More Cheap and Easy Grid Spots

Are you frustrated with your lighting skills?

Have your creative and/or mental blocks ever led you want to drink?

Fear not. It might be a good thing. Just keep an eye out for a special little item that can frequently be found in bars - the black drinking straw.

Why? Because when you cut them into pieces and glue them up in cardboard next to their little friends, they make great gridspots.

We have talked about making these with cardboard (free, easy, but warms up the light a lot) and coroplast (the black stuff makes fantastic grids, but is tough to find.)

But now you have an excuse to visit every bar in town. Just in case they have the little black straws.

("No, honey, it's okay. I am getting free supplies for lighting...)

Strobist reader Rui M. Leal has started his own neato-mosquito DIY Lighting Mods blog, and shows you how to make them here in excrutiating detail.

Check out Part 2, where he shows you how to use them, too.

And if you feel shy about asking the barkeep if you can grab a handful of straws, just grace him with a little visit from your friend, George Washington to appeal to his generous human instincts.

Related Link:

:: How to Make a Coroplast Grid ::


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Anonymous tessler65 said...

I scored black straws at my local Ruby Tuesday several months ago.

June 23, 2007 1:21 PM  
Blogger J. Beckley said...

Oh now you post this after I just happened to be in a Smart & Final store and bought a box of 400 black straws! Oh well, I think I can make about two for each of my flashes with plenty to spare. It only cost me about $6.50 for the bunch.

June 23, 2007 5:57 PM  
Blogger Jesus Ali said...

David, you are showing a great deal of restraint in not asking Rui Leal to change the design of his page.

I think it is very disrespectful of him to make a blog page that looks nearly identical to yours.

I left a message saying as much.

June 23, 2007 7:53 PM  
Blogger David said...


It's no biggie. Really. My page is not "designed' so much as, well... just there.

Harrington's Photo Business Forum blog is pretty much adapted from my bastardized template. But that's pretty much to be expected from John. He actually calls me up to ask what I am wearing tomorrow.


I think it is cool that Rui is doing what he is doing. Spread the word. Grow the pie. As long as you do not actually use the Strobist name, or lift my copy, I am pretty much cool with it.

I was actually the one that sugested Rui do it, too. He's a cool guy. Don't harsh on him so much.


June 23, 2007 8:28 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

Just getting caught up on my reading so sorry for being late to the party. :)

I get my black corplast from RC Foam. Here ya go:

I think they keep it in stock but can't say for sure I've only needed it once.

June 23, 2007 11:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, I made two of these a couple of months ago. velcro them to the speedlites and it gives a nice round smooth spotlight.

June 24, 2007 6:35 AM  
Blogger Mark Scheuern said...

Panera Bread has black straws, too. And free wi-fi as well as good food. A strobist's delight!

June 26, 2007 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can buy 3500 of them for about $45.00.

July 13, 2007 1:40 PM  
Blogger Omless Wanderer said...

What is the difference between using a grid or just a regular sliding snoot?

July 14, 2007 7:38 PM  
Anonymous Phil L. said...

I just made the 2cm one and it's perfect. I use it with the SB0800, I used a Fruit Cheerios box which was a bit loose, but adding some Velcro(soft sided)to the inside made it fit perfectly. I used Super Glue, it's a small purple bottle with a brush and so far so good. I also ran a lighter flame across the front end of the straws to melt the plastic together.

July 15, 2007 8:46 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coogan said...

If I drop a box of these on the floor, how will I know how many are in the box without the help of Rain Man? ;-)

October 02, 2007 4:08 PM  
Anonymous Dave Mac said...

In Canada, you can get black straws at your local Harvey's fast food restaurant. The kind lady working last night gave me a whole bag of them for nothing :D

December 15, 2007 11:21 AM  
Anonymous Robeo said... has 250 black straws for $1.99 U.S. + shipping.

January 07, 2008 1:13 PM  
Blogger Jared said...

You can get 50 feet of 1/4" black tubing for $2.92 at Lowe's. It can be found in the sprinkler section. It's tougher than the black straws from Cheesecake Factory.

January 10, 2008 2:51 PM  
Blogger Firehed said...

If anyone's up for spending five bucks to cheat, misusing one of these and a can of black spray-paint may work wonders/

February 21, 2008 1:36 PM  
Blogger Noah said...

Combine a round 1" deep "black straw grid" with this idea, and I think we have a very cheap and portable solution...

April 03, 2008 5:08 PM  
Blogger jglerum said...

I have a question about the DIY straw spots - I made one, painstakingly gluing little straw pieces for hours...but they started falling out. A lot of them. I used a craft glue, but I think the glue was too brittle - what have you guys used?

May 24, 2009 3:28 PM  
Blogger nolaphoto said...

Well, I spent a few hours on this today. What else are holiday weekends for? I even started a new blog. I think this is the most I've done all year. In keeping with the strobist fame I picked the black template too:

May 25, 2009 9:52 PM  
Blogger ajie.nolasco said...

I have my own version using different, but readily available materials too. See it here:

July 01, 2009 9:23 AM  
Anonymous Daniel said...

You can calculate the length (l) of the straw to get a specific angel (a) with:
l=d * tan((180°-a)/2)

l:Length of straw
d:diameter of straw
a:scattering angel

July 05, 2009 4:24 PM  
Blogger Terry Thomas... the photographer said...

Black Straws are available in the Halloween section of Dollar Tree stores.

I found a pack of 5 for $1. Each straw has a tiny white plastic skeleton which is easily removed.

Note: in a different Comment I made a mistake and said I got the black straws from Party City. Wrong. I did go to Party City but they did not have black straws which is strange because they had black plates, cups and tableware.

Terry Thomas...
the photographer
Atlanta, Georgia USA

September 27, 2009 2:53 AM  
Blogger leif said...

i ended up using the PVC downspout converter (lowe's or home depot, $3) and cocktail straws (target, $4). i was not about to glue it all together, so i used double-sided tape, per someone's lead. it's a bit hairy with 400 short straws and no way to "open" the converter, but it did work. they seem pretty stable and unwilling to come loose. we'll see over time whether this remains true.

my straws are about 50mm long, which gives me a nice soft-edged spot about 1.4m wide @ 3m. i don't want to go do this again anytime soon, but i will be needing some variety in the spot size.

April 12, 2010 12:23 AM  
Blogger Annette said...

Please stop STEALING straws from restaurants just because they are availIble for the taking doesn't mean you should take more than in straw per drink. Taking them to do your projects causes restaurants to raise their prices. Packs of straws can be purchased by you easily. it's the same as taking a bunch of catsup or condiments to use for "other" dishes at home. Thanks

April 30, 2010 6:43 PM  
Blogger Granjow said...

I've written a tutorial about creating a grid spot with tape instead of glue. Found it much more comfortable this way.

And, thanks for your great blog.

Greetings from Switzerland,

May 02, 2010 9:47 AM  
Blogger Aud1073cH said...

I made a couple using black matte board for the frame (ask for scraps from the local picture framing shop).

I glued them together with clear silicone caulk -it is thick enough to not run everywhere and dries rubbery, so it will be less likely to crack and fall apart.

I finished off the outside with a strip of black gaff tape, and after a little velcro, they look pretty professional.

January 08, 2014 11:38 AM  

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