How to make a pinhole projector to view the solar eclipse

It's easier than trying to find eclipse glasses. And better for your eyes than staring directly at the sun.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops, desktops, all-in-one PCs, streaming devices, streaming platforms
Matt Elliott
2 min read

Eclipse day has arrived! If you've waited this long to purchase a pair of eclipse glasses in order to view the big event, you've probably waited too long. Inventory is low and prices are sky high for eclipse glasses that let you safely stare directly at the sun. But fear not, you've got plenty of time to make a pinhole projector to view the total solar eclipse.

Matt Elliott/CNET

What you'll need

  • Cardboard box
  • Sheet of white paper
  • Aluminum foil
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Pen or pencil
  • Pin or thumbtack

How to make the pinhole projector 

  • Take your box -- I used a cereal box -- and trace its bottom on your sheet of paper.
  • Cut out the rectangle you just traced and tape it to the bottom of the inside of your box. This will be your projection screen.
  • Close the top of the box and cut two holes along the right and left edges of the top panel.
  • Cut a piece of aluminum foil to cover one of the holes and tape it in place.
  • Poke a hole in the middle of the piece of foil.

How to use your projector 

Take your pinhole projector outside and face away from the sun so that its light shines into the pinhole. Look through the hole you did not cover and you will see the sun projected on the white piece of paper inside the box. The longer the box, the larger the image will be.

Matt Elliott/CNET

Easy, box-less alternative

Easier and better for group viewing is skipping the box and punching a pinhole into a sheet of paper and then simply projecting the sunlight through that pinhole onto another sheet of white paper on the ground. The image of the sun won't be as vivid as it is projected inside a dark box, but it should work just fine if you have clear skies and bright sunshine.

Watch this: 4 apps to help you watch the solar eclipse

Read more: Solar eclipse 101