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DIY Ice Light
Equipment

DIY Ice light by Kim Young via Click it Up a Notch

Have you heard of the Ice Light? Well, it is an awesome portable continuous light source that is handheld, dimmable, and lightweight. Sounds awesome, right? Well it is. It is also around $500. While that is a very valid investment if you will use it often. But most of us may not know how often we would really use it. That is the boat I was in.

So I made a DIY version of it for about $30! I wanted to see how often I would actually use it before I bought a real Ice Light. I ended up falling in love with my “cheapy” version.

DIY Ice Light

You will need an LED handheld work light and masking tape. I bought a Wel-Bilt brand work light, but it is no longer available.  I did find one practically exactly like it on Amazon.

Pro-Series brand work light that should work fantastically for this project.
DIY Ice Light

As you can see the LED lights are behind clear plastic. I wanted to soften and diffuse the look of these bright LED lights.

DIY Ice Light

I covered the clear area exposing the LED lights with masking tape. It took about three rows of masking tape side by side going down the length of the light to cover mine. After sharing this with quite a few friends, some friends have used Contact paper to diffuse the light or wrapped sheer fabric around their light. I think the LED lights are quite cool, so warming them up with masking tape helped me. Go ahead and experiment and find out what gives you the results you desire.
DIY Ice Light

After covering the LED panel with masking tape, you can see the area is obviously more diffused and should give off a softer glow.
DIY Ice Light

My favorite feature of using a work light is that is has built in hooks. One hook at the top to hang, and one hook at the bottom, too. You can also use these hooks to hang the light horizontally.

Since the work light is not dimmable, you will have to think of it as a prime lens. To get the desired looks, you will have to move closer or further away. It is fantastic for creating dramatic lighting or using as a fill light source, too.
DIY Ice Light

Here is a photo I took of my daughter’s tutu. I just couldn’t get the look I was wanting with any available natural light in my house. So out came my DIY Ice Light.
DIY Ice Light
This is a pull back of that photo. I have the tutu and the light laying on my hope chest. The natural light that was available in that spot was awful, but with the DIY Ice Light I got the exact look I had envisioned in my head.
DIY Ice Light

I know you were wondering “How big is this light?” Here is a shot of me holding it my hand. As you can see it is not too big at all. It does not fit in my camera bag with the bag zipped close, though. You can always find a shorter work light if you wish to carry it around more easily. But remember the less LED lights, the less lumens it will put out. That makes it less bright.

I have told you that the work light differs from the Ice Light in that it is not dimmable. You have also seen that you need to diffuse the light on a work light, too.

But what are the similarities?

Both light sources are rechargeable. Oh yes, you read that correctly…rechargeable! The work light I shared in the above link actually comes with a car charger, too. Cool! Both lights are handheld and lightweight, which is very convenient. Both have hooks, so they can be stabilized without being handheld as well. Both are very cool (and fun) accessories to help experiment and grow in your photography.

Obviously the Ice Light from Wescott has every detail thought out to help the photographer. Is a modified work light as good as a Wescott Ice Light? No way. But is it a good value for $30? You betcha!!

Now you can experiment and play with a cheaper portable light source to see if you would really use the real version enough to justify the expense. That was my initial plan, but now have fallen in love with my DIY version and will use that $500 towards a new lens. You know you were thinking the same thing. ;)

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36 Comments
  • Nathan
    February 13, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    Now we need a tech geek to show us how to add a dimmer capabilities. Variable pot inline with the LEDs? I dont’ know, but I imagine someone with some electric know how could add a dimmer to this.

    • Stan Rogers
      February 20, 2014 at 4:41 PM

      LEDs aren’t actually dimmable (for all practical purposes). To make them *appear* dimmable, you need to make them blink very quickly (several thousand or tens of thousands of times each second) then change the amount of time they are on and off during each blink cycle. It’s easy enough to do that (you can use anything from a 555 timer IC and a power transistor to a full-on Arduino programmable control circuit) but it starts getting expensive (and, let’s face it, *intimidating* for anyone who isn’t at least an electronics hobbyist). It would probably be easier for most people to get a dimmable LED solution (like the strings of LEDs you see people making panels from all over the web, which have their own dimmer circuit in the box) and create their own wand from that than to try to shoehorn a dimmer circuit into an existing wand.

    • February 20, 2014 at 9:40 PM

      Check out the NOS high powered LED lights at Autozone.com. They’re about $30 and you can adjust the light intensity. The one draw back is that they aren’t round, so the light is a little more directional…

  • February 13, 2014 at 12:53 PM

    I have that kind of LED light. I’ll go buy the masking tape. Great idea!

  • February 13, 2014 at 1:13 PM

    Thank you so much for this idea!

  • February 13, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    I love this, such a great idea and especially the amount in savings!

  • David
    February 13, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    This is a great idea and I already have one in my work room.

  • February 13, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    Ha! I have often looked at my husband’s light like this and thought about using it. Never thought about diffusing the light, though. Now I will. hahaha sorry honey….

  • February 13, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    Thank you for this great idea! No way did I have $500 to try out the Ice Light, but it definitely intrigued me so I will be trying out this cheaper version to see how much I use it.

  • February 13, 2014 at 3:32 PM

    I just started using the softbox app on my ipad Would this produce a similar kind of light to the DIY ice light? ie its a portable diffused light source – the ipad allows you to make it the size of the ipad or smaller. Just wondering what the difference (if any) would be? Thanks – love this page :)

    • Kim Young
      February 13, 2014 at 4:31 PM

      Claire, I don’t think this will produce the same kind of light. The Softbox app is really cool and I am unfamiliar with how much lumen is produced by it, so I cannot give an accurate response for this. My tool light is 300 lumen and most this size range from 300-400 lumen. But of course the Softbox app does different shapes and other stuff, too. They both can be used for the same thing. But a tool light is easier to be used as a handheld while shooting than an ipad would be. But on the other side, the ipad app has different shapes and different uses, too. I think both of these would be awesome tools to have for playing with light.

      • February 13, 2014 at 5:54 PM

        thanks Kim – “easier to be used handheld” would be a definite advantage as would the hook on your DIY Ice light. Using the ipad for photographing sleeping children always carries a danger of dropping it on them!! thanks for the reply

  • Jamie Oliphint
    February 13, 2014 at 5:23 PM

    I bought 2 of these lights over Christmas at Sears. They were half off! I hadn’t figured out the tape thing, what a great idea!

  • February 14, 2014 at 12:02 PM

    Thanks for sharing, Kim! My husband owns one of these lights, so I’m looking forward to experimenting with it. I’ll be trying different non-permanent wraps on it :)

  • February 14, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    What a great idea! And the geek in me thinks it’s also like having your own light saber. Ahem.

  • February 16, 2014 at 9:07 PM

    Brilliant, and thank you for the pulled back shot. My mind is whirling with fun ideas now.

  • February 17, 2014 at 9:23 AM

    Bought one for my husband for Christmas last year! Even then, kept thinking how much it looked like an IceLight. His has a light at the very end too which could be used as a snoot light for dramatic Hollywood lighting. Super excited to use these! Thanks!

  • February 20, 2014 at 4:38 PM

    I never thought to use masking tape, I bought mine from Canadian Tire.
    Here is a BTS
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/wavesummit/8749825209/

  • Lee
    February 20, 2014 at 7:06 PM

    The co-inventor of the original ice light Jerry Ghionis ought to be afraid of such cheaper knockoffs that practically does the same job at a far less fraction of the price.

  • Jessica
    February 21, 2014 at 4:48 AM

    I have a small light similar to this, it doesn’t emit enough light, but this one looks at least 2xs as big, maybe 3. Has anyone actually compared it to the icelight? And @ Lee, sure he should be afraid, but where do you think he got the idea. These things have been around since before icelights.

  • February 21, 2014 at 4:36 PM

    I ordered the light from the link you provided and I just want to warn all that what I received was not a 160 LED hang-able light but an inferior 30 LED non hang-able 10 inch light. The seller is Unbeatable Sales Inc. They are now trying to offer me 15% off the junk they sent or, I can return it provided I PAY return shipping AND insurance.
    Please beware.

  • Kim
    February 24, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    Renee, the link through Amazon should be for the seller Stores123. I made sure I did a little research to find the seller with an excellent rating and a high volume of sales to ensure a good experience. I have no idea how the product would be so different. I know I would be upset if I received a 30 LED light because that simply is not enough lumen to use for this purpose. I don’t know how you were connected to the other seller. :/

  • Wow, very clever! ICELIGHT is a very great brand, but very expensive indeed. I bought one and i love it. I bring it to every wedding.The only problem with icelight is that, it is pricey and you will want to have another one. With this DIY, I won’t need to pay more. thanks!

  • March 6, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    It’s only $25.95 here Folks!!! http://www.meatprocessingproducts.com/buf-ledwl160.html
    Thanks for sharing this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I want to try it out and in for a pair :)

  • Rebecca
    March 17, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    Is the tape masking tape or scotch tape? It looks clear.
    Thanks! Great idea!

  • March 28, 2014 at 3:31 PM

    Great idea !!! I have one and though the light to be a bit to cool so I wrapped a CTO gel around it. Maybe the masking tape and the CTO might work better!!

  • August 13, 2014 at 1:59 PM

    this is such a great idea! 2 of my friends have ice lights and they’re wonderful but I’m not on the same level as them and not ready to spend the $500 for one. This will be my project before my wedding next month!

  • September 3, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    Excellent article, as they say great minds think alike. I’ve also made my own lce Light, as there’s no way in the world I’d pay silly money for what is basically a work lamp.
    Our versions may not be dimmable, but I’ve got a dial on my camera that allows me to control ambient light. It works. :)

  • October 15, 2014 at 2:44 AM

    I have been using a light just like this and defused it with contact since January and love it. I too couldn’t justify spending upwards of $400 for the real thing as I wasn’t sure how often I would use it. I now never leave home without it :)

  • Patti A
    October 16, 2014 at 9:15 AM

    After reading this yesterday, and also had read previously, I stopped at Auto Zone and bought one. Of course I found one that is almost 36 inches long it was $39.00…total light saber! Can’t wait to play…..hopefully the longer length wont be an issue.

  • Anne
    December 29, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    Hi, how good is this to use outside? How many people would it give sufficient light for? Thanks

  • January 14, 2015 at 5:45 PM

    I have a little black dog. It’s so hard to get a picture of her because of lighting. And trust me, she’s too cute not to. Someone just sent me this link. I’m so excited. Thank you!

  • Maria
    March 9, 2016 at 10:26 AM

    I Love, Love, Love DIY!!! can already think of a few uses for this. Thanks so much.

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