When you're choosing the best lightbox for for tracing and drawing it can come down to the brightness, size and portability. These devices aren't just for artists, and a good LED lighbox can be used by sewists, crafters, students and photographers to see their projects in detail.
Generally a lightbox is very simple; it's an illuminated panel you can place paper, photos or even fabric over to see the small details with clarity. This is why an excellent table top lightbox can help with everything from sketching to quilting, and why the best lightbox for photography can be used for art too. From experience, brightness is important, but so is versatility as most of us have creative projects that take in a mix of media. Just because you choose the best lightbox for drawing doesn't mean it can't be used for other projects.
You also need to make some considerations over size, which can range from B4 to A2 and importantly brightness, which can vary from 1100 lux to 6000 lux. From testing these, it's worth noting there's a sweet spot between size and brightness, the larger the lightbox often the lower the brightness, and vice versa (an A3 lightbox is a good balance). The best lightbox for tracing and drawing tend to have multiple settings to fit your project and can be used with crafting gadgets, such as the best Cricut machines, or for art projects that use the best mechanical pencils and the best ink pens for artists.
The best lightbox for tracing and drawing available now
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The Cricut Brightpad Go is designed for crafters but its build quality, 4,200 LED display and portability make it great for anyone looking for the best lightbox for tracing and drawing too.
The screen has a decent-sized 29.2cm x 22.8cm drawing and tracing area, and just as important it has a 6H hardness surface that ensures it's scratch and damage resistant. The Brightpad Go is primarily designed for crafters using pin-sharp weeding tools so your pen and pencil won't damage this at all.
I particularly like the lightness and mobility of the Brightpad Go, at 676 Grams it's one of the lighter screens on this list. It means you can use this at a table or have it on your lap and sketch, and it can be packed away in a bag so you can take your projects outside – the Brightpad Go's battery lasts for just under two hours and is rechargeable.
If the Brightpad Go is too pricey – it retails for $89.99 / £89.99 then Cricut also has the older, wired Brightpad at $59.99 / £69.99 that is much the same but has only three brightness settings and is, of course, wired and not portable.
We think the Huion A3 LED Light Pad is an excellent all round lightbox. If you’re familiar with drawing tablets, then Huion is a name you’ll recognise – but you may not have been aware that the firm is also one of the leading names in the world of lightboxes. We’ve plumped for the Huion A3 LED Light Pad as our top pick – with the combination of a generous drawing area, a slim build and an impressive maximum brightness of 4,050 lux, it’s a lightbox that’s going to suit the vast majority of users.
Its LED illumination is cold and even, as well as powerful enough to shine through even the thickest papers. Also, in a nice touch, the Huion A3 LED Light Pad has a smart memory feature, meaning it can remember the last brightness level you used. If you’re returning time and again to a longform project on the same paper stock, this can be a real time-saver.
With a working area of 16.9 x 12.2 inches, you’ve got plenty of drawing space. One annoyance we did find is that the AC cable is a little short, at just 44 inches, which may restrict where you can place the lightbox in your home. However, given that Huion rates this lightbox to have a lifespan of 50,000 hours, and it has the capability to be used for up to 24 hours continuously without overheating, this is one of the best options for those who plan to get a lot of use out of their lightbox. So maybe you can move your desk around.
The Daylight Company Wafer 3 is the best lightbox for sketching large projects, its A2 size is rare on this list and it doesn't skimp on brightness or features either. As the name suggests, the Daylight Company specialises in lights that offer a 6,000 kelvin temperature, which is a cool white colour but importantly offers true colour matching.
The Wafer 3 differs from other lightboxes by offering a dimmer switch with a memory function, so rather than specific settings you can adjust the brightness to your liking and project's needs. This means the Wafer 3 is a little more adaptable than some lightboxes if you're doing more than just sketching, and can include embossing and stencilling.
Not only does the Wafer 3 have a large A2 work area, it's also only .31 inches thick, which makes it the same as the Huion A3 LED Light Pad above but at a larger size and a little heavier. I love the size and colour tone of the Wafer 3's LED, but you may find it too large for your uses if you are after the best lightbox for tracing and drawing; but if you are creating large projects, this is a great option.
We’d recommend the LitEnergy A4 Tracing Light Box for budget-conscious creatives, as it’s a popular choice on Amazon and offers all the features you need from a lightbox.
Even with its slender price tag, the LitEnergy A4 Tracing Light Box packs in impressive specs, with a maximum adjustable brightness of 4,000 lux of LED illumination. There’s also the smart memory feature that can retain your settings, like with Huion’s options, and the lightbox itself is very slim and lightweight, making it easy to transport.
One word of caution – the LitEnergy A4 Tracing Light Box does get hot. It’s powered by a USB cable, and if you leave it running too long you’ll start to notice it heating up. This makes us think it might not last as long as the Huion options (though of course, we haven’t been able to test it for 50,000 hours to check). Overall though, this is a solid budget lightbox that comes well recommended.
The HSK A2 Artist Tracing Light Box is a good option for artists as it offers a large and bright workspace, in fact this is size accurate so you're guaranteed the workspace is A3 (some lightboxes for drawing claim A2 but take into account the whole product).
The LED is 5500 lux / 1200 Lumens, which is ideal for drawing and features a dimmer switch to raise and lower the light's brightness. What I also like is this has a light lock, so by holding down the dimmer for three seconds the HSK A2 will retain the brightness you use most (it flashes to acknowledge the setting).
This latest version of the popular HSK range is made from a redesigned aluminium frame, which does mean it's a strong build but it also adds to the weight. Personally, I like the heavier frame as it feels more secure (and small pads beneath the HSK prevent it from moving). It does, however, mean this isn't the most portable lightbox.
I've opted for the HSK A2 here as it's a large and handy size to use, but the brand also has the same model in smaller and lighter sizes with brighter LEDs, including the HSK A3 (7000 lux), HSK A2 (7000 lux), and the HSK B4 (6000 lux).
The Huion L4S Light Pad is a good choice for anyone who feels like they don’t need or want the bulk of an A3 lightbox – it’s A4 sized, but still comes with loads of useful features, including adjustable brightness and the smart memory feature that can remember your settings.
This means it’s a good lightbox for taking up less space in your office, studio or bedroom. Also, the fact that the Huion L4S Light Pad weighs just 0.59kg makes it much more travel-friendly than a lot of the bigger lightboxes out there.
It’s worth being aware that the maximum brightness is much lower than that of the Huion A3 LED Light Pad, hitting 1,100 lux. This is still enough for most purposes, but it’s something to be aware of. In the box you get a bulldog clip for securing your paper, as well as a generously sized 78-inch USB cable for charging purposes.
The Dear Carbon A3 Light Board comes with a built-in stand, which makes it ideal for artists and also unique on this list. The stand can be adjusted through six settings meaning you can tailor it to your needs, and also makes it a great lightbox for kids as well as adults.
There's a drawback to the addition of a stand – the Dear Carbon A3 Light Board is a small and compact lightbox and it's limited to 4500 Lux, though that's still good for most art tracing, weeding and design projects. For some, the advantage of having a tilted lightbox could be more comfortable and ease back pain, and it's closer to easel sketching than a standard lightbox.
The Artograph LightPad 950 LX is a respected brand that makes lightboxes in varying sizes, including standard A3 and A4. But it's the super large 24 x 17 inch lightbox that grabs our attention. It's hard to find a lightbox this size readily available outside of industry-focused retailers.
The size of the Artograph LightPad 950 LX obviously restricts its mobility and the 4.2lbs makes this one of the heavier lightboxes in my list. But, let's be honest, when you use a lightbox at this size you won't be moving it and the weight ensures a stable platform to place photos, art and lengths of fabric.
This lightbox offers a 'Cool White' 6500K colour temperature that can be adjusted from 1000 lux to an incredibly bright 5000 lux. Artograph brags this LEDs will last 50,000 hours – we've yet to see it through but so far it's remained consistent. The brightness and size ensure this is a great choice for anyone who works with large, thick fabrics, or thick art paper.
Another good lightbox for large sizes is the Huion A2 LED Light Box, which is the biggest lightbox from Huion. We should point out that, despite the A2 in the title, the illuminated area is actually smaller than that, at 20.5 x 12.6 inches, although that's still pretty huge.
The Huion A2 LED Light Box is nice and slim at just 0.2 inches (5.1mm), and it weighs just 5.9lbs. Like all the Huion lightboxes, it's well built, and it features adjustable brightness and smart memory. This model provides a maximum brightness of 1,100 lux. It comes with a 78 inch-long USB cable.
The Gaomon GB4 Size LED Light Box is from the same brand that create budget but good quality pen displays and features some excellent technology and design features. This is well made and has a touch switch for adjusting the brightness levels, so it dims and lightens slowly the longer you hold your finder in place. I find it's in an easy-to-reach place too, and you'll be surprised how many lightboxes for drawing hide these switches away. It also remembers the brightness you last used too, which is handy.
This LED lightbox has a 8000K-10000K colour temperature and a 650 CD/M² brightness rating. The Gaomon GB4 works well on standard paper, and that brightness quality ensures its doesn't stress your eyes as some lightboxes can do but it's also not the brightest on my list. The only downside is, if you use thick paper stock you may struggle with the Gaomon GB4 but for 99% of tasks it works fine.
In the bright side, this is slim and light – thinner than a smartphone – and highly portable. This lightbox that comes with its own two meter micro USB charging cable (no adapter, which is the norm these days). There are also no 'edges' too, ensuring you can move your paper around without snagging.
What is a lightbox for tracing?
A lightbox is quite a simple device. It's basically a square or rectangular container that has a glass or plexiglass surface with a light shining beneath it. You switch it on, place an image you want to copy onto the glass, and then place your paper or fabric on top. The light should shine through your paper, enabling you to see the image below clearly enough to trace it.
Depending on the thickness of the paper or fabric you use and the brightness of the lightbox, you may need to dim the lights in your studio or office, since the darker you make the room, the easier it will be to see the image on the lightbox.
Also note that while these devices are conventionally dubbed ‘lightboxes’, they're not actually so big and chunky. Most are thin and sleek, and not so box-like, so you'll also see them referred to as ‘light tables’, or even more accurately as ‘light pads’ since they’re quite similar in size and shape to a notepad, or even an iPad.
What is the best lightbox?
In our opinion, the best lightbox for tracing overall at the moment is the Brightpad at $59.99 / £69.99. It’s a very reliable, solid performer, offers a good range of brightness levels, a great brightness control system, and a generous work surface area. It's good for art as well as crafting.
However, other lightboxes may suit your specific needs if you need to work at larger sizes, want to save space on your desk, or if you have a tighter (or larger) budget, so, in the guide above, we've included a range of options, each with its own selling points.
How much does a lightbox cost?
Most lightboxes cost somewhere between $20 / £15 and $100 / £75, but there are much more expensive models for specialist purposes, which can run into the hundreds of dollars/pounds. Generally, it's accurate to say that you get what you pay for, with cheaper lightboxes often providing lower levels of brightness and tending to overheat more quickly.
The choice of the best lightbox for you will usually come down to budget and four specific factors: the size of working surface you need, how strong you need the light to be (in general, the thicker your paper, the higher the level of brightness you'll need), how lightweight and portable you want the device to be, and the type of power supply you require.
Do professional artists use lightboxes?
Yes, of course. Lightboxes for tracing and and drawing aren't 'cheating' and can come in useful for all manner of artistic tasks, for example transferring designs accurately from one material to to another or for tracing lineart onto paper for painting. Comic book artists and animators in particular will make use of the best lightboxes.