In the past, light boxes had thick walls made to contain a standard fluorescent light bulb. With their translucent covers, these primitive units allowed artists to trace drawings or study slides. Most of them required working at an awkward angle with the individual propped up over the box’s tall sides. Modern light boxes are now the standard with thinner, portable designs featuring cool, long-lasting LED light sources which burn for thousands of hours without needing replacement bulbs. Some of the top manufacturers produce both older models with fluorescent lighting as well as LED units for only a slightly higher cost.
All of these best light boxes we’ve selected provide strong and even lighting, sturdy, wobble-free work surfaces, special features like add-on battery packs and voltage adaptors as well as being available in a range of sizes suited to your needs.
If you want to use your light box outside the US, you’ll need to make sure the model works with non-US outlets or else get an adaptor since many countries’ electrical systems provide a higher voltage.
The Artograph LightPad series comes in four sizes ranging from a miniature 6 by 9-inch light box to the largest 17 by 24-inch version. The LightPad’s best features might be the brand’s add-on PadPucks and the battery pack making it even easier to carry and adjust for the right work surface. Read Full Review
With an ultra-thin 5/8-inch profile and bright LED lighting, the Artograph LightPad offers the best in quality and convenience. This series comes in a variety of sizes with the largest being the 17 by 24 inches while the smallest is 6 by 9-inches. Artograph’s PadPucks provides adjustable height and angle of the drawing surface while the add-on battery pack enhances the LightPads portability. This model also comes with an adaptor which handles 100-240 volts making it a versatile travel device. You’ll probably need to buy the add-ons separately but the Artograph LightPad costs slightly less than similar light boxes.
The Porta-Trace LED Light Panel comes in five colors and is extremely light, weighing in at just four pounds. Available in two sizes, the larger of the two units measures 11 by 18-inches. Read Full Review
The Porta-Trace LED Light Panel is a favorite among artists for its sturdy feel and being one of the lightest models (a mere 4 pounds) thanks to the aluminum frame and Plexiglas surface. It uses LED lighting for an extra-bright, evenly-lit work surface. The Light Panel comes in two sizes with the larger size measuring 11 by 18-inches. The frame comes in five standard colors including black, blue, yellow, pink or orange frames. The Light Panel can be used with an appropriate plug or adapter for artists working outside the US.
A newer brand, the Huion LED Tracing Board has a unique touch system for turning it on and adjusting its brightness. The A2 Tracing Board is the largest model from this brand with a lighted surface measuring approximately 12 by 20-inches. Read Full Review
Huion LED Tracing Board has become popular for its ultra-thin build and bright lighting. This company produces three sizes of LED Tracing Boards but their A2 version is the largest with a lighted drawing surface of approximately 12 by 20-inches. Some artists find this light box’s on/off touch system overly sensitive but this is compensated by the Tracing Boards unique feature allowing artists to adjust the pad’s lighting. While light boxes have only one setting for brightness, artists can adjust the Huion LED Tracing Boards’ brightness by pressing the touch switch for several seconds.
An older model still ranked as a favorite, the portable Light Tracer II has a 15-watt fluorescent bulb for extremely bright illumination. Slightly heavier than LED light boxes, it has a large 12-inch by 18-inch work surface on a gently slanted frame. Read Full Review
As a basic model, the Light Tracer II offers a bright work surface utilizing a high-quality fluorescent lamp (brighter than a standard LED light) providing daylight-quality illumination. The Light Tracer II is slightly heavier than the slim LED pads, but still reasonably portable for use in a studio. It also features a slanted surface and a recessed tool tray for holding pencils, chalk, or other tools. This light box uses 15-watt bulb instead of an 8-watt bulb and has a large 12 by 18-inch work surface. It’s a great choice for anyone who doesn’t need an extra-large surface and wants quality light box for half the price of the other models.
For the artist who needs an extra-large surface, the Gagne-Porta Trace Light Table doubles as a light box and a drafting table. The table’s upper frame is made of solid oak and measures 36 by 48-inches. Read Full Review
With a light box inset into the surface, the Gagne-Porta Trace Light Table works as either a drafting table or an artist’s work surface. The table’s solid oak upper frame supports a thick, shatter-resistant Plexiglas surface with the entire unit mounted on steel legs protected by a white enamel coating. Under this Plexiglas, four lamps provide strong, evenly diffused light. While this model comes in several sizes, Model 3468 is the largest, boasting a lighted surface measuring 36 by 48-inches. Since the whole table acts as a light box, artists won’t need to worry about storing a separate box or working on a different surface. The Gagne-Porta Trace Light Table is expensive, running several times the cost of a standard light box, but a great option for artists who need a large surface and make extensive use light boxes.