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. 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.

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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,

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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. 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…

  9. Hi all,

    since the question comes up a lot I would like to share some experinece with making scrims.

    Before I got my first LEE 216 I used cheap diffusion fabric from Amazon on wooden frames, using a staple gun to fix the fabric on the frame (Gaffa will not hold for long). If you put the fabric on both sides of the frame the light gradation gets very smooth and eliminates almost all the problems that occure from the fabric mesh. Similar effect when using two collapsible diffusors on top of each other – just better with the fabric stretched on a frame, because you can get rid of all the wrinkles. Even when shooting very close up with a 50MP Canon 5Ds I only see minimal difference to the LEE216 when zooming in – might be my eyes getting weaker at 42, hope that’s not the case 😉

    Takes away a lot of light – roughly 1 stop per layer, so 2 stops in total – but works very good. It is a long lasting (worked for 3 years without changing fabric or cleaning it) and a cheap option, especially if you are training yourself or creating a portfolio it absolutely is sufficient. As a professional with assignments/jobs sure you would update to the diffusion paper since it is much more versatile and provides the last 2% image quality.

    Cheers
    Neri

    1. Thanks for the information Neri. Although how does the material compare in price to a 7m roll of LEE that you’d get 2 good scrims from?

      1. Good question Karl, I should have explained that. It is cost efficient over the long usage time. Especially if you work in a very small room and you are clumsy and stumble over stuff a lot like me. The fabric is quite resilient and if the frame brakes it can be reused.

        To get this straight – I would always recommend the LEE 216, just wanted to point out that the fabric solutions have their place and can be a charm to work with – limitations considered…

        Disclaimer: I do not sell diffusion fabric

          1. sure thing…

            We all are at different stages. Before trying my first scrims I was only focussed on softboxes – learning about physics of light with scrims opened a whole new world. Karl Taylor Education courses brought everything to a whole new level, so that investments make actually sense. First attemps where with white baking paper and my desk lamp. In order to learn there’s really no need to spend a lot of money – that might be the biggest take away. The stuff I bought unnecessarily is a real stretch in my marriage 😉

  10. Hi Karl,

    Made these and they work well. Have you ever made the white blocks you use to place products on? They are easily available when in a professional photo studio but I am trying to make them at home out of MDF.

    Any tips?

    Thanks, Joe.

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. Hi Karl,

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

    Thanks for all you help!
    Kelly

  14. 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.

  15. 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,
    Chris

  16. 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.

  17. 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

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

  19. 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.

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

    Thanks!

    Ben

  21. 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.
    Thanks

    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.

  22. 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!

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

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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!
    Jens

  28. 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.

    Best,

    Jim

    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.

  29. 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

  30. 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

  31. 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

  32. 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 https://www.karltaylorphotography.com/lighting-diffusion-rolls.htm 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?

        Richie

        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?

            thanks,
            Jonathan

          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.

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

    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!
            Jens

          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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