guide Karl!

  6. I finally got around to making this. I was able to find Rosco 216 which is apparently identical to Lee 216. A 21’x48″ was about 225$ CAD. The quality of light is unreal though! It works great in a variety of set ups. I use it for product but also for portrait lighting in conjunction with a v flat. Set up in a triangle with studio strobe facing v flat, it creates a giant softbox. Anyway, thank you Karl!

    1. Hi, thanks for the info but that seems very expensive. I can buy a roll of LEE 216 that is 1.5m wide by 7m long for about $90.

  7. the Lee 216 is very hard to find these days.. the 1 1/2 stops one..

    Do they even make tracing paper 60inches wide? I will have to look into that… if I go that route, what should I look out for?

    I understand that you use the 216 and why, however, it’s not (at least not in Canada) currently in stock. Is there something you would/could recommend to get?

    thank you

    1. Hi Jacqueline, try film industry suppliers in California or New York, it is very common on large rolls as diffusion material for in front of movie lighting.

        1. Hi Jacqueline, yes the 216 is used in the film industry. I’ve been to LEE’s manufacturing and they have warehouses of the stuff they ship mostly to the film industry.

  8. Hi, Karl. I understand that you have to sacrifice some power, but I don’t know how much it costs. Can you tell me?

  9. Are you aware of any pre-made scrims that are good? The Westcott Fast Flag system seems to be popular. I could attach Lee 216 to it if the diffusion fabric is bad. They are 24 x 36 inches. Would this be too small?

    I have a 39″ x 62″ Glow scrim that I put Lee 216 on but it’s such a faff to get attached to my c-stand and it takes up a lot of space.

    1. Hi Blake, I’m not aware of any I’m afraid. There may be a pop up scrim with useable fabric but you would have to test it to really check the gradients. Personally I find small or large DIY frames don’t take up too much space and can be left against a wall. Even with a pop up scrim you still need to find a way to hold them up.

  10. Hi Karl,
    Thanks for the knowledge you share.
    I have a question, can we use “BUTTER PAPER” as Diffusion material ?

    1. Thank you, yes but not really as effective. When you shine a light through it if you look at the light on the other side you have to look how nice the gradient diffusion is because that is what will be reflected in the products you are shooting. Architectural tracing paper works ok,

  11. Hi Karl,

    As my room where i shoot in is rather small at 2.2m x 2.6m, would a scrim 1.2m x 1.5m wide be good enough considering the size of my room? I shoot food and product (tabletop). Thanks!

  12. Hey Karl
    First of all, thank you for all the knowledge that you have been giving to us. Its just amazing.

    I just have one question, can we use rosco filters instead of lee filters. That is because I stay in India and getting the lee filter import is very expensive.

    1. Hi, thank you. Yes you can although I’ve not tried the Rosco one so I don’t know how similar it is to the ones I use.

  13. Hi Karl! I just purchased everything I need to make this— do you tape the LEE paper on each side or only on one side.? It looks like you’re using a double paper on each but it was kind of hard to see. Thanks!

  14. Neri

    Hi Karl, I was wondering about the handles you sometimes have on the frames to clamp the frames on stands. Are they custom made or is it a product that can be found somewhere?

    1. Hi, custom made, just bits of metal bent to shape and screwed on but to be honest I very rarely use those and just use the frame of the scrim itself to clamp to.

      1. Neri

        Thanks. Now that you mentioned it I saw you using the clamps right over the light stand joints which does the trick for most setups, neat little trick…

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