How to Make a Scrim

A scrim is a DIY lighting modifier that is often used by photographers to reduce the intensity and/or harshness of light. Similar to softboxes, scrims can be used to diffuse light.

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 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 good enough for professional photography.  This is something that Karl uses a lot in his work, especially in shoots like the ones shown in this Advertising, Product and Still life course. In fact, for product and still life photography, it is one of the most essential pieces of lighting equipment. In this class you’ll learn what affordable equipment you need to make your own scrim and the step-by-step process of how Karl makes his own scrims.

Class objectives:

  • Demonstration of how to create a DIY scrim for photography
  • Outline the necessary equipment/tools for making a scrim
  • Explanation of why scrims are useful for photography lighting

What you’ll need:

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

Other photography classes you may find useful include our ‘Creating DIY photography backdrops‘ class and ‘Making a canvas backdrop‘ class.

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

NOTE: This class is available with English subtitles and automatic translations.


  1. Hi Karl! Finally got my hands on some Lee 216. I made myself a frame that’s 4ft x 6ft, but it’s quite large and will likely be cumbersome in my small studio. Would I be ok if I cut it down to 4ft x 4ft? Or am I better off leaving it at 4ft x 6ft? Thanks!

  2. AWESOME!!! Thank you Karl for showing how easy it is to make not only a scrim but how easy it is to create things needed for around the studio with just some simple tools and a little patience.

  3. Hi Karl,

    Are we still able to purchase the Lee diffusion rolls 216 from your shop?

    Thanks for all you help!

  4. Hi Karl,

    I see you using the 152cm wide scrim Lee Filter 216 when shooting product photography, I have the 121cm wide scrim. Will it give similar results or different results? Correct me If I’m wrong, the only thing I can possibly think is that the Extra 30cm difference will give more spread of diffused light. What do think?

    1. Hi Ahmad, you are exactly right and the bigger size also helps on products that curve away such as the sunglass shoot because you need a bigger scrim area to fill a curved object.

  5. Hi. Thank you for all the information you deliver in this courses.
    Is there a way to get wide tracing paper or Lee 216? I cannot find anything wider than 123cm. The links are not working.
    Thank you,

  6. If 1.5m wide paper isn’t available, can you just join (for example) 2 x 75cm wide sheets side-by-side? Or would the join show up in the image?

    1. Hi Tim, 1.5m is available from LEE. Joining 2 sheets will show a join in gloss reflections of light, how distinguishable it is depends on how well you join and how willing you are to photoshop it. I’d highly recommend sourcing the 1.5m wide.

  7. Thanks Karl and team, these videos are so informative and I love Karl’s dad humour.

    I had a question. Would savage translum be interchangeable with frosted acrylic sheets (I think over there you call it Perspex)? I have noticed in some shoots you the frosted acrylic and in some other (broncolor videos) you use a type of translum.

    Thanks, from Canada

  8. Hi Karl,
    Any idea where to find tracing paper in the US? The max size I could find is 48 inch.

  9. Hi Karl,
    If I will make a double sheet scrim from Lee 216 and Lee 250 will it be much difference in shape/smoothness of the gradient or just the difference will be in stops of light lost?

    1. Hi, no need to double with the LEE material as it already diffuses perfectly, in this chapter I was using tracing paper so needed to double it.

  10. Hello! Would any standard tracing paper on amazon work for this? For a more budget friendly alternative.



  11. Like this idea, Would greaseproof paper be a suitable alternative to tracing paper? I am thinking in terms of it being heatproof to a higher level.

    1. Hi Nikki, it wouldn’t diffuse the light correctly I feel. I’d just order yourself the actual proper diffusion material that we use. I’ve emailed you the options.

  12. Hi Karl, Mario from Portugal.
    What’s the difference between tracing paper and normal diffusers like westcott scrim or Alzo diffuser w/ frame?
    Have you tracing paper in your store?
    Thanks in advance!

  13. Hi Karl, is there any fabric that can be used instead of the diffusion material used in the video and still produce good results ?

  14. I just want to make very small ones to test first, as I only have speedlights for now. What gsm would you recommend for basic tracing paper?

    1. Hi Tod, tracing paper will work and the GSM doesn’t matter as you can double the paper. If you are not sure just take a torch and shine it through some first to see how well it diffuses.

  15. Hey Karl my studio is kinda small 2.3 is so big do u think 120*120 is good for most situations or no ..i just get savage medium wight and i was about to make the frame but when i see your video i got confused about the size

    1. Hi I’d try and go for longer in one direction. Personally I’d want the 150cm wide paper so at least 150 x 150.

  16. Hey Karl,

    Am only curious, is there a way to make a bigger scrim to light a side of car for example?

    Thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Amr, sometimes very large sheets of fabric are used but this would not be my preferred option for car photography, which would be to use a huge solid white floating panel above the car that you then shine your lights up into and that reflects back down on the car.

  17. This is very helpful, thank you!
    Do you also show how your (gray and white) “studio blocks” are build? (The ones you use for laying perspex on, standing a model on it etc.)

    Thank you for your help!

  18. Hey Karl,

    Have you found there is a smallest functional size of a scrim? I presume it’s relative to product size and desired effect, but curious if you’ve found anything you’ve made that’s just collecting dust. Is bigger always better? I still shoot a fair bit of tabletop work in a garage studio space and often work solo, so looking to eek out any space/mounting advantages I can.

    I also noticed you’ve mounted handles on some of yours. I’ve been looking for something with a pin sticking out so I can mount in a grip head and rotate easily, but haven’t found anything. Have you looked for such a beast?

    Any thoughts appreciated.



    1. Hi Jim, your comment about relative to product size is correct but it is also relative to product shape, the more curved a glossy product then the bigger and closer the scrim will need to be. You don’t need the handles I just use the wooden frames now and clip them into my grips.

  19. Hi there
    In the list on the right
    I guess we should read 2.3m instead of 1.3m…

    Thank you for your amazing job

  20. Hi Karl. I live in France.
    It’s necessary to have the both sides ?
    And what’s the difference for you between 1 side or 2 side for the diffusion ?
    Kind regards

    1. This is back when Karl used to use tracing paper, and to get the best graduation one side would be too thin, now Karl only ever uses one side but instead of using tracing paper he uses LEE 216 diffusion material, it gives a much better graduation and is a lot safer as tracing paper is a real fire hazard when using so close to bare bulb lights

  21. Hi Karl, Thank you so much for your very helpful advice and the associated product referral. I really appreciate it. Hope you had a lovely weekend, Brian

  22. Hi Karl, I hope you are keeping well.

    If you don’t have the room to store a large homemade scrim, would a collapsible commercial scrim, such as the Lastolite Skylite or the California Sunbounce Pro 4×6 (with a diffusion panel), deliver a level of graduated light that meets the required standards for commercial photography? If not, I understand Lee produces a roll of the 216 diffusion material, which is 1.22m (4ft) wide. I could easily tape/clip that to my Sunbounce frame, as it features the same width dimension.

    Thanks in advance for your advice. I found the video very helpful and am loving the new education platform. Keep up the good work. All the best, Brian

    1. Hi Brian, the collapsible scrims don’t graduate the light properly for product photography due to the material that they are made from. They are OK for simple diffusion but thats about it. I now use Lee 216 or the thick Lee lux 400 on the roll and tape to a wooden frame but I also use it on the roll just hanging from a C-stand as you will see in some of my other tutorials. The rolls are also available in 1.5m wide by 7m long which give you a bigger area which is better. We sell the rolls and as a member you get 15% off these prices, they are listed on our old site at the moment here if you want to order from us just contact us by email and we can arrange this for you. Cheers Karl.

      1. Hi Karl,

        are the rolls (Lee 216) you’re referring too material or paper?

        On the old site where I was a member it refers to material and on the video its paper?


        1. Hi Richie they are a type of paper, similar to tracing paper that architects used to use. But they are a bit tougher and more fire resistant and also designed to diffuse the light better. They are not a fabric.

          1. Hi Karl,

            Do you prefer the 3/4 stop reduction or 1 1/2 stop reduction with the Lee 216?


          2. Hi Jonathan, I’m sorry to say that I have no idea or do I really think it matters! I can check the rolls that we use if you like but I use exactly the same ones that we sell in our shop.

  23. Hello Karl,
    What’s the advantage of having your scrim double sided and how many stop do they “cost” you ?
    Thanks and regards,

    1. Hi Lionel, There was an advantage when using tracing paper as it gave better diffusion, however now I use Lee diffusion rolls 216 and these give much better diffusion so you only need one sheet.

      1. Have you tried Lee 129 Karl? I much prefer it to 216 but never really see it in studios for some reason. It kills an extra 2/3rd stop but it gives much more diffusion and best of all is a little thicker than 216

          1. Hi Karl,
            as you have both: besides the 30 cm less width of Lee 400, is there a difference to the Lee 216?
            Thank you!

          2. Hi Jens, the first one you mentioned gives a slightly stronger diffusion but I get by with the other one nearly all of the time.

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