Making a DIY Cardboard Aperture


Have you ever been fascinated by the aperture in your camera lenses, and wondered how they operate? If you have some time to spare, this is a simple project that mimics the mechanics of an aperture - using card and foam boards!

I actually needed to study the operation of a camera aperture for my recent design project, and I could not really find a lot of tutorials online for that. So I decided to do my own – based on an image I found on flickr! This article is a documentation of my steps and the whole thing took about less than 2 hours to construct.

First of all, the materials and tools:

  • A piece of A4 thin foam board (3mm thick, with cardboards on either side)
  • An A4 card
  • A compass
  • A protractor
  • A ruler
  • A blade
  • A pencil
  • A bamboo skewer
  • Superglue (UHU won’t be strong enough).

2 circles of equal diameters are drawn on the surface of the foam board. As an A4 paper is 29.7cm long, that would make each circle roughly 14cm in diameter. One circle is for the mechanism, the other for the base.

Next, in both circles, another smaller circle is drawn 1 inch inside. This was to be the opening of the aperture, and would be cut away later. That would leave us with 2 ring-shape foam boards of the same size.

In one of the rings, another circle is being drawn between the first and second circles, about the proportion of 1/3 of the distance between them, with the bigger portion on the outside. This divided the ring into 2, one which would be fixed and another would be turn-able. From this step onwards, only this ring would be worked on – the other ring for the base (which only have 2 circles instead of 3) would come in later.

Then, using a ruler, a line was drawn across the ring, passing the centre point.

Using a protractor, align the base dot to the center point and make sure that the bottom line of the protractor is directly above the drawn line.

Mark two points at 60 and 120 degrees each. Repeat this for the other half of the circle. Join the opposite dots together…

… and the circle would be divided into 6 equal sections like a pizza.

Using the compass again, mark all 6 lines with a small dash between the space of the inner ring. Using it as a guide, draw a small diamond around it. This would be cut away to insert the bamboo skewer; ideally it should be a small round circle, but a diamond would be easier to cut. On the outer ring, a small rectangle, the thickness of the diamond, was drawn on each 6 lines as well.

That would leave us with this pattern:

And now the blade enters the process! Begin by cutting the innermost circle out to form the aperture opening…

… To the inner ring…

… And finally to the outer ring.

I trimmed off the inside of the outer ring a little bit to reduce the friction between the inner and outer ring so it would be easier to spin it.

Then the small diamonds and rectangles are cut away.

Now back to the base ring, it is pretty straightforward – just cut away the inside and outside circle and pop out the ring.

Glue the inner ring (with diamonds) onto the surface of the base ring, aligning both the center openings. Since they are drawn using the same diameter, they should fit without much problem.

As for the outer ring (with rectangles), they won’t be glued to anywhere so I used them as a guide for the aperture blades. On the A4 card, place the outer ring on it and trace the outline (no need to use the whole circle, just half will do) and three rectangles. Roughly position the diamonds below the rectangles as well.

Then the aperture blades are drawn onto it! I don’t have a guide or specific measurement here, I just followed the image and, roughly, my intuition. The curved part should follow the innermost ring, and the blunt part should have enough space to cover both the diamond and the rectangle.

Cut out the shape and we have a template for the aperture blade!

Trace the shape 6 times and don’t forget to mark the location of the 2 circles as well.

There we go – 6 aperture blades!

Time to work on the bamboo skewer. I measured 3mm distances because the foam board is 3mm thick.

Next the small parts are cut out – we need 12 of those, two for each aperture blade. I used a small saw because it’s quite hard to cut them using the blade! Look out for the small bamboo parts, they are so tiny they can go missing easily.

When all 12 parts are obtained, I glued them to the two circles on the aperture blade using superglue. Here I used a tweezer – if you are confident with your workmanship you can work without one.

Do the same for all aperture blades and leave them to dry!

After all the parts have dried and were sturdy enough, here comes the fun part! Fit the outer ring (with the rectangles) on the base and turn to align the rectangles and diamonds along the same line. Assemble the blades one by one, with the sharp end overlapping the blunt end of the other.

And there you go! To operate, hold the base ring with one hand and the outer ring with the other – give it a little spin and watch the aperture open and close!

I also did two other versions – this one with a smaller blade…

…And another one with a simpler mechanism using this tutorial online.

Bear in mind that the blades might not close all the way to the size of f/22, or it might not look perfectly hexagonal. This is a precise mechanism, and there were bound to have flaws in a handmade one. Nevertheless, watching the blades operate with just a slight twist of your hands will give you a mesmerizing experience!

written by shuttersentinel17 on 2011-11-15 in #gear #tipster #analogue #diy #handmade #board #protractor #aperture #camera #compass #card #spin #blade #tutorial


  1. bobby_sekeris
    bobby_sekeris ·

    I really enjoyed your step by step guide here. Such a great idea! Must try myself soon.

  2. sidsel
    sidsel ·

    Wow, this is a great tipster!!

  3. gvelasco
    gvelasco ·

    Wow! Great work.

  4. rickney
    rickney ·

    woah that look like a lot of work. awesome tipster.

  5. theycallmeelton
    theycallmeelton ·

    Amazing article! I enjoy creating stuff by my own hands and I might try this one some time! :)

  6. lomo__lurv
    lomo__lurv ·


  7. i_am_bad_news_in_the_best_way
    i_am_bad_news_in_the_best_way ·

    Thx a lot for this tips, I will made one in my design project....!

  8. tattso
    tattso ·

    this is the best tipster I've seen for a while. @shuttersentinel17 are you planning to make a full camera with cardboard?

  9. marcustegtmeier
    marcustegtmeier ·

    great job, this is very informative!

More Interesting Articles

  • Useful Guidelines on Shooting with Ultra Wide Lenses

    written by jillytanrad on 2014-04-19 in #gear #tipster
    Useful Guidelines on Shooting with Ultra Wide Lenses

    Wide-angle lens are further divided into sub-classifications: Wide, ultra-wide and ultra-ultra-wide. Based on current standards, wide lenses for 35mm cameras are those with focal lengths ranging from 24 to 35mm. Lenses are considered ultra-wide if they have focal lengths from 17 to 21 mm, and ultra-ultra-wide if from 12 to 16mm. The New Russar+ is a 20mm lens; hence it falls under the ultra-wide classification. If you have an ultra-wide lens or if you intend to get the Russar+, you might as well make the most out of your precious investment. Read on for a few guidelines on shooting with ultra-wide lenses.

  • Shoot Dreamy Photos with a Teardrop Backdrop with the New Petzval Lens

    written by shhquiet on 2014-10-27 in #news
    Shoot Dreamy Photos with a Teardrop Backdrop with the New Petzval Lens

    The premium New Petzval Lens allows you to set your subject against a soft, beautiful background of bokeh. But how about making the bokeh even more interesting by using shapes? Simply use the special aperture plates exclusively made for the Petzval and have fun!

  • The Lomography Guide To Multiple Exposures Is Now Online!

    written by shhquiet on 2014-04-24 in #news
    The Lomography Guide To Multiple Exposures Is Now Online!

    Ever wondered about those cool photos with overlapping images? Those are Multiple Exposures, and if you're curious about how to do this technique, look no further. We have prepared a guide that gives you all the information that you need!

  • Shop News

    Wear lomo-love on your skin

    Wear lomo-love on your skin

    You’ve shouted your analogue love from the rooftops and worn your heart on your sleeve – Now it’s time to take it to the next level and wear it on your skin! Our new Lomography Tattoos are fun, easy to apply and come in five designs.

  • Then and Now: Sungseok Ahn's 'Historic Present'

    written by chooolss on 2014-05-29 in #lifestyle
    Then and Now: Sungseok Ahn's 'Historic Present'

    Seoul, South Korea is among the most progressive cities today, famous for its innovations in various fields and being hailed as the most connected city in the world. But have you ever wondered how certain places looked like decades ago? Have a look at Korean photographer Sungseok Ahn's fascinating series after the jump!

  • City Life Seen Through an Oktomat

    written by andie_sollmer on 2014-07-09 in #lifestyle
    City Life Seen Through an Oktomat

    Did you ever wonder how cities would look like in your photographs, if they were moving? We picked out the best Oktomat Shots of buildings, streets and landscapes and made them do a number!

  • The Supercraft Ladies Design Their Own La Sardina DIY

    written by zonderbar on 2014-08-13 in #people #lomoamigos
    The Supercraft Ladies Design Their Own La Sardina DIY

    If you love to craft or design things yourself, you can draw a lot of inspiration from these two creative women. You may have already stumbled upon Sophie and Catharina on the web, be it at hello handmade, workisnotajob, superwork, supercraft or their youngest project, lemon books.

  • Shop News

    Petzval Buddies

    Petzval Buddies

    Petzval lens are designed for a Canon or Nikon SLR mounts and a selection of brass or black for each camera brand is available in our stores. And start shooting with images full of sharpness, crispness and bokeh effects!

  • Simple Color Gels or Filters Holder for the Diana Mini's Flash

    written by grungyjodie on 2014-04-25 in #gear #tipster
    Simple Color Gels or Filters Holder for the Diana Mini's Flash

    I've always been looking for a really simple solution to hold my color gels of my Diana Mini's flash WITH the camera and make them easy to grab when I want to use them. I also wanted something to keep them from getting damaged. Let me show you how I found a simple way to make it.

  • Snippets and Vignettes: Old-time optical toys resurrected as outrageous GIFs

    written by cheeo on 2014-05-20 in #lifestyle
    Snippets and Vignettes: Old-time optical toys resurrected as outrageous GIFs

    Have you ever seen those old optical toys they used in the 19th century to make out-of-this-world animated illustrations for kids and kids at heart? We haven't seen them in the flesh but it’s a good thing that Richard Balzer collects them and turns them into amazing GIFs for all the world to see.

  • Explore: Cusco, Peru

    written by plasticpopsicle on 2014-05-06 in #world #locations
    Explore: Cusco, Peru

    As camera-toting, wanderlust-driven adventurers, we are always seeking for the most intriguing places to visit and immortalize in our travel snaps. One such spot, without a doubt, is the historic city of Cusco in Peru. If you haven't been to this fascinating historic town, we're sure you'd be making plans for a visit after browsing through the photos taken by our fellow lomographers!

  • Shop News

    Color Your World with Colorsplash Camera

    Color Your World with Colorsplash Camera

    At 30% off you can now color your analog images with 12 different color gels. Experiment with 35mm slide film and play with the built-in color flash for the most intense colors!

  • Top Five Movies Inspired by Poems

    written by chooolss on 2014-04-03 in #lifestyle
    Top Five Movies Inspired by Poems

    Movies based on literature isn’t a new concept, sure, and the last decade or so alone saw an influx of book adaptations. But have you ever pondered on just how many of these were inspired by poems? Have a look at our list for this week, and find out if you’ve already seen any of them!

  • Petzval LomoAmigo: Lomokev

    written by hannah_brown on 2014-11-06 in #people #lomoamigos
    Petzval LomoAmigo: Lomokev

    By now most of you would have heard of Lomokev, one of the UK's most prolific film photographers. Based in Brighton, Lomokev loves to shoot with the trusty LC-A and his work has been featured in numerous publications and projects. We lent him a Petzval lens and asked him a few questions about what makes him tick. Here's an exclusive interview, along with a several fantastic shots by the talented UK-based photographer.

  • Vikkki is our LomoHome of the Day!

    written by Eunice Abique on 2015-03-26 in #world #news
    Vikkki is our LomoHome of the Day!

    From everyone here in Lomography, congratulations to vikkki for winning Home of the Day!