What is a light box and what can you use a light box tracer for?
It’s a miniature table that holds an LED lightbulb which provides a uniform spectrum of light through a pane of frosted glass. Artists can use light boxes for drawing and tracing, sketching, animation, tattoo tracing, calligraphy, stenciling, embossing, embroidery designs, scrapbooking, quilting, X-Rays (for really weird art!!!) and even stained glass making.
If you are a cartoonist/ caricaturist this is a great way to capture the essential elements that make up a face from a photograph, particularly the eyes which are the essential ingredient for an effective likeness. Recreating landscapes from photo’s is a doodle with a light box. Getting the basics right for buildings and particularly perspective is easy using this incredibly useful tool.
How to use a light box tracer for drawing and sketching
Using a light box for drawing is pretty simple. Place a piece of paper with a design or shape on the translucent glass, and you can see that shape lit up in high contrast. The uniform LED lighting, similar to true daylight, helps to prevent hot spots which are various places of the surface that heat up and make drawing unpleasant. The bright illumination makes the lines sharply standout to make tracing it much easier.
Take the Pain out of Drawing Caricatures with a Light Box Tracer
As a cartoonist I am constantly being asked to draw caricatures which I find particularly difficult. Using a well defined photo and tracing the essential features on a light box can save hours of heartache and produce some amazing results that you may have found impossible doing ‘by eye’ alone.
Some would say this is cheating but I look at it as having a helping hand to get the proportions, shape and those little characteristics as accurate as possible such as eye and mouth shape. Here is an example of my most recent caricature.
I had a very good photo of the subject and printed off an image of the head to fill a sheet of paper. I then placed it on the light box tracer with a blank sheet on top and lightly traced the eyes, nose, mouth and the outline of the head plus characteristic facial lines. That was all – just light tracing the essential features that make the person immediately recognisable.
I scanned this and imported the scan into Photoshop and used it as a guide. So, yes I have copied facial elements but that was all – the rest of the head – color, shading etc. is all my own original artwork. The rest of the body, trumpet, music etc. is totally out of my imagination.
So you can see that a light box tracer can be a massive help so much so that I can now do a caricature in an hour or so rather than not knowing how long it would take – sometimes a whole day – filling a trash can with sketches that didn’t cut the mustard. Until recently I have turned down a lot of work because it wasn’t viable in terms of time and ‘earn-ability’ per hour. Now I have removed that uncertainty and can draw caricatures using this light box tracer technique with confidence and in a time that makes it completely viable and most of all enjoyable.
The full dimensions are 14.17 x 10.63 inches, but it’s thin, measuring only 5.1 millimeters. While it does have a USB cord included for connecting to your computer to charge, it can also be plugged into a regular wall outlet. It comes with a one-year warranty and a user’s manual with detailed instruction on just how to use a lightbox for drawing.
The flat acrylic surface of this lightbox tracer is similar to the smoothness of a glass panel. The LED lamps deliver a maximum lux of 1,500 of brightness which helps it penetrate through thicker paper. Too bright? No worries. There’s a gradual dimming feature where you control the brightness level. Using smart bright memorization technology, it recalls the most recent setting it was on so when you restart it, it automatically returns to that setting.
Autograph Light Box Tracer
Most lightboxes are a simple square shape. This lightbox tracer has a slanted surface so it’s a little more comfy to draw on. There’s a recessed tool tray on the top that is built in to the surface where you can store pencils, styluses, chalk, or whatever else you’re using.
The screen measures 10 x 12 inches, and it weighs only two pounds. It’s lightweight and portable, and it’s completely electric so no batteries or USB cord required.
The LED’s provide a light gradient that ranges from 5,000 to 14,000 lux. It gets bright, but stays cool to the touch. Slide the paper onto the super smooth surface, turn on the light, and you’re ready to go. The Artograph is completely made and assembled in the USA. It ships in an eco-friendly carton that doubles as a great storage container when not in use. If you’re looking for a cheap lightbox for drawing, this is the least expensive on our list but still has everything the pricier models do.
You’ll be able to do some serious drawing on this lightbox tracer. It has a large working surface that measures 12 x 17 inches, so there’s plenty of room to accommodate larger projects.
It’s only 3/8 of an inch thick and weighs 3.6 pounds which makes it perfectly portable. There’s no USB cable, but it comes with a three-foot long electrical cord with AC adapter.
It uses an energy efficient 8-watt LED lamp that gives you up to 50,000 working hours of use. Use the touch button technology to control the dimmable light and adjust it to the brightness you need. But you get more than just the lightbox tracer in this deal. It comes with a scalable overlay grid, a circle template/protractor, user manual, plus a full one-year warranty.
Probably one of the most portable lightbox tracers you’ll find, the LP3 was made for traveling. Don’t let the size fool you. Its large work surface measures 18.86 x 14.21 inches while only being 0.31 inches thick, and weighs just over 3.5 pounds. It may be thin and lightweight, but it’s sturdy. There’s plenty of space on the acrylic work surface of 16.93 x 12.2 inches to handle those bigger projects. There’s no power cord or travel adapter, so you’ll need to plug into your computer or purchase an outlet adapter separately. There is, however, an included USB cord that is 6.5 feet long.
The LED light was developed with eyesight protection technology, and the light is evenly distributed while boasting 50,000 hours of usability. While the light is super bright, it generates very little heat. Adjust the brightness by holding the touch button from one to three seconds. One quick tap to the button turns it off. Let’s not forget the 18-month warranty that guarantees you’ll be fully satisfied or your money back.
The adjustable power button lets you control the amount of light emitted from the LED bulb. The lightbox itself measures 12.60 x 20.47 inches with an acrylic working surface of approximately 9 x12 inches. The LED light can be adjusted by a three-way control switch. Make it as bright or as dim as you need it. It’s lightweight and thin, being only ¼ inch thick. Throw it in your bag, and take it with you just about anywhere. Plus there’s a year and a half warranty included. There’s no need to charge up before using or connecting to a laptop – just plug in the AC adapter, hit the power button, and get drawing.
Using a lightbox allows you to create multiple copies of a design or drawing in various ways. If you’re on a budget and need a cheap lightbox for drawing, the Artograph is good quality yet affordable. If larger projects are on your agenda, the Litup lightbox has that extra-large work space you need. So, go ahead – get a lightbox to draw, transfer, trace, and start creating your art.