A light box can be an incredibly handy thing to have around the home, office or studio, and is a tremendously useful tool for artists, crafters, seamstresses, illustrators, animators and lots of others.
Luckily, even the very best light boxes available today are remarkably affordable, and there’s no real reason not to have one.
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We think of lightboxes as mainly used for tracing, but you can also use them to make or view artwork, and the illumination can often help you see things which you might have missed. Unfortunately, often what we spot when taking advantage of this extra illumination are mistakes or problems with a piece, but it’s definitely better that I see them before a client or customer does!
Of course tracing and copying really are the main uses of a good lightbox, but again they can be used for lots of stuff, including:
- Copying Sketches Onto Art Paper
- Tracing Drawings, Designs, Logos
- Copying or even Reworking Art Pieces
- Making Exact Sequences for Animation Cels
- Transferring Patterns from Cloth for Sewing or Embroidery
- Tracing or Designing Tattoos
- Fine Detail Work
- Checking Work for Errors, Color Balance, Composition Balance etc.
- Simulating how a Computer Screen will Display an Art Piece
- Viewing x-rays, negatives and slides, transparencies and so on
I’m sure there are lots of other reasons to buy and have a good lightbox, for artists, crafters, animators, technical illustrators and engineers and others.
But, getting back to the most basic and common use for a light box, if you are tracing, copying or expanding from an original sketch or art piece you need to get the best lightbox you can in your budget.
What is a Light Box?
Also known as a light box, a tracing board, a tracing box or a light table, a light box is a very simple and ingenious device which has been in use for a long, long time – even before electricity. Modern lightboxes have improved dramatically, though, with very thin designs, cool, even lighting and eye-comforting LED light sources.
Basically a lightbox is a flat, translucent panel with light coming up through the panel from a built in lighting source. You can lay a piece of tracing paper, fabric or other translucent material, which has some sort of art, drawing or design on it, on top of the panel and it will be illuminated from beneath. You then lay a piece of tracing paper on top of the first piece, and you will clearly see the drawing or design and can copy or trace all or part of it.
You can also simply lay artwork on top of a lightbox – especially, again, art or drawings which are on tracing paper or fairly translucent materials, and see that artwork with a kind of illumined clarity which can reveal mistakes, problems with color balance, consistency or coverage, or even just suggest ways to improve a piece of art. Many artists also swear that viewing their art with a lightbox lets them get a better feel for how it will look after they scan or shoot it and put it on a computer display screen.
What to Look For in a Light Box
Lightboxes are fairly simple things, and there is not a lot to consider when purchasing one. Still, making sure of a few things can make a big difference in how well your new lightbox will work, how easy it is to use, how much it helps you in your process, how it can take care of your eyes and how long it will last.
The most important factors are:
- Bright, even illumination
- Adjustable light levels
- Cool, neutral LED light
- Eye safety and comfort
- Size of working area
- Design for easy and flowing work
- Quality of materials and construction
- Weight and battery life, if you will be using it portably
How Can You Find the Best Light Box for Your Needs and Budget?
Really, assuming that all tracing boards do basically the same thing, it can be extremely frustrating finding the right tracing board for you and your own usage – there are just so many brands out there, all with similar specs, and a huge range of prices!
But until you have actually held lots of them in your hand and tried to use them, you can’t really understand how poor many of them can be – uneven illumination and flickering light, clunky or ridged design that gets in the way of drawing, poor or flimsy construction.
That is why an article like this can be so helpful. In my recommendations for the best lightboxes for tracing in 2021, you will find several units in various sizes and at different price levels, which have the best design, the best overall quality, and are best for your eyes and for your work.
I am focusing on two companies – Artograph and Huion – both of which actually specialize in lightboxes and make the best of the best in every way, and I am skipping over some fairly well known brands which, despite their popularity, don’t offer the same levels of quality and usability – at least when it comes to light boxes. I am also including a lesser-known brand – Tiktecklab – which offers a wonderful lightbox at an almost obscenely low price.
So if you have an idea of how much you want to spend, and what size of lightbox would be best for you, you can select the appropriate recommendation from below and make sure you will end up with a great unit, whether you’re looking for:
- The best light box for tracing and copying
- The best light box for artists
- The best light box for animators
- The best light box for tattoo artists
- The best light box for crafters
- The best light box for technical drawing and drafting
And again, even the best lightboxes are surprisingly affordable, and every one of my recommendations is a really great value. So if you’ve been wanting to get one, I hope my buyer’s guide for the best light boxes on the market today will help light the way!
Overview: Best Light Box for Tracing in 2021
- Artograph Futura Light Table for Artists
- Huion A2 Large Tracing Light Box
- Huion L4S LED Light Box A4
Drawing with Dimmable Light and Adjustable Top
AC Powered Light Pad, Adjustable Brightness (20.47" X 12.6")
Ultra-Thin USB Powered Adjustable Light Pad for Tracing
Artograph Light Pad LED Light Boxes and Light Tables
The first company we’ll look at in this buyer’s guide for the best lightboxes for artists is a real specialist in light box design and manufacture and widely considered to make among the finest lightboxes on the market today – Artograph.
Artograph lightboxes and light tables feature cool 6500K color temperature, which is great for the eyes and for extended work sessions and is also a more neutral tone, which won’t interfere with even the most color sensitive work or skew your vision.
And speaking of light, the Artograph lightboxes are not only fully adjustable, they go up to a remarkable 5,000 Lux of brightness, which is super-bright and allows you to use a wider range of materials – and, for many people, having brighter light (as long as it is cool and even) can be even better for the eyes and reducing eye strain.
Superior lightboxes from a company that has been making the best art supplies for over sixty years, the Artograhph Light Pads lightboxes and the brilliant Futura Light Table are the first and best choice for serious commercial and fine artists, engineers and animators, or for anybody who understands that the best design, the best quality and most useful tools are always the best value.
Artograph LED Light Pad Light Boxes
Designed for artists by artists, Artograph light boxes are simple, uncluttered, easy to use and reliable, and they really facilitate work and let an artist be in their space without distractions or interruptions.
And the work surface is double-layered, firm and sturdy, allows for lot of different materials to be used and won’t move or buckle even when you apply stronger pressure.
The elegant, premium quality Atrograph Light Pad lightboxes are available in four sizes, each with the same high quality of materials and construction, the same brilliant functional layout and the same impressive specifications:
Adjustable Brightness from 500 (or 1000) up to 5000 Lux
- Cool White Light Temperature of 6500 Kelvins
- LED Light Source with 50,000 Hours Use
- Sturdy Aluminum Frame
- Solid Double-Layered Work Surface
- Artograph Light Pad 940 LX Light box – 17 x 12 Inch Work Area
- Artograph Light Pad 930 LX Light box – 12 x 9 Inch Work Area
- Artograph Light Pad 920 LX Light box – 9 x 6 Inch Work Area
Artograph Futura Adjustable Light Table for Artists
This beautiful, sturdy and well designed product would be an easy recommendation simply as an adjustable art/drawing table, but when you consider the superb adjustable Artograph cool white light source, which evenly illuminates the entire 38 by 24 inch tempered glass work surface, the Futura light table becomes an indispensible artist’s tool, one any artist would continuously use and love, and which will make your work and your working so much easier and better.
- Adjustable Tilting Artist’s Drawing Table with Illuminated Work Surface
- Adjustable Brightness from 500 up to 6500 Lux
- Cool White Light Temperature of 6000-7000 Kelvins
- LED Light Source with 50,000 Hours Use
- Powder Coated Steel Frame
- Tempered Glass Work Surface
Huion LED Light Boxes
Huion is another company well known for excellent quality products which are clearly designed and built with artists and their needs in mind. Huion products have always been quite affordable, and in recent years the quality of their lightboxes – and all of their products – has improved so much that they are immediately recommendable and represent some of the best values on the market today.
Huion makes some of the best lightboxes on the market today, and no fewer than five of these excellent products make the list on our buyer’s guide to lightboxes for artists – four from the premium yet affordable A series, and also the extremely inexpensive L4S. These are all among the most popular lightboxes among artists and crafters, and for very good reason!
Huion A Series LED Light Boxes
The Huion A Series of artist lightboxes has very even cool white illumination, which will allow you to work in more detail and with greater accuracy without distorting or shifting colors.
Their Eyesight-protected technology is very important for those of us who maybe work a little too long without breaks, the step-less brightness control allows for ultra-precise light adjustment, and the built in ruler and overall design really facilitate all kinds of work and creativity. Super thin and light, with a solid acrylic work surface, this is an ideal light box / tracing board for any artist or crafter at a very low price.
- Huion A2 Large LED Light Box – Working Area 20.5 x 12.6 Inches :: 0 to 2500 Lux Illumination
- Huion A3 Medium LED Light Box – Working Area 16 x 12 Inches :: 0 to 4050 Lux Illumination
- Huion A4 Size Small LED Light Box – Working Area 12.2 x 8.25 Inches :: 0 to 4480 Lux Illumination
Huion L4S LED Light Pad Tracing Board
And if the above Huion tracing boards don’t offer enough of a value for the money (as if!), or if you are simply on a tighter budget, you can still get the great quality and artist-centered design of a Huion tracing board for a much lower price – and an extremely light, USB cable charged and portable light box you can use at home or anywhere else.
While the light level seems much lower on the L4S compared to the A series, make no mistake – this is still an ultra-bright light box.
The Huion L4S still offers the same step-less light level adjustment, the same eyesight protection technology reducing eye fatigue, the same heavy duty acrylic work panel, the same great overall design and built in ruler, and in a package barely .2 inches thick and only 1.2 pounds in weight.
A real value and the best budget light box for artists available today, the Huion L4S is the perfect no-compromise tracing table for less money, and is highly recommended.
Tiktecklab Portable Light Tracer
The final recommendation in our 2021 buyer’s guide for the best tracing boards for artists, the Tiktecklab ultrathin portable light tracer is, admittedly, a bit of a clone, looking and acting almost exactly like the Huion light boxes mentioned just above, and for a truly bargain basement price.
We should not dismiss the Tiktecklab light box just for this, however, because it is actually an extremely well made and usable unit for a very, very low price. It is also by far the best selling tracing board on Amazon, and with extremely high ratings and glowing customer reviews – well over 4.5 stars with over 14,000 individual customer reviews, which is a pretty amazing achievement!
The Tiktecklab light box has all of the features we might expect from a Huion – oops, I mean from a great light box… – like step-less brightness control, a built in ruler, a strong and stable acrylic work surface and even cool white illumination, and being so extremely light and thin (.3 inches thick) and USB cable powered, it is easy to carry around and can be used pretty much anywhere.
Many people would feel a little more comfortable with a well-established brand like Huion, and for them the extra few dollars would be well worth it for the security they would feel.
That said, if budget is your ultimate concern, the Tiktecklab Portable Light Tracer is by far the best lightbox for tracing at the lowest price level, with great design and features, real usability and portability and surprisingly high material and build quality.
Final Thoughts: Is Light Box Necessary for an Artist?
If light boxes cost thousands of dollars and were absolutely necessary and useful for one specific task, I would say you absolutely need one for that task, but otherwise no – pretty obvious, no?
But in both cases pretty much the opposite is true – even the big, beautiful Artograph Futura illuminated artist desk is less than 500 dollars, and is just awesome, and our list of the best light boxes for tracing on the market today even has a great unit at around 20 dollars.
And, good light boxes are incredibly useful in seemingly countless ways – I even have a friend with poor eyesight who uses her Huion light box for all of her drawing to decrease the eye fatigue, and swears that the nice, bright and even illumination makes art possible for her.
At any rate, if you’ve come to this article, and especially if you’ve made it this far, you have probably already been considering buying the best lightbox for tracing, and I would say don’t hesitate – whatever reason you have for getting one, you will undoubtedly find lots and lots of other uses for it every day!
Thanks so much for reading my latest article – The Best Lightbox for Tracing in 2021: An In-Depth Review and Buyer’s Guide – and I encourage you to visit my blog – Art Side of Life – for other buyer’s guides, online courses, articles and lots of other resources.