If you do a lot of traditional art, tracing might be a huge part of your work. Especially if you tend to do inks or use markers a lot! Before going for a final piece, you’ll always make sketches. After this, you choose one, draw it bigger, check the proportions and set down minor or bigger details. Now, you’re ready for the final piece.
For this, a lightbox is always pretty handy! Tracing paper might sound like it’s an easier and cheaper way to work with. The truth is, if you have to do this a lot, it’s very time-consuming. You have to transfer your drawing to it, then again to a new sheet of paper.
In between, there’s always the chance of dirtying the paper with smudges or applying to much force. Or even, moving the tracing paper by accident, even though you were sure you taped it well!
With a lightbox though, things become very much easier. Put down your sketch on it, then a new, clean sheet of paper on top. Lastly, you just need to turn on your lightbox and bam!
Just start tracing your sketch into a clean version.
For this, I highly recommend the Lightmaster Jumbo!
My Recommended Light Box
It’s a really big Artist Lightbox, 32.5 diagonal inches, so it’s about the same size as an A2. It’s ultra-thin and perfectly designed for portability, even though it has a big size.
It has dimmable light through touch inputs and also comes with an overlay grid and one circle template. Comes with a 1-year warranty for a full replacement, so you can be assured that you get a good product.
Since it’s so large, you can put 2 pages side by side.
This makes it great if you’re working on Comics or need an extra reference to the side while drawing. This way you’re not limited to paper size and can use a variety of canvas on it, up to A2, of course.
It’s very helpful for tracing, calligraphy, animation, and even tattoo transfers, so you can get your drawings just right and clean, in a faster way!
For a Budget Solution, Get This Light Box
Alternatively, you can get something on a lower budget.
This USB powered light box from YUNLIGHTS, can do the job as well.
It’s super thin but much smaller, at about an A4 size. The fact that it’s smaller, also makes it more portable. It has adjustable lighting as well and an even brightness.
Includes a one-year money-back guarantee if you’re not fully satisfied.
This is a perfect choice if you want to carry it with you and if you work with smaller canvas.
I think the biggest I usually go is A4 when drawing. It is perfectly fine to work on small paper, especially if you’re new to drawing and fear the blank of the page. It happens and it’s a normal feeling.
As you get used to it, you might want to go for bigger sizes.
Still, you might just keep on a smaller canvas. In a business point of view, selling smaller prints is easier and it has become more common nowadays.
People love to buy art from smaller creators, that sell their own art in the form of postcards, stickers or A4 prints.
This way, they can have every art they can from artists they love and inspire them, framed in a wall and look at it any time or even bring with them.
Why I Chose the Lightmaster Jumbo 32.5”
Even though a more portable lightbox might seem like a better option, the truth is you probably won’t be carrying it anywhere.
A lightbox is something you mostly use at home.
If not home, let’s say your studio or office. It will still be a place where you work frequently, so you have your lightbox in that workplace, where you can always use.
Other than that, the other case where you might need it would be at school. But even there, usually, art schools have lightboxes that you can use for free.
So, in short, you won’t be moving your lightbox a lot from one place to another.
This is why I recommend the Lightmaster. It’s bigger and you can work with different sizes of paper.
Just make a place for it, a desk let’s say, and it will be there, ready to use whenever you need it.
Even though it’s big, it’s very easy to manage and to work with.
Simply turn it on and adjust the brightness to something that it’s comfortable for you or suitable for the paper you have. The great thing about different levels of brightness is that, depending on how thick your paper is, you’ll need more or less brightness.
The grid is great for measuring in case you need it in your drawing, it also helps quite a bit with making up a good composition. So the 2 grids can be always a very helpful tool for your drawings!
Another thing worth noticing is how lightweight and thin the pad is. Even if you want to carry it around with you, it won’t be too much of a hassle.
This is also important for when putting your lightbox down on a flat surface, your hand can always be resting on that surface or the lightbox itself for support. Without a big height difference.
This way, you can always draw and trace your drawings comfortably!
Features to Look For in a Lightbox
I think the most important thing you want to look for is the brightness!
Not only how strong it is, but if it’s adjustable.
Today, a lightbox has a rather strong light. Even so, depending on the paper your using, you might need to change the brightness. Not only, because you might need more of it when using very thick paper, but also so you can lower your brightness if you feel a bit too tired.
Especially if you’re using it for too long, your eyes might get tired from the light.
Always remember to take breaks frequently when drawing for lengthy times!
As always, take into account the size of your lightbox. There are two things to have in consideration here: if you want to move it around frequently and the sizes you work with.
As mentioned above, if you work with smaller canvas, maybe you don’t need a very big light box. Something with an A4 size might be the perfect fit.
Now, if you like to work in all sizes, especially big ones or even prefer to have a bigger surface to work on, go for something bigger than that, like the Lightmaster.
Other than that, I think the best way to go here is to keep it simple! An easy lightbox, that you just need to connect and then press a button and start working. One on/off button and another to adjust the brightness and you’re good to go!
There isn’t a lot more you need for it.
All the rest are details. A ruler or a grid might be a helpful tool, but not strictly necessary, unless it’s a tool you use frequently.
This is it, there’s nothing much you need to worry about when buying a lightbox. After that, you just need to connect it, turn it on and start working!
Another thing you should have in account is that buying a lightbox is something almost for life, depending on the use you give it, of course. But, essentially, you won’t need to buy a new one regularly, so getting something with quality is the best plan.
Lightboxes have hundreds of uses!
They are used by many professionals, from any field. With it, you can trace all sorts of images. Not only your own but also photographs and even pieces from the old masters. Sometimes, tracing from an image can help you figure out the shapes and lines and how to draw a certain object!
Other than that, you can also use it to practice calligraphy and create your own styles. It is also a key tool for 2D animation, done by hand, so you can overlap several frames and see better what you’re doing!
Tattoo artists tend to use a lightbox as well when they need to transfer their drawings and it’s also a nice tool for scrapbooking and other hobbies and DIY projects.
Essentially it’s a great tool for learning.
Especially for kids! Kids tend to learn by copying. In truth, everyone learns by copying, we just grow up with this stigma that it’s a bad thing. It isn’t. As long as you’re using only for learning and improving your skills.
So, apart from using a lightbox to trace your drawings, don’t be afraid of using it to practice and develop your art skills. Copy images and photographs that you find interesting and want to be able to recreate!
Here are the Recommended Light Boxes again: