Tracing light boxes are illuminated surfaces, originally designed to improve visibility while drawing or tracing a picture. They have long been used by professional artists and children alike, however, contemporary varieties are far more portable and provide enhanced, LEDs or fluorescent lighting.
In this article, we walk you through the key things to consider if you’re looking for the best tracing light box money can buy, plus we recommend the ones we think are worth parting cash for.
At a Glance – Our Choice Of The Best Light Boxes On The Market
- Tikteck (Best Budget)
- Huoin L4S Slim Light Pad
- Artograph LightTracer
- U.S. Art Supply Lightmaster (Best Premium)
- Aibecy A2 Large Ultra-Thin LED
- Artograph LX
Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon. If you do purchase something we get a small commission, which has absolutely no effect on the eventual price that you pay.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this post:
- What is a Tracing Light Box?
- Buyer’s Guide – How To Choose a Lightbox
- Product Round-up and Reviews – Best Tracing Light Boxes
What is a Tracing Light Box?
As we mentioned in the introduction, light boxes are illuminated surfaces for tracing and have long been used by professional artists and children alike.
Modern tracing light boxes have diverse applications and illuminate all kinds of material, from watercolor paper, to fabrics and radiographs. Some models even completely eliminate the need for tracing paper when you need to copy an image.
One of the best things about lightboxes is that they come in different sizes. Some are A4 size and can be powered by batteries or power packs, making them portable. Whereas others reach a massive A1 size, which is great for artists that want a full on studio setup.
Buyer’s Guide – How To Choose a Lightbox
Here are a few things you should consider before buying a lightbox:
Tracing lightboxes come in a variety of sizes including A4, A3, A2 and A1. A4 is a good idea if you want to draw whilst you’re on the move. These size lightboxes will fit into a bag easily and can sit on your lap whilst you’re commuting to work or school. A2 and A1 sizes are handy if you have a home studio to work in and are suitable for landscape or full-bodied drawings. A3 falls somewhere in between.
If you want to use a lightbox for copying images the best brightness option is 3000 lux. This luminosity means the LEDs will produce enough light to pass through two sheets of quality paper no problem. That said, if you’re into water colour, then you’ll need a lightbox that produces a lux of 4480, due to the paper being extra-thick. If you’re more interested in sketching or viewing camera negatives, then a design that provides 1500 lux or more will be fine. Most modern lightboxes can also have their brightness adjusted continuously or using a leveling system.
If you want a lightbox you can carry around easily, you’ll need to choose a model that is lightweight and slim. On the other hand, if you want something sturdy, to fit on your home workbench, then a thicker, heavier design will provide extra stability and suit you best.
If you’re an architect or need to practice vinyl weeding, then make sure to look for a lightbox that includes a scratch proof, glass surface screen. This is crucial in protecting the surface from your knife as you cut into your material.
As well as size, a lightboxes’ portability also depends on its power supply. If you want to sketch whilst on the move, you’ll need to pick a model that either uses batteries or a charger pack. Most lightboxes, however, use USB power cables that can connect to a PC or to a wall socket adapter.
Cost and Quality
Another aspect to consider is the cost, as lightboxes sell for anything between twenty dollars to hundreds of dollars. Knowing your budget beforehand will therefore narrow down your search and help you to budget. Just remember, that some cheaper Chinese lightboxes have poorer LED quality and are made from weaker materials, so it’s worth researching the manufacturer before you purchase very low cost models too.
Product Round-up and Reviews – Best Tracing Light Boxes
The first lightbox we’re going to talk about is made by Tiktech. The great thing about the design here has to be its small, slender build, which means you can carry it about easily. It’s only 5mm thick, with a surface area just slightly larger than an A4 piece of paper. Another cool aspect is that Tik Tech has included a stepless light modulator, so you can dial in the exact brightness you need. The LEDs are flicker-free too, and provide enough illumination to highlight thick, watercolor paper and trace images.
This model is powered by a USB plug, so you’ll need to charge the Tik Tech’s lightbox using either a computer, USB power bank or a USB plug that connects to a wall outlet. Just remember, if you want to use it whilst you’re on the move, you’ll need to bring a power bank along with you.
The only issue we found here is that you can accidentally press the on/ off switch and brightness controls due to the sensitive touch sensor control system. This isn’t a huge issue as long as you hold the device away from the sensor switch as you work.
Overall, we’d recommend Tik Tech’s lightbox to anyone that travels a lot and needs to get artistic on a budget. For your money, the LED quality here is pretty decent. The only downside is that the acrylic material combined with the thin design can make the device feel a little delicate.
- Portable – Sleek and lightweight
- Quality LEDs – The illumination is bright, adjustable and flicker-free
- Affordable – Tik Tech’s lightbox is a great option for anyone shopping on a budget
- Feels delicate – The 5mm depth and acrylic material makes this lightbox feel breakable
- Small – Tik Tech’s small, A4-sized device may not provide enough space for landscape artists
Next up we’re going to talk about Crayola’s Light Up Tracing Pad. So what’s so great about this lightbox? The best aspect here has to be that kids love it! The aesthetic is bright and fun, the lighting is good and you get the option of downloading extra cartoon stencils.
The lightbox itself is also about A4 size, slim and is powered by AA batteries, so it can be used in the car on long journeys, or at home. Crayola’s product also comes with a set of coloring pencils and ten pieces of tracing paper and blank paper. So, you get a lot of handy stuff for your money. The manufacturers have even included a useful paper-locking frame to prevent any slippage whilst you draw.
The downside is that although the lighting is powerful and even enough to trace pictures, it isn’t adjustable. As well as this, the extra images available for downloading sometimes print off-center, which can be frustrating, but not a major problem.
Overall, we’d say Crayola’s Light Up Tracing Pad is best for parents with creative kids. The design is eye-catching and it can be used anywhere, as long as you remember the batteries, making it a great source of entertainment for your little ones.
- Affordable – This lightbox won’t break your bank balance
- Fun – Crayola have included extra stencil designs and coloring pencils
- Portable – Takes batteries and is small enough to carry around with you.
- Lighting – This isn’t adjustable and won’t be bright enough for watercolor painting
- Takes batteries only – It can be annoying having to keep replacing batteries, rather than using a power supply
Huoin L4S Slim Light Pad
The Huion L4S Slim Light Pad’s best aspect has to be its portability. This device is only 5.1mm thick and measures in slightly larger than an A4 piece of paper, so you’ll have no issues carrying it around in your bag. That said, its brightness can also be adjusted easily by holding down the on/ off switch. This is especially handy if you’re going to be working with different types of paper or materials. The LEDs provide a bright, even, illuminated surface that can kick out up to 1500 lux through the acrylic panel surface.
Huion have also included a couple of 4B pencils, a Kenting artist glove, an eraser, tracing paper, and a USB cable, so for your dollar, you get a decent artist setup. The USB cable itself is 1.2 meters long, so you’ll need to work somewhere close to your PC or wall charger when you’re at home. The minor disadvantage is that the L4S Slim doesn’t include a protective carry bag or take batteries, so you won’t be able to use it on the move without a USB power bank.
Overall, we recommend Huion’s lightbox to any artists that are particular about their brightness setting. The adjustable illumination system here is very smooth and glare resistant, to protect your eyesight. That said, the lux power may not be quite powerful enough for folks that use very thick paper.
- Adjustable brightness – The LEDs are even and can be smoothly adjusted by holding down the on/ off switch
- Complete setup – Huion have included plenty of helpful extras for your dollar
- Portable – This lightbox is small and sleek, so you can easily carry it in a bag
- Maximum brightness may be too low to fully illuminate thick, watercolor paper
- Can accidentally turn off the lightbox when you try adjusting the brightness
Next up is the Artograph LightTracer, so what’s so great about this design? Well, we liked the fact that the box itself is thick and stable. This makes it feel a little more comfortable to work on compared to models that are thinner. The illuminated surface itself measures in at 10×12 inches, so it works best on materials that are A4 sized or smaller. The surface material here is made from shatterproof plexiglass, which is strong and easy to clean. The Artograph LightTracer also features a handy, built-in tool tray, so you can keep your arty materials organized while you work.
The only downside we found was that the fluorescent bulb is positioned to one side of the lightbox, which means the working surface is slightly brighter on one side. As well as this, the bulb only provides 8 watts of light, which isn’t quite as bright as some of the LED models we’ve tested. That said, the bulb will provide 7500 hours of light, so it will keep you going for a while.
In summary, we’d advise that artists that work on thinner types of paper or stained glass would benefit the most from the LightTracer. Just remember, it’s not as sleek as some devices, so is best used in a home studio.
- Sturdy – The frame is thicker than most portable designs and feels sturdy to work on
- Easy to clean – The plexiglass is smooth, tough and easy to wipe clean
- Tool tray – So you can keep your tools organized whilst you work
- Uneven lighting – The fluorescent light is positioned to one side of the lightbox
- Not as bright as some models on the market
- Not so portable – The LightTracer is a little thicker than some of the sleek devices out there
U.S. Art Supply Lightmaster
The Art Supply Lightmaster has an ultra-thin ⅜ inch build, with a large 12×17 inch working area that can support A3 paper. That said, its best feature has to be the dimmable touch button that allows you to adjust the LED brightness to exactly how you like it. The LEDs themselves provide an even distribution of light across the working surface and can provide a maximum of 8 watts of illumination.
That said, the working surface itself is made from plastic, so it doesn’t provide quite as much clarity as models that use a glass screen. As well as this, the surface screen is not scratch-resistant, so you’ll need to find an alternative if you need to be able to carve into materials.
On the plus side, the Lightmaster comes with one year’s unconditional warranty, as well as an extra light pad, a handy measuring overlay grid, and a protractor. So you can rest assured you’ll be getting a quality lightbox. Just remember, this device uses an AC power adapter, rather than a USB supply, so you’ll need to work near a wall socket.
Overall, we’d recommend the Lightmaster to folks that need plenty of well-lit space to work with. Its A3 size will especially suit landscape artists. The downside is that it’s not as transportable as smaller A4 lightboxes and may not be bright enough to illuminate very thick types of paper.
- Large – The Lightmaster can be used to work on A3-size paper
- Adjustable brightness – The LED dimmer switch is sensitive to meet your exact requirements
- Thin – This model may be large, but it’s lightweight, sleek and easy to lift
- Plastic screen – The screen will become damaged if you try to carve materials on it
- Brightness – The LEDs are of decent quality, but might not be bright enough to illuminate very thick paper
Aibecy A2 Large Ultra-Thin
Aibecy’s lightbox is lightweight, thin and offers a huge, 26.6 inch illuminated working area. The best aspect here, however, has to be that the panel itself is made from tough acrylic, that can withstand pressure and wear. The illuminated area can almost fit an A2 size piece of paper on its surface, so is a great option for landscape artists or radiographers.
The LEDs can also be adjusted by holding down the on/ off switch, which provides stepless dimming, to dial in your exact requirements. The maximum brightness can reach 2500 lux, so the LEDs will easily illuminate thicker types of paper and fabric.
Aibecy’s A2 lightbox is powered using a USB cable and connecting it to either a computer or wall adapter. That said, you can also power it with a USB power pack if you wanted to draw whilst out and about.
The only downside is that although Aibecy market their lightbox as ‘A2’ sized, we found it’s a snug fit, with some of the paper’s edges running over the working surface. So, if you need to work specifically on A2 paper, it’s best to look for a lightbox with a slightly bigger illumination screen.
- Stepless brightness adjustment – You can hold down the on/ off switch to get the specific luminosity you need
- Acrylic panel – This provides a tough, pressure-resistant work surface
- Lightweight – So you can easily move it around despite the large working surface
- Not true to size – The working area is slightly too small to fit an A2 sheet of paper
- Power connection is slightly fiddly and easy to knock
The final lightbox we’re taking a look at today is the Artograph LX. The best thing about this model is that the LEDs can kick out a huge 9000lux of power, so you’ll be able to work with the thickest of materials. That said, you can still adjust the brightness all the way down to 500lux if you prefer things a little dimmer.
The LX, however, isn’t as large as some of the lightboxes we’ve mentioned, but will happily support A4 sized paper. Its small size and lightweight is actually pretty handy if you want to take it to work or school. As well as this, you can purchase Artograph’s ‘Padpucks’, which are little rubber feet that keep the lightbox in position whilst you work.
Another beneficial aspect here, is that the lightbox has a tough, durable aluminium frame and a storage sleeve, to protect it whilst you’re on the move. The only criticism we have is that it doesn’t take batteries, which would be handy for those that travel a lot. With that in mind, the LX does support AC power supplies, so you’ll be able to work wherever you find a power socket.
Overall, we’d recommend Artograph’s LX lightbox to anyone that works with thick paper and needs a really bright illumination screen. Just remember, it’s only A4 compatible, so you’ll need something with a larger screen area if you sketch or paint larger pieces.
- Super bright – The LX kicks out a massive 9000lux, so you’ll be able to work with the thickest of paper
- Small and thin – This makes it easy to carry to work or school
- Adjustable brightness – So you can set the luminosity to exactly how you like it
- Small – Only fits A4 sized materials
- Doesn’t take batteries – So you’ll need to find a wall socket to use this lightbox
When it comes to choosing the best lightbox, there’s no right or wrong choice; it simply depends on what your needs are and what your budget is.
That said, if you’re looking for a fun way to entertain your kids, the Crayola’s Light Up Tracing Pad is a great option. Their package even comes with free stencil downloads and coloring pencils.
Maybe you need a lightbox that provides a large working surface? If so, either the Aibecy A2 or Art Supply Lightmaster would be a good choice. Just remember, Aibecy’s design is the largest of the two.
If you need a very bright screen to illuminate thick paper, Artograph’s LX is not going to disappoint. This lightbox can kick out a huge 9000lux of light.
On the other hand, if you’re shopping on a budget, then Tik Tech’s lightbox may be a good option. It’s affordable and supports power-packs so that you can use it while you’re on the go.
If you want a quality lightbox, that’s portable and offers quality adjustable lighting, then Huion’s L4S Slim model is a great choice, thanks to its tiny, 5mm depth and lightweight design.