How to Make a Scrim

Want to create gorgeous gradients? Take your photography to the next level with this homemade modifier.

Professional product photographers use scrims to create beautiful gradient lighting. In fact, for product and still life photography, a scrim is one of the most essential pieces of lighting equipment you can own. In this class, you’ll learn how to build one for yourself.

But why use a scrim rather than a softbox? Because unlike a softbox, you can position a scrim at different distances and angles from your light source and subject. This enables you to achieve different gradient lighting effects while maintaining soft light. Best of all, a scrim is an affordable lighting modifier that you can easily make yourself and use for many different types of photography.

Watch the step-by-step class to discover the materials and methods you need to make your own scrim.

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)

Karl uses gradient lighting to photograph products in many Visual Education classes. Check out One-Light Lipstick Product Shoot and Whisky Photography for two great examples.

If you enjoy this class, try Creating DIY Photography Backdrops.

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. Karl,

    First, thank you for the quality of the content on your site. I feel like there is no better value out there than what you’re teaching.

    How would you build a scrim to be portable enough to bring on location? I have a semi-recurring shoot that would benefit from lighting with scrims. Side lighting is easy using the method you show where you hang the roll on a stand. But I need to be able to hang a larger scrim over my subject so transporting a fully built scrim would be difficult. It seems like the portable versions (Westcott Scrim Jim) are pricey and get mixed reviews. Not sure if you’ve ever made a portable version for your own use. Or perhaps you have experience with something that is readily available.

    Thank you again for all you share with us.


    1. Hi Randy, thank you for your kind words and support, that’s much appreciated. I’ve not made a portable version i’m afraid because you can’t fold the paper but as you know it can be on a roll. What I have done as you will see in this shoot is use a roll at stretch it between two points from above which can work and could be considered portable if you have the stands to attach it to:

      1. Thank you for the quick response Karl. I found that method from your motorcycle shoot after I posted my question. I think that is my best option. I appreciate the help.

  2. I’m from pakistan. I’m not able to find diffusion paper. Diffusion fabric can be found. Will that works?

    1. Hi, yes if the fabric has the correct weave and diffuses correctly but you will have to test it to see what the reflection of the light/fabric looks like on your glossy products. Alternatively you might be able to find tracing paper on rolls that architects use for drawings.

  3. Hi Karl

    I’ve been searching for 1.52 width but mostly seeing 1.22. I also live in the UK – which supplier do you use?

    1. Hi Nigel, Robert White should be able to get you the 1.52 wide rolls, if not try filmmaking supply shops, the wider rolls are largely used in the film industry.

  4. Hi Karl and lovely team,
    I have two questions for you guys:
    First one, I would love to know what size is the small scrim frame that we see in this video in background, I would randomly guess something about 0.7×0.7m ?
    How many scrim frames and sizes you recommend for one product studio to have in stock?

    Second one, for water special effect, should I use Lee 271 silver mirror filter?


    1. Hi, the square scrim frame in the background is 1m x 1m and we also have 3x the same as the one i’m making in this video. How many scrims we would use varies depending on the product and angle we are shooting, scrim frames are most useful when you need to get the above for top lighting but for side lighting we often just use a roll of scrim paper hanging on a C-stand as you will see in many of our videos. Occassionally we need to ‘box’ in the product with lighting and that will have one large scrim above and one either side (usually just on the roll not in a frame) but again you will see this in many of our classes. For your second question I’m not quite clear on what you mean? If you mean to make the look of water refraction caustics on a wall or subject then you can use any mirrored surface that you can disturb it’s shape easily, try baking foil first as a test.

  5. Hello,
    Want to find out if the is equivalent to paper like fabric. I’m thinking paper will torn and the scrim is too big to have it in my apartment and too big for transport. I want to built something foldable. But I’m unsure if any fabric will have the same result of light and diffusion as LEE filters paper.

    1. Hi Nick, some fabrics designed for scrims in the film industry work well but I’m afraid I don’t know which ones they are.


    Thanks for the learning I just made the same size you did with Lee 216, I just experienced an issue which while pulling on paper to make it strait, I realized that the two long wood sides got a little bit warped, they are concave a bit but paper is flat so its fine I guess.

    – Did you try to make two layers of LEE Filter 216 to make even softer or its not necessary?

  7. 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. John

          I got excited as I’m in the US but going to both of your links, they both are discontinued. 🙁

    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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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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