How to Make a Scrim

A scrim is a DIY lighting modifier, 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. This enables you to create different gradient lighting effects while maintaining soft light. Best of all, they are affordable lighting modifiers 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.

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. Jerry

    I am curious if there is another material that would work like the Lee 316 that I could use for product photography but would also work when doing video interviews outdoors.

    I try to have tools that are as multipurpose as possible.


        1. Hi, yes maybe that would work. I wouldn’t know for sure with out testing the material to see what sort of gradation it provides.

    1. Hi, if you mean does adding a sheet of diffusion on each side of the frame make the light softer the answer is no. Light only gets softer based on it getting bigger. Adding two layers of diffusion material just changes how the gradient of light fall of on the scrim looks therefore affecting how it looks on gloss surfaces.

  2. Hey Karl and team,
    I’m noticing that a roll of paper like this is quite expensive, not including the time and potential trial and error it takes to build. What’s the advantage of building one vs getting something like this?

    1. Hi Andy, the roll of Lee diff should be about $100 7m long. Some of the fabric ones are OK but some of them have a terrible fabric that doesn’t gradient the light properly and causes a ‘starburst’ shape through the fabric.

      1. Good point, I have definitely noticed that starburst effect on cheap softboxes and scrims now that you mention it.

        What about constructing a scrim out of a sheet of polypropylene, like what is used for the light cone? Or even diffused acrylic (although acrylic can get expensive quick)

        1. Hi, LEE diff is less expensive and just as effective but acrylic works really well too when you need a more rigid piece. You’ll se me using that in other courses.

    1. Hi, I don’t have a link but it is LEE 216 diffussion material 1.52m wide roll, 7m long – it is usually available from film/cinema or studio suppliers.

  3. HI! Thank you so much for putting this course together. How large should the scrim be? The one in your video looks quite large. Is the size something that can be variable or do you have a recommendation?

    1. Hi thank you. You can make them any size you like I’ve got a whole bunch of sizes. But having a really big one is useful for a lot of stuff at least one that is 2m x 1.5m is going to be useful.

  4. What’s the material of scrim roll ? Is LEE only brand or if there are more, Can you please share more info? I stay in India. I Don’t know from where will i be able to get these.

    1. Hi, Lee is the brand, Rosco is another brand but you could also use architects tracing paper but I find the Lee one the best. Check LEE’s website for dealers.

  5. Hey, between Lee 216 and the Lee 400 Leelux, is there any reason to prefer one over the other? They both are rated 1 1/2 stop and 36% light transmission as far as I can tell, so is there any difference in usage?

    1. Hi, I wouldn’t have known the transmission value or the amount of fstop loss as that’s not important. What is important is the ‘look’ of the diffusion gradient. Both do a very good job, I would say the 400Lux is slightly better and its main advantage is it is a stiffer tougher material.

      1. Thanks – both are equally expensive here in my country (like 130 USD) so I will go for the 400Lux then. 😀

        1. Hi Teremis, yes that sounds about right, we pay about £80 for a roll that is 1.52m wide by 7m long.

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