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Lights for Painting Miniatures (Tips and Recommendation)

What desktop light setup do you need for painting miniatures?

Good quality, diffuse lighting can prevent eye fatigue, a major roadblock to a comfortable long painting session. Proper white balanced light at the right brightness will also improve your ability to paint because it will accurately reveal issues of contrast and color (more below).

When people ask what they can do to improve their painting my answer, aside from thinning your paints more, is “what kind of lighting do you use?”

The two lamps I currently use for painting miniatures and highly-recommend are:

  • Lite Source LSF-150BLK Solare Clamp-on Swing-Arm Lamp, Black ($50) – Great quality swing arm lamp that emits a powerful, yet diffuse light that has lasted me more than 5 years without changing the bulb. Unfortunately, I think this lamp is no longer in production. But, it may be possible to find very similar alternatives on Amazon

  • Brightech LightView Pro LED Magnifying Lamp  ($60) –  This lamp is also a swing arm lamp but uses an LED instead of the typical gas-filled bulbs, which is much more energy efficient. The LED is rated for more than 20 years continuous use, and will powerfully emit light nearly endlessly (huge money saver, since regular bulb costs will add up). This lamp also comes with a huge magnifying lens built into it, so it can serve as a back up visual aid for those finer details or help with assembling kits. 

The following would be my choice if I had a bigger budget and could do it all over again:

  • Amico 11W LED Architect Desk Lamp ($89) – Swing arm, bright LED full-spectrum daylight emission and additional functionality make this my choice if I had a bigger budget. It has a dimmer (5 levels) and other fine-tuning capabilities to suite painting miniatures or other hobby tasks. The other neat thing about this lamp is that because of its diffuse light and adjustable swing arm (a tad more flexibility and movement than the other two I describe above), it can be used as a video or photography light by itself. 

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Good quality, diffuse lighting makes a huge difference when taking photographs

Poor lighting reduces contrast and distorts color on a model as it is painted. A typical desk lamp that uses a regular incandescent bulb is generally a bad choice for painting miniatures . These lamps mostly emit light that is too warm in color and dim. The ability to see colors and contrast accurately is vital to a good paint job.  I have one of these lamps for reading or working on regular office tasks at home, but I don’t use it for painting miniatures.

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A regular bulb is bad for painting

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Regular desk lamp with incandescent bulb (yuck). Hard shadows and uneven light that adds unwanted, extra warm color to your miniatures.

For miniature painting, for long stretches, I highly recommend getting a lamp that uses a full spectrum daylight bulb or LED. These lamps mimic natural sunlight for painting, providing the best source of illumination for small details and help prevent the fatigue with looking at these small objects.

Highly-recommended lighting setups for miniature painting!

Brightech LightView Pro LED Magnifying Lamp

Amico 11W LED Architect Desk Lamp

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Good lighting setups help with color blending, because tone and value aren’t washed out or lost.

For anyone hesitant in getting better lighting, just count the number of hours you spend painting miniatures or assembling kits…. why do it in the dark?

 

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