How to Light Paint – The Sexy Plexi Method

Learn how to use a new and innovative light painting technique to add detailed drawings, logos or images to your long exposure photos.

In this article you can learn how to use the Sexy Plexi Method to create mind-blowing light paintings. You can watch the video above and find further details below.

A Quick Overview:

The Sexy Plexi Method is a technique where you take a piece of plexiglass and a dry-erase marker, you write or draw whatever you want, then you trace what you drew in light through the plexiglass. It leaves behind a light painting of your drawing with a natural, organic look of light as if you were free-hand light painting. It gives you a crisp, clean, awesome design that you weren’t always able to achieve free-hand.

Step 1: What You’ll Need

A sheet of plexiglass

Any size will work, depends on how large you want your canvas.

Dry-erase markers in either red or pink

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A light source

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Light stands (optional)

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clamps (optional)

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Step 2: Choose a Design

To begin, you need to decide on a design that you want to light paint. This can be anything you want. It could be a logo, a random drawing, sketch, word, pattern or whatever you can think of. I can’t stress the endless possibilities enough. 🙂

Oscar The Grouch

Step 3: Transfer Your Design to Plexiglass

Next you are going to translate your design onto the sheet of plexiglass using a red or pink dry-erase marker. You can print out and trace your design or sketch it freehand. A third option is to use a projector to project your design onto the plexiglass and trace the projected image. If you go this route, I recommend placing a white piece of paper behind the plexiglass prior to projecting the design. When drawing your design onto the plexiglass, be sure to keep in mind that you will be tracing this in the dark, so try to keep it fairly simple.Screen-Shot-2018-01-08-at-7.09.31-PMWhen explaining this technique, one of the first questions people ask is if you can see the dry-erase marker lines in the final photo. The answer is no, the brightness of the light source shines completely through the semi-transparent dry-erase marker lines.

Step 4: Position your Plexiglass

After you have finished translating your design onto your plexiglass, it’s time to set up the plexi to be standing up at a 90 degree angle. You can either use light stands and clamps to hold the plexiglass or get creative and find something to lean your plexiglass up against (stools, chairs, trash cans, etc.).

Step 5: Set up your Camera

So now you set up your tripod with your camera mounted. You want the tripod to be facing your plexiglass, The distance from the plexiglass will vary depending on your lens and focal length.

Step 6: Get to Know your Design

Take some time to familiarize yourself with tracing your design with the lights on, stand (or sit) behind the plexiglass and use your light source to follow along each line of your design. Try to mentally establish an order in which you trace the elements of your design. This will ensure that you don’t find yourself lost when tracing in the dark. 

Step 7: Test, Test, Test

Once you have practiced tracing it a few times in the light, it’s time to turn off the lights and do some test shots. You want to be somewhere that is completely dark and since you’re shining a light directly into your camera’s sensor, you want to close up the aperture pretty tight. Before you open your shutter, position your light source at a good starting point on the plexiglass. Then trigger your shutter and trace your design, turning on and off your light between separate lines that aren’t connected.

This is also the time to figure out the camera settings to achieve the best looking exposure. Your aperture and ISO settings will be dependent on the brightness of your light source. If your light source is very bright, you will probably have to shoot at a low ISO such as ISO 100 and a tight aperture such as f18-f22. An ND filter can also be useful for this situation.

PRO TIP: Having a manual lens is ideal for use with the Sexy Plexi method because you can trace a design with a tight aperture such as F22, then open up your aperture wide after the tracing to capture a background. 

Step 8: Make it Happen!

After you figure out your settings, and have practiced your tracing, shoot until you get the results you want! This can take a while, especially if you are attempting to expose multiple elements. But that is the fun challenge of light painting. Seeing the final image on the back of your camera makes it all worth the effort.

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-Johnny A.

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