When it comes to picking the best lightbox for tracing and drawing you need to consider its size, brightness and adaptability. You may choose a lightbox for tracing but find you also need the best light box for photography, if you're hobbies merge, for example. Generally a lightbox is very simple; it's an illuminated panel you can place paper, photos or even fabric over to see in small details with clarity.
This is why an excellent table top light box can help with everything from sketching to quilting. But you also need to make some considerations over size, which can range from A4 to A2 and importantly brightness, which can range from 1,100 lux to 4,050 lux. The best lightboxes tend to have multiple settings to fit your project.
If you'll be doing digital drawing as well, make sure you also see our guides to the best drawing tablets and if you're a quilter or crafter take a look at out guides to the best Cricut machines and the best sewing machines.
The best lightboxes available now
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 (opens in new tab) 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.
With this in mind, it's worth noting The Daylight Company makes smaller models: the Wafer 2 (opens in new tab) (A3) and Wafer 1 (opens in new tab) (A4), which feature the same 6,000K LED and dimmer control.
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.
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.
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.
And if you have a tight budget but need to trace at a larger size? Then in steps another low-cost model, the Lumsburry A3 LED light box. This option's cheap and lets you trace at A3 size. You don't get the fully adjustable dimming like on the other options on our list, but there are three different brightness levels to choose from, so it does offer some flexibility.
The Lumsburry A3 LED light box also comes with a ruler along the top and side edges, a drawing glove to keep your hand clean when working with charcoal or pencils, and four non-slip mats to keep it in place. It comes with a USB cable for power.
The Sun Cling A3 LED Light Box Tracer is another very reasonably priced lightbox that lets you trace onto paper up to A3 in size. Weighing less than 500g (just over 1lb), it's nicely portable and you can turn it on/off and adjust the brightness by touch.
Overall, there's nothing particularly exciting about this lightbox, and it's slightly more expensive than the option above without adding much in terms of extra features. However, it does the job well and comes at an affordable price. Again. it's powered by USB cable, so you'll need to plug it into your laptop or a wall adapter.
The best lightbox: frequent questions
What is a lightbox?
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 Huion A3 LED Light pad (opens in new tab). 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.
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.
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