For miniature painting and hobbying in general, there are a few things to consider when looking for lighting:
- Clean Light: Is it a “clean” light that accurately reflects the colors you’re painting with? As painters, we are looking for a white light as opposed to a warm yellow or cold blue tint. Light color is measured by temperature, and we are typically looking for around 5,000 to 6,000 kelvin. Daylight, white LED bulbs are ideal.
- Brightness: Is it enough to allow you to clearly see what you’re painting?
- Shadows: Are you focusing the light on a single narrow source that gives a lot of shadow? Ideally, a broad and diffuse light is better for this purpose. Typically better to avoid this when you’re painting.
Speaking from personal experience, I know that getting the right setup in place isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Me? There was a lot of trial and error involved.
That’s why I crammed my latest book, The Miniature Painting Level Up Guide, full of all the information I wish I had known way back when.
It walks you through exactly what you need to get started (and what you don’t need), shows you how to immediately improve your skills, tells you the best sources for miniatures and gear, and shares a ton of insider tips.
Everything you need to start off as a beginner and work your way up to more advanced levels – all in one easy-to-follow book.
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I have a lot of lights.
As you can see, I’ve been trying to find the best solution to my lighting for a while now, hah! I’ll go through my thoughts on all the different ones below.
For now, what I think is easiest, is to give you my preferred setup and why I like it:
I use two lights in my every day set up.
The Phive is the big boy. Sleek lookin’ and provides a broad, clean, bright light that gives me great coverage and visibility on my painting desk.
The Brightech is the LED light/magnifying glass combination.
If I wanted just lighting for my miniature, I could use either one.
I use both because the Phive just bathes the entire desk in a nice clean light, and I always use the Brightech for the magnification and focused light.
The bottom line is, when I am painting, I can clearly see my model, paints, and palette in true color. They are all well lit and easy on my eyes.
If your main concern is to find something inexpensive and effective, just for lighting and not magnification, you can look at the Globe Electric.
I’ll go into a lot of detail about lighting here, but if you need some advice on finding the best paint sets, choosing a quality airbrush and compressor, thinning paints, and priming, you’ll find the answers here, along with a ton of other great info on miniatures.
- Here’s My Breakdown of Lighting for Specific Needs:
- With that out of the way, here are some breakdowns of all the lights I own and have used:
- Other Lighting I Have:
- What Is the Light Color Range:
Here’s My Breakdown of Lighting for Specific Needs:
If I only wanted a light to help with painting a small scale miniature or model, it would be the Brightech.
So, this is for those of you out there who, like me, mainly paint Warhammer, Reaper, DnD, WizKids… any 28mm or so scale minis.
If you’re having trouble finding just the right miniatures, head over to my article “Where to Find the Perfect Miniatures.” I show you the best individuals and sets for gaming.
Brightech’s light has been a game changer for me in terms of how clean I can get my minis to look. Bright and magnified. Perfect.
I’ve tried other solutions, including an OttLite lamp, and the Brightech is still my go-to.
Even without the magnification, it’s a great LED ring light. Comes in at 6,000 kelvin white light, perfect for painting.
Large Scale Models or Terrain
If I was painting bigger items, like larger-scale models say, or terrain, and I wanted focused light with flexibility, my choice is easily the Globe Electric lamp.
It’s very flexible and can be moved in a bunch of directions.
It’s cheap, effective, and you can put it out of the way when not in use. You can get a couple of these and put one on either end of your desk to eliminate shadows and get great lighting coverage.
Broad Lighting Solution for a Craft Desk
My easy choice for broad lighting is the Phive. I love the sleek look, amount of clean light, and broad coverage on this lamp.
I happily use this every day on my desk. (Curious as to what desk I personally use for miniature work? I show you what I use and tell you what to look for in this article.)
If you’re in a well-lit room already, this might not be needed.
My room has one old ceiling light that just doesn’t get the job done. I’ve tried LED stand-alone lamps, like the Brightech Sky Torch, and I do not like it at all.
The Phive is WAY better for this purpose, and it’s about the same price.
So, again what’s on my painting desk:
This is a broad, bright, clean light lamp that gives my whole desk enough light to work on. It’s very good for a diffuse light that won’t cast too many shadows on miniatures.
Both of these are very good at giving focused, clean light. The Brightech also gives you magnification, which I love.
The Globe allows you to put whatever bulb you want inside of it, will fold out of the way when not in use, and is very flexible as far as where you want to focus it.
My Personal Favorite is the Brightech Magnifying Lamp – This is an all-in-one solution for me, so I like it the best. I’m also factoring in the magnification here though, so if you only want light, look to the Phive/Globe combo.
With that out of the way, here are some breakdowns of all the lights I own and have used:
So happy to have this one. It gives me a lot of bright, clean, soft light. Perfect to light up my whole workspace.
Of all the lights I have, this one and the Brightech are my favorites. Brightech mostly for the magnification/focused light. This one for the broad lighting capacity.
If I could only keep one of these lights, this would be it. This covers me for magnification and lighting all by itself when I’m painting.
Now, some people don’t need magnification, and some people might prefer another method like those lenses you can wear. (I cover magnification lamps here.)
For me, this is the way to go by far. Now having said that, this article is about lighting. The lighting in and of itself is very good.
It’s also meant to be very close to the models, so take that into account.
If you don’t want to use the magnification, I would not recommend this unit, only because there are better lighting options available for less money.
This one has a whole lot going for it. It’s inexpensive, it is versatile with regards to where you focus the light, and you can swap in a wide range of bulbs depending on your needs.
If you have a desk that this can mount to, it’s a great option. With this one, it comes down to what bulb you have in it.
Other Lighting I Have:
I was pumped up to get this. It’s a very beautiful, soft, white, clean light. Ultimately though, it wasn’t enough light for me.
Taotronics Generic LED Desk Lamp
This thing is decidedly meh. It’s okay. It gives light I guess? It’s fine for a bit of extra light, but it’s not good for miniature painting. I’d avoid this one.
I got this for a broad lighting solution. I use it but don’t like it. Maybe my expectations are off but the light it gives is underwhelming.
TaoTronics LED Floor Lamp
Again this is underwhelming in the amount of light it gives. I use it to cast some more light on my airbrush setup, but it’s meh.
This thing is a beast. I love this light, but it’s more meant to give you lighting to do video or photoshoots.
Still, I use it for a lot of different things. Taking pictures of my models (find my best tips here), throwing a ton of light at my Airbrush station, making videos.
It’s just a big, bright, focused, soft light solution. It’s bulky and takes up a good amount of space, so I’d only get this if you need it for multiple uses and you have the room for it.
Finally, I thought I’d leave you with a bit of information on lighting in general.
This way you can have an idea of what you are looking for if you can’t find the exact items in my list or if you already have some lighting available.
Before we look at lighting more closely, let me encourage you to check out “My Favorite Miniature Painting Gear.”
You’ll find my top recommendations for pretty much every piece of equipment and product you’ll ever need for painting minis.
- Paints, brushes, sets, cleaners, and paint handles.
- Palettes and mixers.
- Shades, mediums, primers, and varnish.
- Airbrushes, spray booths, and cleaning pots.
- And more!
What Is the Light Color Range:
A light bulbs color temperature is measured in degrees of kelvin. The range is from 1,000 to 10,000 with the lower end being classified as “Warm” and going up to the “Cool” end of the scale.
The light’s color range will tell us what characteristics the light will have. Warm ranges around 2,000-3,000 kelvin. Cool, and Bright White range between 3,000 and 4,500. 4,500 – 6,500 are towards the blue end and are typically classified as Daylight bulbs.
Below you can see a visual representation of this:
For purposes of art and painting, you want something that does not really interfere with the color of the paints or mediums you are using.
(In this article on the color wheel, I explain how I select the best colors for my miniatures.)
For that reason, we tend to look for the higher “Daylight” color range. Around 5,000-6,000 is what I use.
Lumens, Watts and Other Lighting Terms:
Lumens indicate brightness of the light, and watts are how much power it uses.
If you’re concerned with the brightness, you can simply discount the watts on a modern LED or CFL light.
They are more efficient than incandescent bulbs, and the watts are not indicative of how bright they’ll be.
In the examples I gave above, the lights I use are 1,600 lumens for the Great Eagle Bulbs. So, they are rather bright and give a color in the daylight range, around 5,000 kelvin.
So, I know just by the specs these bulbs will be bright, daylight bulbs.
The Agro Bulbs are 900 lumens. Not quite as bright as the Great Eagles, but they have a higher temperature.
Clocking in at 6,400 kelvin, they are on the upper end of the Daylight scale.
The Ottlite I have markets itself as being great for its clean light for doing various crafts. They range in and around 5,000 kelvin and various brightness (lumens).
As for my two favorite everyday lights, here’s what the specs are:
Brightech Magnifying Lamp: 6,000K light with 570 lumens. The light is great, and while the lumens are low, remember you’ll have this light up close to what you’re looking at.
Phive LED Task Lamp: Well, after much searching… I don’t know! I can’t find any lumens or temp on this guy. It does have multiple settings and brightness.
All I can say is that to my eye, it’s a bright, clean light. I’ll reach out to them, and if I get any information, I’ll update this post!
Be sure to pick up your copy of The Miniature Painting Level Up Guide before you go to discover how easy it is to go from beginner to painting whiz when you know what you’re doing and have the right gear.