making your own gobos


Active Member
i was wondering if its possible to make your own gobos out of just plain sheet metal you get at a hobby shop or out of tinfoil? would they be able to take the heat? i wouldnt think tinfoil would be able to, but ive seen random gobos lying around in our theatre made out of tinfoil it possible?
I've made gobos in the past out of cut-up pie tins, like for baking and such. they always looked like crap, but that was my fault not the fault of the material. they work fine.
I would avoid the tinfoil. It's easier to work with but won't last. If you have a Dremel tool or something similar, with the right attachment you may be able to make some fairly intricate patterns. I'm not sure; just a theory.
Tin foil is possible, but only for short term use at relatively low levels.
Sheet metal would work fine, if you have the right tools of course!
never done it, but at my camp, the lighting guy used tinfoil (i think) to make a big "C" as a preshow thing for chicago. it worked pretty well, but was only a one time use thing.
Last year I attempted to make a gobo out of a coke can and it didn't work well at all. I tried to do it with an exacto knife and just ended up cutting myself and almost getting metal stuck in my source 4.

It is harder then it sounds. Make sure that all the sides are flat, or it will catch, rip, and make your life hard (and painful).
a coke can probably would not work well. they have a plastic lining, and it would probably melt in the heat, so your problems with the coke can gobo may have saved you from much bigger problems had you succesfully made it
Someone I work with has made good gobos out of the bottom of pie sheets. You just have to be careful to cut the edges right so they don't get stuck in the light (I have had this happen with a professional gobo before).
Those posting are very much stating the reality of the situation. Yes you can cut your own gobos. Even a excellent set of posts to stagecraft on more ways to do this than posted that could be expected to have more long term results.

Still in stating this possibility and ability to do so, all it seem compare normal cutable metal thickness in it's ability to withstand heat over that of tinfoil, and in carving it, it's lack of refinement and material workability in also withstanding a more perminant sense of heat.

Perhaps the classic pie tin or similar types of metal can be cut to your image and it will work. Perhaps in doing so, making multiple copies of the patterns will be a good idea in just replacing them before they burn up each night. Could be a good solution in fact.

On the other hand, while initial cost is a factor in custom gobo, the savings in time labor and it simply not burning up will often be worth it to pay for the higher priced custom gobo. This if not even glass gobo nobody would attempt in being at times better yet.
Ok. I'm intrigued. What is the most complex design that you have done with a custom "in-house" gobo? What tools did you use? And, what thickness / material did you use?

From the above post, it sounds like the best bet would be to just get a custom gobo made. From my research its about $60-90. But if i wanted to make my own...
well these gobos are just for one night, and theyre simple shapes-arrows.
so it wouldnt care if they burn up in one night.
thanks everyone for your help
I have made Gobo out of Coke cans Before and they worked well. We used them to create a star efect on stage by simply taking a pin and pokeing it through the metal. For antoher production I used aluminum foil and took a hole punch designed to look like a hand print and puched it in a stright lie across. I turned out very good look. THe problem is that you have to make sure the is no excess aluminum foil sticking out or it WILL get stuck in you light, then you have to take it apart. That equals no fun.
Be aware that the gate of a 750W SourceFour can reach 768°F, and an FEL-based ERS even higher. While aluminum foil may withstand the heat, it is too thin to take much detail. My favorite is disposable cookie sheets, cut with a utility or Xacto knife.

Search CB for homemade gobos for lots of good threads, including a recent one on acid etching.
I say this a lot, Selecon Pacifics let you make your own gobos on your computer, and print them out onto clear plastic sheeting with your normal printer, if you are hieing / buying have a look at one or two of these units, apart from this cool trick they are really awesome lights (I'm a bit of a Pacific fanboy, as you may have guessed)

Last edited by a moderator:
I was once forced to cut 2 Mercedes logos and 2 letter C's The Gobo shop "lost" my order and by the time they admited to it it was too late for them to make the gobos.

Pie tin works real well if you have the time and patience... and a client insisting that they need it. I cut out with an Exacto knife and swiss army knife and a pair of scissors.

I would definately not suggest it as a typical practice, but it will work. They ran for 5 hours in source 4's 575W full out without any burn marks.

I still have one of them, I have hung them on my board at work as a reminder that ANYTHING is possibly given the proper motovation..
I did this once for a show that needed a LOT of dot breakups, using some aluminum that was intended for use as gutter flashing or some such - roll was 6" wide by 20' long or so. It was somewhat thicker than the pie tin/roaster pans mentioned above, so I didn't need the pattern holder. I sheared it to the same width as the holder, stacked ten or twelve together and clamped them between two pieces of plywood, and went to work with a 3/16" drill. The stacking and clamping reduced the amount of burring by the drill, and speeded up production. The results were used in a relatively lengthy scene (15 minutes?), and would last a half dozen performances before starting to burn out.

Big box lumberyards often have sheets of meshes and gratings intended for radiator cover type uses that make interesting breakups and textures.
Have a look at this collaborative article DIY Gobos

Users who are viewing this thread