Bellows project tailor-made for you

The above application will create a .pdf file with the design of a bellows according to the specified measurements and send it to your email.

Scroll down and check the complete video with instruction from measuring your camera, filling up the above form and finishing your bellows with a layer of black ink.

Meaning of variables:

  1. bt is the width of the frame where the bellows will be glued, marked in blue in the diagram. If this measurement varies on your camera, choose the smallest one so that the bellows flaps are not larger than the frame.
  2. ft allows you to make the first three pairs of folds a little thinner. This is useful on some folding cameras that have a very thin frame on the film side. If set equal to bt, all pairs of ribs will come out the same. DON’T LET IT ZERO, this will cause the number of ribs in the drawing not matching the number of ribs mentioned in the drawing’s description key. It is not a big deal, the bellows will fit anyway, but it may be confusing.
    Example of using the ft parameter:

    This is a typical bellows for an Ikonta-type folding camera, from Zeiss Ikon, for example. The frame where the bellows is glued to the film side is very narrow. But the folds of the bellows themselves are something like 10 mm. In the drawing above I put 12 mm to show the effect more. So the first three pairs were set as 9mm to facilitate gluing. Note that the pairs on the right are narrower than the rest.
    But don’t exaggerate this difference. The design will come out right but think that later it will be very difficult to fold if the edge is too narrow. I think up to 6mm is still doable, unless you are a master of origami.
  3. Fw, Fh, Lw and Ln, F stands for film, L stands for lens, w stands for width and h stands for height. Keep in mind that the bellows seam is always at the bottom of the diagram.
  4. El, stands for extension length, is the distance between the film and the lensboard in position of maximum bellows extension. If the camera moves the lensboard and/or film plane to focus, El must match the distance when nearby objects are focused.
  5. Bf, means Bellows Factor, if you put 1 it means that with the bellows fully stretched, with its sides all flat, it will have the length given in El. But ideally the bellows should never be so stretched . With Bf you can add some extra extension in order to keep it always a bit folded.

The drawing above shows how the Bf influences the bellows shape when it is stretched to its maximum length.

The higher the Bf the less the folds will unfold in order to reach the maximum length. Of course, to compensate that, more folds will be introduced. As a bellows has a spring effect, result of a resistance of materials to fold/unfold, the ideal situation is reached when the number of folds is not too high as to make the retracted bellows too thick, unfit to the camera body, and not too low as to demand too much force to advance the lens board while stretching the bellows.

Medium format folding cameras normally are better suited with low Bf, 1.15 or 1.2. That is because they have more than often a fixed lens and the bellows has only to positions: camera open and camera closed. View cameras, with the possibility of changing lenses and hence larger ranges of bellows stretching, will demand a higher Bf in order to provide that flexibility.

The drawing

The drawing is already on the 1: 1 scale, that is, if it is printed, creased or cut, it will already be in the correct size to make the bellows.

  1. The black lines correspond to the folds lines and serve for the option in which the folds of the bellows will be creased. It is the general case of small bellows made of paper.
  2. The red lines correspond to the cut lines to create the bellows’ “ribs” or stiffeners, the ribs that ensure the fold happen in the correct place. It is the commonly adopted option when the bellows material is very soft and needs to be structured, such as fabric, leather or leather imitations, for example. This happens more often in cases of large format bellows.
  3. The example drawing below has 5 sides. This allows you to choose how and where to cut the face where the joint will be done. The green lines suggest where to make the joint. You have to cut a bit beyond them in order to get your desired overlap for gluing it. Bear in mind that when you shape the sheet like a tube, if you make the two green lines come together, you will get a perfect joint.
  4. The 5-sided option is virtually mandatory for bellows that will be creased. Bellows that will have ribs cut and mounted over a wood template can be printed with only 4 sides. The advantage of printing 4 sides is that in the case of larger bellows the size of the sheet will be smaller (the side marked A is eliminated) and it will be easier to find suppliers with smaller printers or even laser cutting tables. In addition, the cutting service tends to cost less for a smaller sizes.

How to use it

There are several ways to make a camera bellows once you have the right drawing. Find below the one that better fits your project and available materials.

1 – Small camera paper bellows

This is a video tutorial with the following steps:

  1. Measuring your camera
  2. Entering the figures in the application form
  3. Using the printed bellows drawing to make a bellows with black paper
  4. Painting it to improve opacity and give it more structure and resistance.


2- Bellows with template

This video tutorial is still in preparation, but coming soon. Subscribe the youtube channel to be informed when released.

3 – Larger Bellows without template

This is a video from Lost Light Photography channel. You will find there a very good workflow for a bellows using an inner fabric, paper ribs and an outer cover.


Terms & Conditions for the drawing

  1. The price of a project, whatever its size, is R$ 25,00 Brazilian Reais. It is roughly USD 5,00. Please check current Paypal exchange rate to you local currency.
  2. No need to have Pay Pal account, one can pay with almost any credit card within the Pay Pal environment.
  3. Check the measurements in advance. It will not be possible to get another project without  new payment. The price was set low enough to allow a second try for corrections or improvements.
  4. The project comes by email in a link to download or open in the browser and save later. The file is very small and has in general less than 200 Kb. For those who do not remember, this is the same as 0.2 Mb.
  5. It will be archived and, in case of loss, you can request a new copy within a week. For this you need to have the project number and get in touch through the contact link above on main menu. After this time, it may even happen that it is still available but I cannot guarantee.
  6. The design is for individual use and non-transferable. The low value charged aims to allow broad access to photographers worldwide and serves to help in the maintenance and expansion of the site. Please do not distribute or share it.
  7. Responsibility: Please, always check the measurements of your project in the .pdf file even before printing it. I will offer you a new one or refund you in up to 30 days after purchase in case the specs on the top of the page do not match the ones in the drawing.

20 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I have a Gandolfi 10×8 wooden camera
    Bellows have been completely destroyed
    The camera is purely ornamental
    I have tried making paper bellows with out much success
    Any help would be much apricated

    • 10×8 inches is too big for paper bellows. You will need a bellows with stiffeners. I am testing currently available materials and intend publishing instructions on how to build those.

  • Hey!

    I ordered a bellows to repair a Voightlander Perkeo I and I’ve just installed them. Thank you for this tool! It was a solid afternoon of work, and I’m just putting a test roll through it now, but the instructions were clear and the results are great.


  • A very interesting project and elaborate explanations. I came across your video in search for clues to repair the bellows of my 10×12 inch camera. I would like to hear from you if you have any advice on this. I intend to patch the holes (some are as large as 10 mm large) with (probably) synthetic leather strips along the edges of bellows. I thought I will print your PDF-drawing and only use the parts where I want to repair but I realised that the distance between the fold lines will probably not match with my bellows without coincidence. The bellows are more than 100 years old and as you say in the video, they consist of 3 layers. I think I will only patch the outermost layer (the thin leather layer). Perhaps I need stiffeners for the leather or crease lines to be scratched on the leather? The problem would be is that if the patches are thick then the bellows will not fit the camera when closing it. It would be great if you can give me some advice. Thank you.

    • Don’t use, in this case, my application because it re-calculates the folds based on the camera dimensions and it will hardly match the ones of your camera. If your bellows got these holes accidentally, but the overall condition is good, then you can work locally. It is very hard to find a suitable material: flexible, light proof, thin and good for gluing. I would go searching an adhesive tape. Leather is not light proof and not easy to glue. But, if your bellow is like that because overall it is brittle and worn out, then I would go for a complety replacement. Otherwise you will fix some spots and next day new leaks will show up.

  • Thank you for your prompt reply. I will try to patch the holes first with thin synthetic leather with contact adhesive and if that does not work, I will (have to) replace the bellows completely. I am looking for your new video on bellows for larger formats that you mentioned in the video. Your other DIY projects are also very interesting. I will keep looking out for your more new projects.

    • I recommend you 3M Scotch 235 Photo Tape, it is a good option for bellows repair. It is black, it has a texture that resembles leather, it is light proof, it folds easily and has a layer of a very good adhesive. Contact adhesive could do as well, but I consider it very difficult to work with in a non flat surface. I moved to a new house and that obliged me to postpone my video projects. I even had my darkroom closed for almost one year. The video about large format bellows is still on hold for that reason. But it will eventually come. Maybe this year.

      • Thank you for your kind advice. I will look into it. Yes, moving it a big event. When I move I have to move my darkroom too, which makes the work twice as much!

  • Oh by the way, your automatic agitator under your (developing) tray looks excellent. I saw it in your other video “Enlarger head using RGB LEDs – complete project” Perhaps you could show how you made it on video? That would also be great.

      • Oh Yes, your stirrer is great. I would have made one after your video if I hadn’t got an old electrical stirrer for chemical labs from a friend of mine. What I meant was the tray agitator in the video. It rocks your tray and I see that there is something underneath the tray with a plastic clip on the side apparently to hold the tray. It looks like a good home made device to me.
        It appears from around 12:12 in your video about enlarger head.

        • Oh, sorry, now I know what you meant. The tray rocker is a very simple device. It is just a motor with slow speed. It is fixed above the tray and it is connected to it by a string. One side of the tray is hanging on that string. In the upper part, the motor turns something like the pedal of a bicycle and set the whole tray pivoting over a stick underneath the tray in a periodical movement. It is desirable that the motor frequency matches the frequency of a tray rocking so we have the a nice wave formed going back and forth.

    • Sorry, I don’t have it. I just made the application because I was in need of two drawings and found that would be amusing to dive into coding it. Later I decided to share it online.

  • Hello,
    Could you tell me what ‘Thickness firt 3, Ft: __ mm’ measurement refers to on your order form?
    Also can I save the PDF you send me to take to my local printing company for A2 size as only have an A4 printer at home (making bellows for large format camera)

    • I will try to explain in other words: some small cameras have the first folds narrower because they must be glued to a thin frame, margin, on the back of the camera (film side). The app contemplates that situation and allows one to make the first 3 folds with a different, smaller, measurement. If your camera has a film frame with sufficient thickness to glue your bellows with the regular folds distance or thickness, just leave the first 3 with the same figure you are using by default. Second point, yes, you can send your pdf to any print shop. Some people even send it to a laser cutting machine and get all the ribs already cut.

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