Lightbox Tips, Tricks, and Ideas

Hello! If you have been on Instagram and Facebook lately, you may have noticed a huge craze going on with the Heidi Swapp lightbox!  I've received a lot of emails and messages asking about it so I wanted to answer all those questions for you in this post.  Keep reading to learn about the box itself and I'll be giving you some tips, tricks, and ideas for using your lightbox in your classroom :-) I have placed direct Amazon affiliate links in this post for your convenience.

The first half of this post is all about the lightbox and printing tips. If you would like to check out the ideas, please go to the bottom of this post :-)

  • First of all, what is a lightbox?
The Heidi Swapp lightbox is a marquee style box that literally lights up.  This is what it looks like in the package. 

**Edit- There are now many other lightboxes on the market! You can get one from Target and Walmart too! My inserts now fit all of them. I highly recommend the Walmart box because it includes a power cable, letters, and the price tag is unbeatable at $9.99**

  • Where can you get one?
I picked mine up from Michael's. It was on sale 40% off so it cost less than $25.  If you find that the box is not on sale, get a coupon from any craft store and you can use it at Michael's to get it 40% off.  Hobby Lobby also carries them and they always have 40% coupons on their website and their app.  Some teachers are having a hard time finding one in their area.  Jennifere from Heidi Swapp reached out and offered us some help in finding one!  You can email her at and she can help you out :-) 

If you don't have any local craft stores near you, another option is Amazon. You can order it below:

  • How is it powered? 
You can use batteries to power the lightbox.  You will need three C batteries. The great thing about this option is that you can put the box anywhere in your home/classroom!  It has two recessed holes along the top so you can hang even it up!  

The other option is to use the USB cord it comes with. The package does not include a wall charger so it needs to be plugged into a computer or a USB wall charger.  I've been using an old iPhone charger.  If you don't have one, you can get one pretty cheap from Target, Walmart, and Amazon.

Once you have the power source taken care of, you can turn it on and off with the power button on the side of the box. Do you have an "electrician" or "lights person" as a classroom job?  I have a student that takes care of the lights and lamps in the classroom, so this will be part of that job.  I think I'm going to have many kids wanting to be the electrician this year! 

  • What accessories can I use with a lightbox? 
LOTS! The lightbox does not include any letters or slides.  You get the box and the power cord in the package. If you head to your local craft store, you will find so many things for your lightbox!  Letters, slides, decorative tape, mini lights, cute images.  So much stuff! Just look below!

  • Can I make my own designs?
When I went to get my lightbox, I didn't see the fonts I wanted in the store. That inspired me to try some things out.  I decided to create my own designs and see how they worked.  My mind went straight to transparencies.  I got started and it worked out perfectly! 

Here are some of my favorite designs:

  • How did I print my own designs?

You can use transparencies (the kind we used to use with overhead projectors) or vellum.

Transparency Tips

Make sure to get the kind that is compatible with your printer.  I used laser jet transparencies with my inkjet printer and the ink bubbled up and smeared. I ordered some compatible transparencies and they worked perfectly! 

Laser Jet Tips
The laser jet ones were super easy to use. The ink adhered to both sides.  Didn't matter how I fed the sheets into the printer.

Ink Jet Tips
When I was shopping for transparencies I found that they are more expensive then they were 10 years ago.  Make sure to shop around for them.  Office supply stores had them but they were very pricey.  I found a good deal on Amazon! These are the ones I picked up:

The ink jet ones required some testing.   I put them in upside down at first because I wasn't sure which side my printer would print on.
The kind I used had this removable white strip on them to help the printer pick them up.So when I put them in with the white strip facing down, the ink did not adhere because it printed on the smooth side.  I tried again and fed them in with the white strip facing up and that worked perfectly!  The ink adhered to the slightly rough side. No smearing at all!

  • Did I used a special printer?
I used my at home HP printer. No special kind! I tried multiple settings -glossy, matte, normal, and they all came out the same. I also used my black and white laser jet and it worked like a charm! 
  • Can I use anything else?
 My friend @cuteinsecond suggested vellum!  The translucent kind.  It worked well too.  This is the kind that I picked up:
I found it at Hobby Lobby.  Don't forget to use your coupon to get it 40% off.  

Here are some sample shots so that you can see how the two materials compare.

This is the transparency print:

This is the vellum print:

Here are a few shots of the two materials side by side.

This is what each type of material looks like in the lightbox. 

They are almost the same, but the transparencies are slightly brighter. Another pro for the transparencies is that they are durable and will last a long time.  You could laminate the vellum to make it last.

How can teachers use a lightbox in the classroom?

I ran a little giveaway a bit ago to win a lightbox.  In the comments teachers from around the world left ideas about how they would use one in their classroom.  So many terrific ideas! You might want to read through those comments HERE ;-) I tried to narrow the ideas down to 10, which was not easy!

As teachers, we love to find ways to make our students feel valued and special.  We want to make our classroom a positive and inviting environment. Here are some ways to accomplish that with a lightbox!

1. Birthdays
Imagine it's your birthday and you walk into the classroom and your NAME is displayed on the lightbox? I'm pretty sure that would make your day even more special!  I can't wait to do this for my kids this year!

2. Class Goals
Do you set goals for your class? Kindness goals, behavior goals, academic & testing goals?  Why not put them in the lightbox to place special focus on it?

3. Student of the Month/Week
Do you have a student of the month, week, special star student?  How awesome would it be to announce your student of the month that way?

4. Questions/Fact of the Day
Do you like to have special questions or Facts of the Day to discuss as a class? Display your question/fact in the box and have the students see it all day.

5. Welcoming New Students
I moved around a lot when I was a child.  Eleven schools between kindergarten-second grade. It was a bit scary and overwhelming when I met my new class.  Can you imagine having a welcome message with your name in the lightbox when you walk in to your new classroom?  You would know that you are welcomed and the teacher and students are happy to have you in their class! I know it would have made my day!

6. Book Quotes
Each month I focus on one Author of the Month and read one chapter book during read aloud time.  How awesome would it be to put a quote from the book in the lightbox or even the name of your Author of the Month on display here?

7. Positive Messages
Don't you love positive quotes? Take one of them and put it in the box.

8. Sight Words
Seeing a tricky word all lit up might make it a little more memorable :-)

9. Student Shout Outs
Have a student do something extra special or kind?  This would be the shout out of all time!

10. Photo Props
We love taking pictures of our kids and this lightbox would be so cute to use as a prop that they hold up!

11. Bonus
I think this would look amazing in the staff lounge displaying positive quotes, staff shout outs, and announcements for teachers to see!

The possibilities are endless!

This is probably the longest post of all time and for sure, the longest one I've written! Thank you for hanging in there and now it's time for a freebie! 

These three designs are part of my lightbox set from my TpT shop.  


You can now find many sets of inserts in my shop! Here are three that fit the Heidi Swapp, Target, and Walmart lightboxes. To pick up some fun sets, just click on the images below:

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. Have a great weekend!

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  1. AnonymousJune 18, 2016

    Loooove all of the ideas!

  2. Never heard of these before!love it !what a great way to acknowledge students birtbdays,student of the month, etc!!

  3. I. Love. This! Thanks for all the ideas and you bet I'm going to go out and get one!! Linda's Learning Loot

  4. Love these ideas! Super Cute!

  5. So I think I understand the light box now. Is it a light up sign that you put up high enough (after you have put in your message) for everyone to see when they come in the room in the morning?

    1. Hi Kate! It's just a marquee style lightbox that is used for decor. You can use it anywhere in your home or classroom. It was made for fun but I wanted to bring it into the classroom for other uses :-)

  6. Just scheduled it for my FB! Love this post! Thanks Mirabel!

  7. Thanks for giving us a better understanding and some super cute ideas!

    Teaching Tidbits and More with Jamie

  8. I am now a lightbox/design owner. Thanks for all the great designs and the info on how to use them in the classroom. But, how do you store the lightbox designs?

  9. HI there! I purchased your designs and am in love! They are fabulous! I wondered if you had any problem with the images printing smaller on Vellum paper. When I printed and cut it the vellum seemed a bit too small for the lightbox. I am most certain I am doing something wrong. I will play around with it a little bit more once I get the transparencies. Thanks for any tips!

    1. Had the same problem!

    2. Hi there! It sounds like they weren't printed in actual size. Once you change that setting, you will be good to go! Make sure to do test prints using regular copy paper :-) Please email me if you have any further questions!

  10. Don't forget to use your teacher discount on top of the 40% off at Michael's! Thanks for all the amazing ideas.

    1. They won't let us do that in Canada :(

  11. Thanks Maribel! Fabulous post and the tutorial was so helpful! (And as usual, it just made me happy to hear your voice!) Have a beautiful day!
    One Giggle At A Time

  12. I love the designs and I am so excited to start using them in my classroom! However, when I printed them out on Vellum, they were too small and wouldn't fit correctly. Is there a trick? I feel like I may have missed a key step or am doing something wrong. Your help is greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Elyse!
      It sounds like they weren't printed in actual size. Once you change that setting, you will be good to go! Make sure to do test prints using regular copy paper :-) Please email me if you have any further questions!

  13. How are you storing your transparencies? Now that I have gone off of the deep end printing these, I am looking for ideas on how to best store them. Thanks!

    1. Hi Jenny!
      I'm storing them in a binder. I'm taping them onto a piece of paper with some washi tape and then slipping that into a sheet protector. Works perfectly!

    2. I was thinking the same thing! Thank you for sharing your organization tip!

  14. I purchased your lightbox designs but when I printed them they were a hair too short for my lightbox. Did I do something wrong?

  15. I purchased your lightbox designs but when I printed them they were a hair too short for my lightbox. Did I do something wrong?

    1. Gracie, could you email me when you get a chance? My email is in file :-)

  16. Purchased these today and have begun to get carried away with a few different designs... although I should probably be vacuuming... oh well! Just wondering, could you please tell me where you got the graphics with the eyes (sushi, ruler, books, etc). They're super cute!

    1. I found them on Easy :-) So much cute clip art out there!

  17. Thank you for the hack. I have the Mini lightbox and was so thrilled with it until it tilted and all the letter fell out. Some refills were missing letters. So this DYI is so needed. Thanks again!

  18. I have purchased you totally cute mini lightbox slides. I wanted to create my own slides. I know that you offer a blank template for your regular lightbox slides. Is it possible to get a template for the mini? Thanks!!

  19. Amazing! Just purchased these and I am so excited to use them and create my own! Thank you for this awesome tutorial! You just saved me lots of time trying to work it out myself!

  20. Thank you for your tutorial. I am so excited to start using my lightbox! Am I able to download just the Powerpoint editable template?

    1. Hi Laura,
      This set does include a completely blank template for you to use :-)

  21. Hi there! We have TONS of the old transparencies (the kind that went through the photocopier) at school. Do you think I could use those?

    1. Hi Craig,
      I would try them out but they might be for a laser printer. That was what happened with mine. I printed on laser printer transparencies and the ink never dried. That is when I found out that inkjet printers need different material. The exact ones I used with my printer are linked in the post above.

      Just make sure that it's compatible with your printer and they will work :-)

  22. Another question...was wondering if a portable charger might work for this. Do you know what I mean? The kind that you charge up and then use to charge your phone? That way, you wouldn't need to position the light box close to a plug (I only have 3 in my room) or the computer. Thoughts?

    1. Yes Craig! I'm so excited to use my powerbank to make my lightbox even more versatile! I can place it anywhere in my room and tuck the powerbank behind it! :-)

  23. If you ever consider selling these in your own store, I would totally buy them. Unfortuantely I have a HP deskjet printer and I dont think transparencies are compatible with it and I found that out after I purchased some inserts :(

  24. How do you organize your inserts? I'm trying to find the best way to keep them nice and easy to find when not in use.

    1. I was just about to ask this question...I was thinking in a binder with plastic sleeves. Good luck! :-)


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