Today’s reader question comes from someone who wants to know about light boxes. Specifically, what is a good light box? Here’s the question.
What is a good light box? I looked and there are many. I do pencils in the winter and acrylic in the warmer days due to the space I have to work in.
This is a tough question for me to answer because I don’t remember ever using a light box. At least not one designed for artists.
Back in my newspaper days, I worked on a huge slanted table lighted from beneath. The surface was yellow so the light was diffused. We laid the blank newspaper layout pages on the table, then pasted the news, features, ads, and fillers onto the layout pages by hand.
It seems like I used that table once or twice to work on my art (with my boss’ permission, of course.) But that memory is dim.
I wouldn’t recommend a light table like that because it was long enough for three or four of us to work on at the same time! It was also tall enough that we didn’t have to bend over it.
Actually, it was quite comfortable to work at and I spent most of my early years at the paper at that table.
Looking for a Good Light Box
The best light box I’ve ever used isn’t a light box at all. It’s a window or door. Depending on the time of day, I choose the best window or door, tape my line drawing to the glass, then tape my drawing paper over that. I work standing (which is most comfortable for me.) For large or complicated drawings, I leave the paper in place as long as necessary, but can still walk away or take breaks.
The biggest disadvantage is that my arms get tired after a while. That’s why breaks are so important.
If you want to try a window, choose one that isn’t facing the sun directly. Also choose a window that’s large enough for your drawing, and that you can reach easily without moving furniture, plants or other things.
A flat window is best, not a bay window like this illustration.
But not everyone can work that way. You may need either a portable light box, or a light table.
3 Brands of Good Light Boxes
A quick look at the Dick Blick website presented several very good possibilities. As I already mentioned, I have no personal experience with light boxes or light tables, so I cannot make a personal recommendation.
What I can do is pass on to you what I’ve heard other artists mention.
The most-frequently-mentioned name is Artograph. Artograph makes art projectors, light tables, and a number of other tools for artists of all types.
The most interesting light box I found is the Artograph LightPad LX LED Light Box. This light box is lighted by LEDs (which last a long, long time.) It’s only half an inch thick and comes in sizes ranging from 6×9 inches to 17×24 inches. That makes it easy to store, and a storage bag is also available.
Artograph also makes the LightTracer Light Box, which is small, light weight and less than $75 through Dick Blick. It’s not as compact as the light pads, but it is definitely more budget friendly.
The lightpads are rated 4.7 stars out of five stars. The Light Box is rated 4.5 stars out of five.
Another brand of highly rated light boxes is Daylight. The Daylight Wafer LED Light Boxes are 3/8″ thick and available in sizes from 9×12 inches to 18×23.5 inches. They’re a little more expensive than the Artograph LightPads.
I don’t recall hearing any other artists talk about these, but they are favorably rated at 4.8 out of five stars.
The last light box on this short list is Litebox’s light box. This one is more “vintage” in design. It uses florescent lighting for illumination and is a bit on the bulky side. This light box is 12×16 inches and about six inches tall. It’s rated 4.8 stars out of five by Dick Blick customers.
Are You Looking for a Good Light Box?
As this reader mentioned, there are a surprising number of light boxes on the market. They range in size from very slim and compact, to full size light tables.
The best tip I can offer is to talk to other artists who are using light boxes and find out what they use.
The second best tip? If you do your own search for light boxes, try searching for them as drafting tools!