Choosing the Best Light Box for Tracing or Drawing
Drawing and tracing without using a light box is a bit like trying to paint on a canvas, without using an easel: you can do it, but it’s unpractical. Sure, all you need to draw is your pencil and a sheet of paper, but the subtle nuances of your artistry might get lost without proper daylight illumination.
Not to be confused with a drawing tablet, a drawing light box provides a surface that is evenly backlit by LEDs. It enables artists to draw with enhanced accuracy, regardless of their environment. Whether you are in a design studio, in a coffee shop, on a train or at school, you can use a light box to get the right brightness for your material.
You can also use a light box to trace a picture onto a non-transparent (still translucent) piece of paper such as drawing paper, sketch paper, watercolor paper, canson paper or stained glass paper. This is great news for people such as illustrators, who can use tracing light boxes to ink a comic strip directly from the pencil sketch, without the need for tracing paper or carbon paper.
In addition to being great for drawing and tracing, light boxes – often referred to as light pads, boards or tables – can be used by photographers to view slides or negatives. They can be quite useful for other purposes, such as scrapbooking and other creative activities, much like calligraphy, serigraphy, embroidery, quilling and more – the possibilities are truly endless!
In short, drawing light boxes are a true game-changer for artists and designer, but how do you know which one’s right for you?
Things to Keep in Mind When Selecting Your Drawing Light Box
With so many different models on the market, choosing a drawing light box can be a real headache. It’s important to consider your specific needs and make sure that the light pad you end up picking will match your expectation. Keep reading to learn more.
Do you need to take your light box around a lot? If so, you should consider the possibility of buying a light box that comes in A4 size. This is a great option for a relatively light-weight, portable item that will seamlessly fit in your backpack. If you prefer to use A3 or A2 paper sheets, you’ll find a larger device preferable instead. A3 is a fairly common size for most applications, while A2 is great for larger portraits such as full-bodied drawings.
As the name itself might imply, a great light box should have good illumination. If you need a light box for tracing, make sure that it can shine through 2 sheets of thick paper. If you want to get technical, aim for a light box that can produce at least 4000 lux. If you only aim to draw or work on other artist projects such as quilting or photography, 1500-4000 lux will suit your needs perfectly well. The vast majority of light boxes out there feature adjustable brightness, so you can dim or brighten the light to the level that suits your project. Generally, they offer 3-5 levels of brightness, but top-of-the-line products allow you to adjust the brightness continuously.
In most cases, powered light boxes with their own power supply are actually brighter than their USB-powered counterparts. The latter must be connected to a computer to operate, although USB chargers are often available as well. On the other hand, with a USB-powered device, you can get a car charger or an external battery and thus have a completely portable light table that you can use everywhere.
We reviewed the best drawing / tracing light boxes for artists and created 2 comparison tables to help you pick the one that meets your needs. The first table is dedicated to A4 light boxes, and the second to A3- and A2-sized devices (click here to directly see the second table).
Please note: if viewing from Canada or Europe, article links may be substituted for an equivalent model if the selected model is not available in your country.
2020’s Top 6 Tracing Light Boxes in A4 Size
|Tikteck A4||AGPtek A4||Huion A4||Huion LB4||Artograph Lightpad 930 LX|
|Tracing Light Box Picture|
|Light Pad Dimensions|
9.45 x 14.17 x 0.25 in
240 x 360 x 6.4 mm
9.45 x 14.17 x 0.25 in
240 x 360 x 6.2 mm
10.6 x 14.2 x 0.3 in
270 x 360 x 8 mm
10.6 x 15.7 x 0.3 in
270 x 400 x 8 mm
11.4 x 14.4 x 0.47 in
289 x 365 x12 mm
8.26 x 12.20 in
203 x 304 mm
8.26 x 12.20 in
210 x 310 mm
8.7 x 12.6 in
220 x 320 mm
9.0 x 12.6 in
228 x 320 mm
9 x 12 in
229 x 305 mm
|Color Temperature||8000 K||7000 K||9000 K||9000 K||6500 K|
|Max Brightness||2500 lux||4000 lux||4480 lux||1500 lux||5000 lux|
|Continuous Dimming Control?|
|Power Supply||USB||USB/Power Adapter||Power Adapter||Lithium Battery||Power Adapter|
Tikteck A4: an Extra Thin and Cheap Drawing Light Board
This is a USB-powered light board for drawing that is good value for the money. It is ultra thin (0.2 inches / 5 mm), very lightweight and it can easily fit into a document-case, along with your sketchbook, your drawings and/or your illustration portfolio.
There are rulers (with gradations in centimeters) on the top and left edges of the acrylic surface, which can be useful for drawing architectural plans. The illumination is flicker-free and even across the entire surface. Moreover, by holding the on-off button, you can adjust the table lighting according to ambient lighting and paper thickness/weight.
AGPtek A4 Tracing Light Box
This device is very similar to the Tikteck A4, both in terms of features and price. There are some differences, though. First, the AGPtek A4 has only 3 levels of illumination: low, medium, and high. On the other hand, the highest light setting is brighter than that of the ticktek (4000 lux vs 2500 lux), and is bright enough to trace using 2 sheets of 140 lb watercolor paper.
Finally, this tracing light box can be powered by connecting it to any USB port or an electrical outlet using the supplied AC adapter. This is great, because it allows you to use the device without requiring a computer nearby.
Huion A4 & LB4 Light Pads
Huion is company that manufactures all kinds of devices for artists and designers: graphic tablets, stylus pens, pen tablet monitors, drawing light pads… Huion A4 & LB4 models are great LED light pads at a great price: they are ultra slim, light and beautifully made. Illumination is uniform, and the brightness is dimmable from 0% to 100% (the power button acts like a dimmer switch: you just have to press and hold it to change the brightness).
Artograph Lightpad 930 LX: the American-Made A4 Light Box
The most renowned tracing light boxes are made in the USA by Artograph (based in Delano, Minnesota). The LightPad® LX series light boxes are superior quality products (at a reasonnable price), with an elegant design and an exemplary finish. Moreover, they are extremely resistant (see for yourself here and there ) thanks to their aluminium frames and reinforced chrome-steel corners.
Our Choices for the Best A2 & A3 Light Boxes for artists
|AGPtek A3||Huion LA3||Huion LB3||Artograph Lightpad 940 LX||Huion A2|
|Light Box Dimensions|
14.6 x 18.2 x 0.24 in
370 x 470 x 6.2 mm
14.2 x 18.8 x 0.3 in
360 x 479 x 8 mm
13.8 x 19.7 x 0.3 in
350 x 500 x 8 mm
14.8 x 19.8 x 0.47 in
375 x 502 x 12 mm
14.7 x 22.4 x 0.3 in
373 x 570 x 8 mm
13 x 16.9 in
330 x 430 mm
12.2 x 16.9 in
310 x 430 mm
11.8 x 16.5 in
300 x 420 mm
12 x 17 in
305 x 432 mm
12.6 x 20.5 in
320 x 520 mm
|Color Temperature||6000 K||10000 K||9000 K||6500 K||10000 K|
|Max Brightness||2600 lux||4050 lux||1500 lux||5000 lux||2000 lux|
|Continuous Dimming Control?|
|Power Supply||USB/Power Adapter||Wall Adapter||Lithium Battery||Wall Adapter||Wall Adapter|
AGPtek A3 Light Box for Drawing
The AGPtek A3 is slim and surprisingly lightweight for its size. The illumination is even and adjustable (3 settings are available). The brightest setting (2600 lux) is bright enough to allow you to trace from light sketch paper onto watercolor or bristol paper.
The device comes with a 6 feet (1.8 m) long USB cable. An AC adapter is also included, so you don’t need a computer when you have a power outlet within reach. It is also possible to connect the AGPtek A3 to an external battery for complete mobility.
Huion Light Boxes in A3 and A2 Size
Huion A2, LB3 and LA3 light boxes will surprise you with their high quality and low price. They are compact, evenly lit, and feature continuous dimming control. The maximum brightness of the Huion LA3 is very high (4500 lux), while that of the Huion A2 and Huion LB3 is much lower (⩽ 2000 lux). This light intensity of 2000 lux is high enough to make a drawing on white paper, but if you plan to use colored canson sheets, you will need to choose a model that offers more intense lighting. Also of note, the LB3 is battery-powered, which makes it very mobile: you can trace or just draw absolutely anywhere you want.
Artograph 940 LX: The Best A3 Light Pad
The LightPad 940 LX by Artograph features the same lightweight yet robust aluminium design as the 930 LX, but with larger lit area. The robustness of Artograph products is particularly reassuring when it comes to large format LED tracing pads.
As usual with Artograph, high intensity LEDs provide a perfect, evenly lit surface, and the brightness is continuously adjustable, from 500 to 5000 lux.
What About the Other Drawing Light Boxes?
There are a number of drawing and tracing light boxes from unknown brands that we did not review in this article (i.e. M.Way, Icoco, Gaomon, Yaufey, Yuelong, Voilamart, Luditek, Amzdeal, Litenergy, DBmier, Sinma, LightingWill, Illuminati, Glisteny, Skyblue, Aibecy, Satisfr, Savfy, Prozor, etc.). You should know that Amazon sells a large number of Chinese generic products that are imported by third parties who don’t know much about drawing light boxes, and who basically try to sell trendy products. Bad quality LED technology, fragile and faulty cables, etc. are some examples of common problems with poorly made Chinese products. Of course, we should not generalize and some Chinese manufacturers produce surprisingly good quality products at low prices. So, be sure to read customer reviews before buying a LED light box from an unknown brand.
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