Light Painting Spirographs Tutorial

Spirographs are surprisingly easy to create and the results can be pretty spectacular. Spirals, ovals, straight bouncing lines with a myriad of colors—there’s no limit to what you can do with a little bit of imagination. This technique, as explained by Jason D. Page, is all about standard light painting using the bulb mode on your camera with small light sources to produce cool effects over long exposures:

What You Need

  1. flashlight
  2. universal connector
  3. string to hang the flash from
  4. light pen
  5. tape to attach the flash light with the string
  6. UV filter

Setting Up the Light

The key is to make sure that your flashlight hangs straight down over the camera (for this reason the camera is placed on a table flat on its back, looking straight up). Take the string, make a small loop by tying the ends with the tape, and then tie the loop around the flashlight.

setting up to shoot spirographs

Tie a loop with the string and tape.

The next step is to hang it from the ceiling somehow looking straight down.

Next, take the universal connector and attach it to the flashlight snugly so that it doesn’t slip off.

tips on shooting spirographs

Attach the flashlight attached to the universal connector.

Now, attach the light pen to the universal connector.

Light pen for making spirographs

Light Pen

The light pen is a contraption that further reduces the light produced by a flash light and in doing so produces a very fine line.

setting up to shoot a spirograph

Flashlight with the universal connector and light pen

Attach the UV filter to your camera lens. The placement of the camera is critical, as it has to be directly below the light arrangement. The UV filter is your insurance just in case something goes wrong. At least your expensive lens will be safe; the filter will bear the brunt of any impact.

To make the exposures, just swing the light. Let it settle down in a pattern before you start the exposure. Don’t swing it too hard; that will push it beyond the frame. It also helps if you use a wide angle lens and a small aperture.

Camera Settings

Page typically shoots his spirographs at ISO 100, f/16, and Bulb mode (average 30 seconds exposure).

Pro tip: You can mix two or more colors to produce excellent results. All you have to do is switch different light pens in between an exposure. Just cover the lens with a piece of cardboard, swap the light pens very quickly, and take the cardboard off of the lens.

how to make spirographs

multi-colored spirograph

creating spirographs

If you try this, show us your results in the comments!

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5 responses to “Light Painting Spirographs Tutorial”

  1. Karen White says:

    Clear instructions and amazing, beautiful photographs. I’d like to know if there is anywhere in the UK that sells these light pens, universal connector and accessories.

  2. Laura Lea Evans says:

    How about in the US for the universal connector. Unable to locate that on amazon! Would love to try this technique. Amazon does have light pens, fyi.

  3. Lorne Riddell says:

    Where do you find the the light pens and universal connectors and accessories Great article looks fun thanks

  4. Glen M says:

    Many times this process of using light is referred to as light painting. I have to disagree. This is light drawing and is much easier than light painting. The term light painting should only be used when the source of the light (usually a flashlight of some kind) is used to actually illuminate the subject. One process is drawing in space and the other way is illuminating a subject. Please let’s try to amend the terminology.

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