My Viewfinder

I recently came across Leslie Strom’s article on viewfinders entitled The Value of Looking Through a Hole. I love the way she writes (I wish I had thought of that title) and I highly recommend her blog, This Offbeat Life.

I won’t go into the usage and purpose here as there are probably thousands of places where this information can be found, but I thought that someone may be interested in how to construct a very sturdy and field tested version of what can be a quite valuable painting accessory. It really is a very, very inexpensive and easy (if you can cut a mat) way to make a viewfinder, and one as good as any you can buy (in my humble opinion).

Figure 1 - First Viewfinder

Figure 1 – First Viewfinder

The first one I made, Figure 1 (click to enlarge), worked very well, I just didn’t like the aesthetics of it. It was a little rough around the edges, so to speak, with handwritten canvas sizes. Also, it did have a tendency to bend, causing the door to fall out, because I used 2 strips of board on top instead of a full, square piece.

The next, and current, version (Figure 2) sports beveled edges all around and printed canvas sizes applied with clear printing labels, and is very sturdy. I even glued a little thumb tab (not a necessity) to the sliding door to make it easier to push up and down.

Figure 2 - Current Viewfinder Design

Figure 2 – Current Viewfinder Design

My viewfinder consists simply of two pieces of mat board (Figure 3, a and b) 4 inch square each, glued together. There is an 1 3/8 inch square, cut out of the center of both pieces, with the exception that with the top piece, the square cutout extends through to it’s bottom edge. This creates a perfectly fitting, sliding door. The center square cutout is discarded.

Figure 3 - Viewfinder Construction

Figure 3 – Viewfinder Construction

 The “secret” to it working properly is that the edges of the square cutout are beveled 45°, which creates a slide and prevents the door (Figure 3, c) from falling out.

I used a Proportional Scale to determine where to put the canvas sizes on the side of the opening. To make it slide smoother, put a bit of candle wax on the edges of the door.

Figure 4 - Viewfinder with door removed

Figure 4 – Viewfinder with door removed

Featured Image: Dune Path by MTMcClanahan

MT McClanahan

An artist and perpetual thinker, MT McClanahan finds inspiration through connecting ideas across a broad range of topics. He especially enjoys philosophy and how art and life interconnect. He is the founder of TPT and his paintings can be seen at

2 Responses

  1. Great idea and pattern. My only comment would be that maybe gray would be easier on the eyes. Maybe.

    • Magnificent! It never crossed my mind, I don’t know why, I mean I have a holed card for isolating color that’s a neutral gray, why not this viewfinder?

      But I tell you it has never given me a problem–the light glaring off it. I think I was thinking that it would be good to have a sharp contrast between the edges of the cut-out portion and the scene.

      I do like a back-lit subject so maybe that’s why it’s never given me a problem.

      Thanks much for the suggestion.

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