Best Light Boxes for Artists: Top 10 Pick Reviewed By an Expert
Drawing or tracing without a light pad is a little like baking without a cake turntable. It is possible, but the trouble you will go through to produce even mediocre results is too much and just not worth it.
A light pad is an illuminated flat platform that makes those subtle lines and elements visible, enabling you to transfer images as they are. It also comes in handy for viewing x-rays, negatives, and other images that need some good illumination.
For artists and even medical practitioners, this is an immensely useful device.
The amazing thing is, it isn’t expensive. Of course, there are premium models, but for less than 30 bucks, you can get the perfect light pad for your needs.
In this post, we’ll focus on the best light boxes for artists that are inexpensive yet high-quality.
Let’s get started.
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What Is the Benefit of Using Light Boxes for Your Art Project?
A lightbox has three main benefits:
For a beginner who’s trying to learn how to draw, a light pad can be an incredibly useful tool. Instead of looking at templates or picturing them in your head and then trying to draw them, why not trace them on top of a template?
A lightbox illuminates the image clearly, enabling you to draw the image as it is. As you get used to following drawing patterns by tracing, you quickly learn how to draw.
Whether you’re learning calligraphy or tattooing, or any other form of drawing art, a light pad will be helpful.
Accuracy and speed
A light box is also good for accuracy and speed. If you have to transfer an image quickly, and you cannot print it, the illumination that a light pad produces will be helpful.
And lastly, this device is very useful when it comes to viewing images especially x-rays, negatives.
Work at any time
Without a light pad, you can only do design works like painting, tracing, and drawing in daylight or with good artificial lighting. But with this device, you can work at any time without having to rely on the lighting conditions of the place you’re working from. And, you can use heavier papers as the light pad reveals the images better than daylight or room lighting.
Without any further ado, let’s go through the reviews.
1. Tikteck A4 Ultra-thin Portable LED Light Box Tracer
With a thickness of just 5 mm and a weight of less than 2 pounds, the A4 Portable LED Box by Tiktecklab is one of the most portable models. What makes it special is that even though it is thin and lightweight, it’s not flimsy.
So, no more worries about damaging your light box with too much transportation. You can take this one with you wherever you go and not have to worry about damaging it.
As you’ll see, the unit comes very well packaged with foam protectors. These not only prevent damage during the shipping but also give you a safe option for storing your lightbox in between uses.
As for the main feature, the brightness, this one is just amazing. The device releases nice white light that is also uniform all through the platform.
Since the light is LED, it is eco-friendly and much safer to the eyes than an incandescent bulb. Because of the great brightness and uniformity of the light, tracing on paper thicker than tracing paper is a piece of cake. You can even trace on a 140-pound watercolor paper.
This device is super easy to use. For instance, to turn the light on and off, you don’t need to disconnect the power; just tap the power button at the upper left corner.
Adjusting the light is also super easy, as all you have to do is hold down the same power button. The button is as responsive as a smartphone screen, making the operation very easy for you.
We assume the power setup inside must be good, and that’s why the device can sit on your lap without getting hot. So far, we haven’t noted anything negative, except that the included USB cable doesn’t come with a head/adapter.
But it’s long enough (6.6 feet) and can connect to your computer. At less than 30 bucks, the price is great. And by the way, you also get 10 free pieces of tracing paper.
You got to check it out.
2. Cricut Bright Pad
Almost everyone who has been in the world of design for a while is familiar with the Cricut brand. Cricut produces some of the most useful tools for design, including the renowned Cricut Explore Air for DIY cutting.
When it comes to light boxes, Cricut isn’t left behind either. At the time of writing this review, more than 75% of over 230 reviewers had given the Cricut Bright Pad a 5-star, showing the machine has lots of benefits to offer.
The first aspect that makes this unit so useful is the fact that it is absolutely portable. It measures 16.3 by 12 inches (length x width) and weighs less than 2 pounds. That means the unit is small and lightweight enough to carry about without any problems. You can even use one hand.
If this light pad has one thing going for, it is the ease of use. On the edges, at the upper left corner, you’ll see three buttons. One is for power and the other two are for adjusting the brightness.
The light adjustment buttons are labelled + and – respectively, so you don’t struggle to adjust the brightness to the level you want.
One thing you’re going to love is the brilliance of the light. At the higher setting, it is so bright that it can penetrate through heavy 140-lb watercolor paper, allowing you to trace easily without having to struggle to see those lines.
It’s also nice to know that the light comes from LEDs, and that it is evenly distributed across the screen and with no flickers.
The unit comes with a 6-foot USB cord for connecting to the power. You can also connect to your computer.
There are really no issues with this light pad and even the construction is pretty sturdy. The only thing you might want to know before getting it is that it’s not battery-powered.
Go on and check it out.
3. Tiktecklab Portable Ultra-Thin A4 LED Light Box
The Tikteck A4 Ultra-Thin is one of the most well-known and loved light boxes for artists. At the time of writing this article, the unit had over 2000 reviews on Amazon and of these, more than 1600 had a 5/5 rating.
This unit is without a doubt, one of the best light boxes for artists who love to travel. Why? Because it is small and lightweight and most importantly, ultra-thin.
It measures 13.2 by 9.2 inches, and weighs in at just 1.6 pounds. And can you believe the thickness is just 4.7mm? The device is perfect for anyone who wants something they can carry effortlessly with one hand.
In the package, you’ll find a long USB cable. You can use it to connect the device to a power bank, a computer, or a wall outlet. Only about 1.5 W power is needed, so you can see how power efficient the light box is.
One thing you’ll love is the quality of the light and the fact that you can control it. The light is LED and it’s designed to protect your eyes by being uniform and adjustable.
The power button is what you’re going to use to adjust the light. When you touch it once and release, that switches the device on/off but when you hold it, that controls the light.
If you love elegant design tools, then this unit is for you. It has a nice, sleek body and will look great on your design table. There’s only one thing you have to keep mind before buying.
The unit has a mesh in the background, which may not be good for vinyl weeding or negative photo viewing. But for calligraphy, tattoo transferring, embossing, sketching and drawing, and other design needs, it is perfect.
4. Pictureperfect Light Box
Looking for the perfect light box for drawing and tracing? Forget the multi-purpose units that perform fairly well for different uses. The Pictureperfect Light Box is a specialized for drawing and tracing, and it offers excellent results.
Whether you’re using thin or thick paper, tracing on this light pad gives you a whole new experience of ease of use.
The unit offers you the ideal screen size. On it, you can place an A4 size paper. The screen runs from edge to edge, giving you plenty of room to trace on.
Nonetheless, the light box is portable. Measuring 13 by 9 inches, and with a thickness of 3.5mm, it can easily fit in your backpack. You can also carry it with one hand as it’s super lightweight, with a net weight of 0.7 pounds.
When you get this device, you can begin your work right away, thanks to the included paper holder and tracing paper. The holder is very useful for steadying your tracing paper.
The coolest part is the light, and this is what makes the unit particularly good for tracing and drawing. Inside the screen are 21 mini LEDs super-bright, flicker-free light.
You can use the power button to adjust the brightness based on your project.
And as the there’s a built-in light filter, you needn’t worry about eye pain or eye damage.
The included USB cable is what you use to hook the device to a computer or wall outlet. It’s so long (6.25 feet) that connecting to a device that’s far away is not a hassle.
Only shortcoming – not ideal for vinyl weeding and viewing negative images.
The last time we checked, this unit was going for less than 25 bucks on Amazon, making it one of the inexpensive yet high-quality models.
5. Huion L4S Light Box
What makes the Huion L4S Light Box one of the best light boxes for artists is that it is very easy to use. You just touch the power button to turn it on or off and hold the same button to grow through different brightness levels.And talking of the brightness, this is one of the units that release super bright light at the high brightness setting. You can adjust it up to 745.6 units.
At that level, you can easily trace on 2 to three cardstock pages depending on the intensity of the lines.The light also penetrates 300g watercolor paper without any problems.
As for the appearance, the unit looks pretty sleek, with a beautiful and clean look. The back color and even the brand signature at the lower end look so cool on it. It’s something you’ll be proud to put on your worktable.
Even though the unit is slim, with a thickness of just 5mm (or 0.2 inches), it’s not at all flimsy. It feels sturdy and it’s definitely going to last as long as you don’t treat it harshly.
It’s disappointing that the pad doesn’t come with a power plug, but then the provided USB cable is pretty long, measuring more than 3 feet. Not as long as the 6-foot cables some units come with, but still long enough. You can connect the cable to your computer or a power bank if you can’t use a wall outlet.
What about the portability?
You ask. The unit is very easy to move from point to point. In that regard, the unit weighs in at just 1.32 pounds and measures 14.17 inches by 10.63 inches. And as mentioned earlier, the thickness is just 5mm.
You can use the Huion L4S Light Box for a wide range of applications, including tattoo transferring, calligraphy, viewing negatives, and more.
6. A3 Light Pad
Are you a Manga or Comic book artist and you need the ideal light pad for your work? Many comic book artists say this is the perfect light pad for that line of work.
The unit provides a large surface area, measuring 16.5 inches by 11.8 inches. That is large enough to fit your pages without the hassle of adjusting them as you go.
Although the unit provides all that working area, it is portable and you can take it with your and work from anywhere as long as there’s access to power.
The dimensions are 18.3 by 13.5 inches (length by width) and the thickness is just 0.2 inches. As the unit is also lightweight, weighing just about 2 pounds, carrying it from place to place is extremely easy.
When purchasing a light pad for your design projects, you definitely want to know about the light. You’ll be glad to find that the light is of very high quality, illuminating your projects beautifully without hurting your eyes.
That’s because the light comes from built-in LEDs and again, it is adjustable. One each side of the power button is an arrow button. The upper one is for increasing the brightness while the lower one is for reducing it.
At full power, the light is very bright, reaching up to 1000 lumens. With that, penetrating thick papers even as heavy as 600g isn’t a problem.
If you’re looking for a light pad that will last, this is the one for you. Its aluminum outer frame offers high rigidity and sturdiness while keeping the weight low.
7. SanerDirect A4 LED Light Pad
With more than 80% of its customer ratings being 5/5 stars at the time of writing these reviews, it was clear to us that the SanerDirect A4 LED Light Pad was not an ordinary light pad. And when we conducted our research, we found out that this unit is superior.
For anyone doing painting, sketching, drawing, tattoo transferring or other forms of design, this lightpad will be immensely helpful.
The coolest thing about it is that it comes with almost everything needed. Apart from the unit itself and the USB cable, you get paper clips and a detachable stand, which you can use to support the light pad if you don’t want to keep your head bent.
On the light board are thousands of apertures where the light comes through, so the board is bright enough and the light is uniform all through.
At full power, the white light is so immense that seeing those little symbols and lines is a no-hassle affair.
One thing you’re going to love is the design of the working area. It runs from edge to edge on all sides except the left to ensure you have ample space for your projects.
On the left side, that’s where the power button is located. You can use it to turn the unit on and off with a light touch and when you hold it down, you’re able to adjust the brightness. There are 3 brightness settings to select – low, medium, and high.
We loved that the power button was situated at the upper left side, as that places it out of the way while keeping it easy to access.
You also want to know about the portability, don’t you? The unit is very portable as it measures 13.3 by 9.17 inches and weighs around 1 pound. The thickness is just 4mm, which adds to the portability and ease of use.
Most beautiful part? It’s inexpensive. Last we checked, it was selling at less that 20 bucks.
8. Litenergy A4 Tracing Light Box
For someone looking for a well-made and durable but inexpensive light pad, the Litenergy A4 Tracing Light Box would be an excellent choice.
Made from a Mitsubishi acrylic panel, the unit is pretty strong and it will live a long time if you handle it properly. The sturdy construction allows the unit to be slim but strong.
And talking about being slim, the unit has a thickness of just 0.2 inches. This is very convenient. It not only keeps the weight down but also means you can place your hand on the table while drawing or paining on your project.
The unit weighs in at just 1.5 pounds, meaning it is something you can lift and carry around even with one hand.
With its dimensions being 14.2 by 10.6 inches, the light pad is perfect for someone who’s keen on portability.
Another reason why so many people like this light pad is the intensity and quality of light is gives out. The light comes from numerous LEDs within the light board and the intensity is up to 4000 lux. That basically means you have enough light to penetrate through more than 2 to 3 layers of cardstock.
With so much light, drawing your designs is easy as the elements are well illuminated. On the upper left corner is a power button. Apart from switching the unit on and off, the button allows you to increase or dim the light.
And tell you what?
If you want to be able to choose the color of your lightpad, this is the unit for you. You get to choose from 4 colors – pink, black, green, and silver. They all go for the same price of just over 20 bucks.
9. Luditek A4 Light Box
Looking for an inexpensive light pad with a scale?
Check out the Luditek A4 Light Box. Selling at less than 20 dollars, it’s one of the least expensive units. The scale is very helpful for those who want to use the lightpad for drawing and sketching, viewing x-rays, and performing other tasks that need measurements.
One issue with cheap light boxes is that they release radiation and strong rays that are damaging to the eyes. This unit is different. It gets its light from LEDs designed with eye-protection technology to protect your eyes.
The light is also free of flickers and it’s uniformly distributed. What’s more, you can use the power button at the upper left corner to control the brightness.
The length and width of units are 14.2 and 9.5 inches respectively, while the thickness is 5mm. Such dimensions and the little weight of just about 1 pound point to a compact-size device that is easy to handle and carry around. A perfect selection for someone who’s constantly on the move.
You’ll be glad to see that the light pad has plenty of work space, thanks to the design, which minimizes the size of the handles. You get 12.2 by 8.2 inches worth of working area. That’s the same size as an A4 size paper.
There’s just one concern, which, by the way, may not be a concern to most people. Inside the glass panel are black dot patterns – these are meant to protect your eyes when using the light pad.
While they offer protection, they minimize the intensity of the light, so you might struggle when dealing with thicker paper as the lines may not be well illuminated.
But as said, that may not be a concern at all. It becomes a problem only if you need very bright light.
10. Kenting Magnetic K4M Tracing Light Pad
When it comes to diamond painting, the Kenting Magnetic K4M Tracing Light Pad is perfect. That is particularly because of the magnets, which help you hold the diamond painting, and the included stand, which makes things extremely easy for you.
These are actually the two main factors that enabled the unit to make it to this list.
So, when you order the pad, 4 magnetic pins are included in the package when it is shipped. These attach to the metal platform of the pad, holding paper in between. The magnets are pretty strong; you can rely on them for this need.
If you’re doing tracing or you need the light pad for other purposes that need precision, you’ll benefit a lot from the two scales at the left and top sides. These are calibrated in cm, and they run from 0 to 21 and 31 respectively.
The length is 16 inches while the width is 12 inches. The thickness, on the other hand, is just 5.1mm while the weight is 1.3 pounds. One thing’s for sure – you’re sure going to love the portability of this unit if portability is what you’re looking for.
Yes, the Kenting Magnetic K4M Tracing Light Pad isn’t battery-powered and has to be operated while plug into a power source. But then, it comes with a USB cable, meaning you can power it using a computer or even a power bank. You don’t have to rely on a wall outlet.
The light is bright and nice and it can be adjusted by holding the power button.
What to Look for When Buying Light Boxes for Artists
With so many models on the market, selecting the right art light box can be tricky. But by thinking about your specific needs, you can be able to narrow down on your options and arrive at the correct selection. Here are a few factors to think about.
Size and weight
Size is important because of two factors. First, it determines the portability and secondly, it determines the size of paper you can use.
If you’re looking to take your light box with you from place to place, it’s better to choose a small unit that doesn’t go beyond 30 by 30 inches (the smaller the better).
But then, you also have to consider if the screen size will be able to accommodate your papers. An A4 size paper, for instance, requires a screen size that is at least 11.69 by 8.27 inches. An A2 paper requires 23.4 by 16.5 inches.
Be sure to think about the size of the papers you’ll be dealing with.
When considering the portability, don’t forget, also, to think about the thickness and the weight of the unit. Artists looking for portability prefer a thickness not more than 6mm and a weight not more than 3 pounds.
The best light boxes for artists are not just those that have lots of brightness but also those whose brightness is adjustable.
Think about the weight of the papers you’ll be dealing with. If you’ll be using heavy watercolor papers, it’s good to get a unit that can produce 4000 lux at least. But if you’ll only be dealing with light tracing paper, you don’t need to focus so much on the intensity of the light.
A brightness adjustment button is a must-have for most of us. Most units come with a power button that is all used to adjust the brightness by long-pressing but some units have a power button and separate light adjustment buttons in the form of +/- signs or arrow signs. Get what suits you.
Prolonged exposure to direct light can damage your eyes. If the art light box uses incandescent bulbs, you’re at a high risk of suffering eye damage. That risk is significantly reduced if the unit uses LEDs.
Some manufacturers have taken the eye protection measures a step further by including a dot pattern technology in their units. The pattern is normally situated behind the screen, with the aim of reducing the luminosity of the light.
While this technology serves well to diminish the risk of eye damage, it reduces the brightness, which may not be suitable for some people.
How To Use It?
Using an LED light pad is pretty straightforward whether or not your have a manual. In this section, we’ll discuss the process and give you a few helpful tips.
When your light pad arrives, it should have a power supply cable, which may or may not include a head/adapter. The package might also include a stand and clips depending on the model you’ve bought.
So, here are the steps to follow after unboxing the unit:
- Use the USB cable to connect the light pad to a power source. You can connect it to a computer or a power bank or use an adapter to connect it to a wall outlet.
- Switch on the pad using a button on the side or by tapping the power button at the side of the screen.
- Take your template and position it on the screen. If the unit came with paper clips or magnets, use them to secure the template to the screen. If you don’t have any of that, then use a tape to secure the paper. Artists love to use washi tape for this purpose because it is easy to remove and doesn’t ruin your paper.
- After that, place the paper you’re drawing on directly on top of the template and secure it there are well, using the clips/magnets or the tape. Ensure the paper is properly aligned.
- Time to adjust the brightness. The way you do this will depend on the specific unit you’re using. Some units come with a power button that is also used to adjust the brightness by long pressing it, while others come with separate brightness adjustment buttons. These are normally located on the side.
- Note: if you have lights shinning down directly on the light pad, you might not be able to see your template image properly. We suggest you switch off any such lights.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about light boxes for art.
What are art light boxes and what are they used for?
Light boxes are flat art workplaces with built-in illumination. The light they produce illuminates the images or patterns on the template paper, helping the artist to transfer them to another paper.
How are art light boxes powered?
Most light boxes get their energy from a direct connection to a power source. There are also battery powered units, but for many people, if the unit can be connected to a power bank or a computer via a USB cable, it is just as convenient.
How do you adjust the brightness of a light pad?
Adjusting a light pad’s brightness is normally done by pressing buttons on the side of the screen. Most lightpads have a power button, which doubles up as a brightness adjustment button, but some units have separate buttons for adjusting the brightness labelled with +/- signs or up and down arrows.
Does a light box for art damage eyes?
Any prolonged exposure to direct light isn’t very safe to the eyes, but the risk of damage also depends on the type and intensity of the light. If the light is coming from an incandescent bulb, then the risk of your eyes getting damaged are high. But if your light pad uses adjustable LED light, the risk is significantly lower.
As we come to the end, we hope that our review of the best light boxes for artists has helped you find a suitable model.
Think about the size of the unit if you want something portable. The length, width, and thickness matter, and the weight also matters. But, keep it in mind that the screen size will affect the size of the paper you’ll be using.
Other factors to look for are adjustable brightness and the quality and intensity of the light. These are the same factors we looked at when selecting the models to include in this article.