The best lightbox for tracing is not just an essential purchase for artists, illustrators, designers and architects, it's very affordable too. So you have every reason to invest in one, as it can make a huge difference to your creativity and productive workflow.
Put simply, a lightbox allows you to accurately trace from a printed diagram, sketch drawing or photo onto professional drawing paper. It's useful both in your day-to-day professional work and any hobbies or side hobbies you've got going on, from scrapbooking to calligaphy, tattoo design to quilting.
Not all lightboxes are the same, though, and there are a number of factors you need to consider. The first is size: lightbox generally range from A4 to A2. Obviously, more drawing area is better, but most of us have limited space on our desks, so there's a compromise to be made there.
A lightbox also needs to be bright enough to see through thicker pieces of paper, and ideally the brightness should also be adjustible. Finally, there's power supply. Do you want a model that runs on AC or USB? Where the models on this list come with a USB cable, you'll need to supply your own adapter if you want to plug it into the wall.
Read on for our pick of the best lightboxes for tracing (or for more in-depth information, jump to how does a lightbox work or how to choose a lightbox). We'll start with the best lightbox available to US readers, and then go on to reveal the best lightbox for UK readers.
Of course, for most artists these days, physical drawing goes hand-in-hand with digital drawing. So also check out our guides to the best drawing tablets round up, as well as the best drawing tablets for kids.
The best lightbox for tracing in the US
When it comes to lightboxes, Huion is the leading brand right now. So it's no surprise that we've picked this as the best lightbox for tracing overall. Why? Because it's slim, generously sized, and powerfully bright, reaching a maximum of 4,050 Lux, so it will work with even the thickest of paper.
The LED illumination offers a cold, even light, and is also adjustable, from bright to dark. Handily, it also has a smart memory feature, which remembers the brightness of your last use.
It provides a working area of 16.9 x 12.2 inches, which should be enough for most people's needs. And most importantly, it's built to high quality standards, promising a lifespan of 50,000 hours and use for up to 24 hours without overheating. Our only small criticism is that the AC power cable, at 44 inches, could be a little longer, so you may need an extension cable.
Looking for something smaller than A3? Then Huion’s L4S is our top pick for a lightbox at A4 size. Like the Huion A3 LED Light Pad, above, this is well built, offers adjustable brightness, and comes with a smart memory feature.
While you'll obviously get less working area than with an A3 lightbox, on the flipside it will take up less space on your desk and be more lightweight, at just 1.3 lbs, making it much portable and suitable for travel. You also get a bulldog clip to keep your artwork in place as you trace, and a 78-inch USB cable for charging. On the minus side, it only offers brightness up to 1,100 lux, but that should be sufficient for most people's needs.
Short on cash? Then check out the LitEnergy A4 Tracing Light Box, which is the best lightbox you can buy today at a super-low price. An Amazon best-seller, it's very slim, at just 0.2 inches and lightweight, at 1.5lbs. But it still delivers an impressive 4,000 lux of LED illumination, with adjustable brightness and smart memory. Powered by an included USB cable, it heats up quite quickly, and we're not convinced this will last as long as, say, the Huion lightboxes. But then again at this price, does that matter?
This is the biggest lightbox that Huion makes, and is the perfect choice if you're looking to trace very large artworks. We should point out that, despite the A2 in the title, the illuminated area is smaller than that, at 20.5 x 12.6 inches, although that's still pretty huge. It's also nice and slim at just 0.2 inches (5.1mm) thick, and weighs 0.6kg (1.3lbs). Like all the Huion light boxes, this is well built, features adjustable brightness and smart memory. It has a 78 inch-long USB cable, and offers a maximum brightness of 1,100 lux.
Specifically need to trace an A2-size piece? Then the Lightmaster from US Art Supply boasts a 17 x 24 inch working area that will fit that nicely. It offers adjustable brightness, promises its LED lamps will last up to 50,000 hours, and offers a one-year unconditional full replacement warranty. It's lovely and slim, at just a third of an inch thick, and runs off AC power. On the downside, it's very expensive, but you do get a measuring overlay grid and a circle template/protractor throw in with the price. Also note that US Art Supply do an A1 version of this lightbox too.
The best lightbox for tracing in the UK
Our pick for the best lightbox overall, the Huion A3 LED Light Pad offers brightness up to an impressive 4,050 Lux, allowing you to trace through the heaviest paper or fabrice. It provides you with a generous working area of 42.9 x 30.9cm (16.9 x 12.2 inches), lets you gradually adjust the level of brightness, and boasts a handy smart memory feature, which automatically remembers the last level of brightness you chose. And it It
As with all Huion lightboxes, this model is very well-built and robust. It promises a lifespan of 50,000 hours and can be used for up to 24 hours without overheating. Weighing just 2.5kg, it's relatively portable, and it's powered by AC. The only possible niggle is that at 114cm, the power cable might not be long enough for your needs, so you may need to get an extension cable too.
Want a smaller lightbox, to save space on your desk, and which is easier to carry from place to place? Then Huion’s L4S Light Pad is a great option. Like the larger Huion featured above, it's well built and robust, offers adjustable levels of brightness via the power button, and has a brightness memory function too.
With a maximum of 1,100 lux, isn't the brightest lightbox on our list, but it’s still sufficient for most tracing purposes. It's powered by a 2m-long USB cable, and comes with a bulldog clip to fix your papers in place.
Need a large working area for your tracing? This light box boasts the biggest on our list by far, at a generous 51.9cm x 32cm (20.5 x 12.6 inches). However, note that this is not actually A2 as suggested in the product's name: that's the size of the box, rather than the working area.
Given its size, this lightbox is surprisingly slim at just 8mm, and comes with a 2m-long cable which you plug into the wall. Brightness goes up to 1,100 lux and is adjustable, plus there's a brightness memory function. Overall, this is a high-quality, solidly constructed model, that's perfect for tracing artwork at large sizes.
Working within a tight budget? Then we’ll recommend the LitEnergy A4 Tracing Light Box, which is the best lightbox available for a super-low price. Despite this, it provides very impressive levels of (fully adjustable) brightness, up to a massive 4,000 lux. It's powered by USB, and comes with a year-long warranty and hassle-free return policy. It can heat up quite quickly, so it's maybe not the best choice for prolonged professional use, but at this price it does still offer superb value.
Another low-cost model, this one from Lumsburry isn't just cheap, but lets you trace at A3 size. Although you don't get adjustive dimming, like the other options on our list, there are three different brightness levels to choose from, so there is some flexibility there. This lightbox 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 a non-slip mat to keep in place.
How does a lightbox work?
A lightbox is quite a simple device. It's basically a square or rectangular container with a glass or plexiglass surface, and a light shining beneath it. You switch the light box on, place the image you want to copy on the glass, place your paper on top, and the light should enable you to see your image clearly enough to trace it.
Depending on the thickness of paper, you may have to dim the lights in your studio; the darker you make the room, the easier the image will be to see on the lightbox.
Also note that while these devices are called ‘lightboxes’, they're not big, chunky and box-like. Most are indeed very sleek and thin, so they’re also often called ‘light tables’ or – more accurately still – ‘light pads’ as they’re similar in size and shape to a notepad, or indeed an iPad.
How to choose a lightbox
In this post, we’ve gathered together the the best lightboxes for tracing that represent the best value on the market today. They all offer a high level of transparency, and adjustable levels of brightness, to help with both accuracy and eye strain. So the choice between them will mainly come down to specifics like the size of working surface you need, how lightweight and portable you need the device to be, and how strong you need the light to be.
The overall best lightbox for tracing, in our view, is the Huion A3 LED Light pad. That’s because it’s an extremely reliable and solid performer, offers a good range of brightness levels, a great brightness control system, and a generous work surface area. However, other models of lightbox may be more suited to your specific needs, so we’ve also included four others, each of which has a unique selling point.
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