Saturday, July 16, 2016

DIY PVC Scrim Plans with Folding Legs

Call it a diffusion panel, call it a reflector, or throw black fabric over it and call it a flag. Whatever you want to call it, it's worth making one and keeping it in your studio. You'll save a lot compared to buying one and you can customize it to suit your needs. I looked at a few different DIY diffusion panel designs out there and they didn't work for me so I came up with my own.

With a translucent fabric on the frame it can create a very beautiful soft light by placing a light behind it and shooting through. With the same white sheet you can place it opposite your main light and use it as a reflector to lighten the shadow side of your subject. To block stray light and create higher contrast shots drape a black sheet over the frame.

For me, I wanted a big scrim. The diffusion area of mine will be about 7'6" tall by 4'6" wide. Plus a little extra height for the legs. I wanted it to stand on it's own and I also wanted to be able to store it against the wall easily. That's why the legs can fold up so everything is flat.

These are the legs when in use.

And these are the legs folded. I originally was going to keep them longer for more stability but decided to trim them down to 14" on the long side so they don't overlap. I'll be adding weight to the feet instead.

I built it out of 3/4" schedule 40 PVC pipe and fittings.It's sturdy enough but 1" PVC would probably be better for something this size. It's stable for indoor use.


I got everything but the fabric at my local Home Depot.  You can get away with 2 yards of fabric if you make the scrim shorter.
  • 3 3/4" Schedule 40 PVC pipe 10' each
  • 4 90 degree 3/4" PVC elbows
  • 4 3/4" PVC Tees
  • 4 3/4" PVC end caps 
  • 3 yards  of white 48g per yard or so rip stop nylon fabric (60" wide)
  • Cement


  • Saw or tubing cutter
  • 150 grit or similar sandpaper
  • pencil
  • tape measure

Layout and Components

You'll probably want to make some changes to the design to make it a suitable size for your needs. This is the largest size I can comfortably work with but I do plan on making a second scrim that's slightly smaller. The fittings I used allow 3/4" of the pipe to slip in. That's probably standard but if for some reason your fittings are different, make adjustments.

You can cut the pipes to length using a saw but I prefer to use a little tubing cutter. It makes a clean cut and no PVC dust to clean up!


This is pretty simple. Just stick the pipes in the fittings according the diagram. You only need to do something special for the feet so the legs of the scrim can fold up.

The mechanism that makes the feet swivel is pretty simple. Just a 2" section of PVC pipe and 2 Tee fittings, times 2 for 2 feet.

There is a little trick to get the feet to swivel. After inserting the 2" pipe into one of the 2 fittings, sand the exposed part of the pipe just enough so that the 2nd tee fitting fits snug enough so that it doesn't fall out but is loose enough so that it can spin.

Weighing Down the Feet

The frame is pretty stable as is but I know I get really focused on what's in the viewfinder and bump into things all the time if I'm moving around. For now I'm using sandbags on the back (long) parts of the feet. When I have some time I'll fill the feet with cement. Doesn't need to be any fancy, quick-setting, hydraulic, gourmet cement. Any cement product you have laying around or a small bag or box of something cheap should do. Glue the cap on the end of the section of foot, mix up some cement and fill each foot up. When the cement has cured, reassemble the feet.

Scrim Fabric

For the diffusion fabric I used 3 yards of white rip stop nylon.

You can just clamp it to the frame or if you can sew or know someone who can so some rod pockets around the edges it will give a nicer appearance. Or, if you're like me who can't really sew but had access to a sewing machine you can try to do it yourself. It doesn't have to be perfect.

DIY Scrim in Action

Finally got a chance to put my homemade scrim in action when I photographed TigerLillyCosplay. It works better than I expected.


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