Are you looking for the best magnifying lamp for painting miniatures? You need to see details clearly to paint well or craft those beautiful scale models. The best magnifying lamps are systems that have both full-spectrum bright light, but also have lenses with sufficient magnification (ideal minimum: 2x to 2.5x) and focal length (i.e., the distance from the lens to your working surface).

1. Brightech LightView Pro Flex Magnifying Lamp

2. Brightech LightView PRO – LED Magnifying Desk Lamp

3. Brightech LightView Pro LED Magnifying Floor Lamp

4. Carson DeskBrite200 LED Lighted 2x Magnifier and Lamp

5. LED Magnifying Lamp with Clamp, Addie

6. Brightech Lightview Pro XL with Rolling Base/Stand

7. Brightech LightView Pro LED Magnifying Floor Lamp


In this article, I highlight things you should look for in a good magnifying lamp.

Or, use the content links below to skip ahead to see the review of the 7 best magnifying lamps for painting miniatures.


Complete Guide to Magnifying Lamps

Choosing a good magnifying lamp is a bit more involved than regular lights. As you’ll see why, this is true for working with miniatures and painting.

Magnifying lamp features you should consider:

  1. Glass or Plastic Lens
  2. Floor, Clamp-On, or Desktop Stand
  3. Diopter or Magnification Power (Focal Length)
  4. Swing or Flex Arm
  5. Lighting Type (e.g., brightness, color temperature, dimmable)
  6. Price

1. Glass or plastic lenses

Magnifying lamps use lenses built into a frame. These lenses are either plastic or glass. For the best clarity, glass lenses are always better. Glass has better light transmission properties, allowing all wavelengths to pass-through, and is much more durable. Glass is very hard to scratch and nick. It’s also easier to clean glass with solvents that might harm plastic–in this regard, glass will easily resist those bumps you make with your brushes and tools.

On the other hand, plastic is less expensive and much, much lighter. This means that magnifying lamps with plastic lenses are generally smaller, easier to transport, and also provide sufficient magnification power. If you’re on a budget and don’t plan to paint for long sessions, magnifying lamps with plastic lenses are a good value.

7 Best Magnifying Lamps for Painting Miniatures (Buying Guide and Review)
I took this photo through the glass magnifying lens of a swing-arm lamp. The clarity is spectacular.

2. Floor, clamp-on, or desktop stand

The best magnifying lamps are stable. You move the lens to where you need it, and the entire system stays put. Both floor and desktop magnifying lamps have ways to provide a stable optical view of your working surface. The advantage of a desktop magnifying lamp, of course, is the smaller size of the entire system. Desktop lamps can also run without wires, using batteries, so you can travel with your magnifying light.

Cool, huh?

Clamp-on magnifying lamps are generally more powerful and versatile than desktop magnifying lamps. These lamps are also the most popular kinds of magnifying lamps available. And, there are good reasons why! If you’re a serious hobbyists, I would skip over the desktop lamps and consider the clamp-on versions. These magnifying lamps have pressure clamps that let you attach the light to the side of your desk. They don’t take up much space and allow you to move the magnifying lens to wherever you need it, usually with a swing arm. With at least 3 degrees of movement, these lamps can cover most regular desk spaces with great light (even if you don’t use the magnifying lens).

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There are several reasons you might advance to a floor stand type magnifying lamp. If you need to work at several locations in a room, all you need to do is wheel the lamp to the needed destination. Also, because floor lamps are so mobile, you can adjust the location of the light and magnification power toward even more locations than any of the other lighting options. Both clamp-on and floor stand type magnifying lamps use glass lenses, and therefore the heaviest of the lamps. Nonetheless, if you’re a scale modeler or other pro-level hobbyist, floor lamps give you some of the most powerful and versatile features in a magnifying lamp system.


3. Diopter or magnification power (focal length)

Magnification power of a lens is measured in diopter units.

What magnification power should you use for painting miniatures or working with scale models?

For painting miniatures or scale modeling, I highly recommend you start with a magnifying lamp with a 2-2.25x magnification (or 5 diopters).

The key reason for this is that at around 5 diopters (2.25x magnification power), you will have enough magnifying power to improve visual details, and a long-enough focal length to avoid bumping into the lens with your brush handle or tools.

Focal length is the distance from the lens to your subject. This means that focal length determines how much room you have for your brush handle and your magnifying lens. Too short, and your tools or brush will bump into the lamp. It’s quite annoying.

At 2.25x magnification, your focal length will be around 8 inches, which is about the length of a regular paint brush. If you wanted more space to work in, you’ll probably need to a lower power lens. At around 2x, your focal length moves to about 10 inches.

Another thing you should be aware of is depth-of-field (DoF).

Too much magnification and you lose depth-of-field, which is how much of your subject is in-focus. Too shallow and you’ll have a hard-time judging where your brush is in-relation to the painting surface. This is a major complaint of many users of magnifying lamps.

To avoid this problem, keep your magnification power just high enough to see better, but low enough to counter the disadvantages of powerful lenses.

Ultimately, the magnification strength and focal length you choose is personal.

Choose a lamp that is comfortable and useful for your needs.

7 Best Magnifying Lamps for Painting Miniatures (Buying Guide and Review)
This is what a 1.5-2″ tall model looks like under a 2.25x magnifying lens. This is my Lightview Pro Magnifying Lamp.

4. Swing or flex arm

Magnifying lamps use different systems to help you get the lens and light where you need it. Some lamps use spring-loaded spring arms with several degrees of movement. Other lamps use flexible arm with infinite range of movement.

In general, the more expensive lamps use swing arms. Although they have limited range of movement, these magnifying lamps usually have more powerful lights and better quality lenses (e.g., heavier glass material).

The swing arms themselves are sturdy metal constructions, which use mechanical levers and pivots. With counter-balanced spring systems, they allow you to put stable light where you need it.

The flexible armatures on other magnifying lamps aren’t as robust as mechanical swing armatures. But, they provide you with greater range of movement, albeit shorter, and provide sufficient stability for any hobby work.

Because flexible arm systems don’t have the same mechanical stiffness of a swing arm, these magnifying lamps generally use lighter materials in the lens and lighting elements, e.g., plastic. Because of this, these lamps usually less costly.

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5. Lighting type

A key feature you should be aware of is the kind and quality of light from the magnifying lamp.

My advice is to look for good, diffuse light, which will help prevent eye fatigue.

Eye fatigue is a huge speed bump for comfortable long-term painting hobby sessions.

The best magnifying lamps have daylight light emitting diodes (LEDs), which provide balanced white light at a good brightness. This lighting quality improves painting and hobby work because these they increase your ability to see contrast and color.

Daylight lamps for painting accurately have a color temperature that stays within the sunlight range of lighting, between 5000-6500K (or Kelvin).

SEE OTHER RECOMMENDED LIGHTS FOR PAINTING MINIATURES

For a good daylight magnifying lamp, my first recommendation is a lamp that has a full-spectrum bulb or LED.

Other features that you may want is to get lamps that allow you to change the color temperature. For example, if you wanted a warmer or cooler colored light, merely make the adjustment on the lamp.

Why would you want a warmer light?

A warmer light has less “blue light” and can therefore help you sleep better. Bright LEDs with blue light can disrupt your ability to sleep by suppressing melatonin.

Interestingly, a bright daylight lamp could be useful, because some research shown that it can keep you alert, focused, and even help with symptoms of depression.

Lighting brightness is measured in lumens.

Lumens is a unit of light based on the International System of Units. It is “…equal to the amount of light given out through a solid angle by a source of one candela intensity radiating in all directions.” (source)

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In general, what you need to know for LED-based light brightness is that lumens is the measure you’re looking for, not watts (which was a measure used in conventional bulbs).

All the lamps below are LED-based lighting systems.

For professional level work, look for anything over 800-1000 lumens, which is close to the brightness you would find on 60-100 watt regular bulbs.

LumensIncandescent 
light bulb
watts
Fluorescent
 / LED
watts
600 lm40 W10 W
900 lm60 W15 W
1125 lm75 W18.75 W
1500 lm100 W25 W
2250 lm150 W37.5 W
3000 lm200 W50 W

Speaking of brightness, some magnifying lamps have a dimmable function. At first glance, you may think this is no big deal. But, a lamp that you can dim is versatile.

You can use a lower dim light to check how well you’ve performed your contrast enhancements on your paint job. In dim light, a high contrast model should continue to look good.

And, if you’re a photographer and like taking photos of miniatures, being able to dual-purpose your magnifying lamp requires some control of its brightness. Some of the photos you see on this site are taken with the light from an LED magnifying lamp, like this one.


6. Price

In general, with magnifying lamps, you get what you pay for. For the most part, a high-quality, durable LED lamp that I expect to last years will cost between $50-80.

At the higher echelon’s of lighting equipment, e.g., dimmable, color temperature adjustable, expect the best magnifying lamps to cost somewhere in the ballpark of $150-300.

The lamp I first purchased for painting miniatures as a commission painter cost me around $125. It was recommended by Matt DiPetrio, a former studio miniature painter for Privateer Press.

Back then, LEDs weren’t very popular. And, the daylight tube replacements in these lamps (which are no-longer in production) cost more than $80 each.

But, because it was such a high quality lamp, I never had to change the bulbs.

The light just kept on going for years!

LEDs are even more efficient, providing more than 20 years of continuous light. LEDs also produce almost no heat. Don’t sweat it, your LED lights won’t add to any hobby-time discomfort!

My suggestion is to get the best you can afford. Think about the hours and hours you spend in your hobbies. Good light is an investment that keeps on giving back.


7 Best Magnifying Lamps for Painting Miniatures

1.Brightech LightView Pro Flex Magnifying Lamp

7 Best Magnifying Lamps for Painting Miniatures (Buying Guide and Review)
An excellent desktop or clamp-on magnifying lamp for those who want a smaller package.

The Brightech LightView Pro Flex Magnifying Lamp is a glass lens equipped desktop lamp. The lens is a 2.25x magnification power, which is perfect for painting miniatures or small details on models.

The LED is a daylight color temperature, but is on the dimmer side at only 570 Lumens. This is the equivalent brightness of a regular 40-60 watt incandescent bulb. In my opinion, this is probably the biggest drawback of the lamp.

Another weakness is that the lens is only 3 inches in total diameter. That’s not a very big lens compared to the other options below.

However, with a flexible swing arm, you can get the lens where you need it. The overall dimensions of the lamp are good, which allows it to have a small footprint while allowing you to maneuver the light where you need it. Because of this relatively small size, I would consider this fairly portable.

For example, if you wanted to work in your kitchen table, then move somewhere else, this lamp would help you out. There is even a clamp, so it can operate in different locations (e.g., clamp it on an overhead shelf).

At around $40 USD, the lamps is a good deal cheaper than it’s competitors. If you’re a light-work hobbyist, or just want to add the option of magnification on a part-time basis, this is a good value. Just be aware that it might not produce the very bright light you would want for professional work, or will provide only a limited view of your subject (e.g., small lens diameter).

Key Points:

  • Lightweight, portable
  • Flexible swing-arm
  • Glass lens for great optical clarity
  • Dim light (only 570 lumens)
  • Small diameter lens
  • Inexpensive

2. Brightech LightView PRO – LED Magnifying Glass Desk Lamp for Close Work

7 Best Magnifying Lamps for Painting Miniatures (Buying Guide and Review)
I use this magnifying lamp regularly for painting miniatures and assembling models. With the lens cover closed, it also works well as an office desk lamp, too.

This is the magnifying lens I have. The Brightech LightView Pro is a modern classic design. The reasons I purchased this magnifying lamp is because of the daylight LED lights built into the lens housing.

The 2.25x magnification lens (5″ inch diameter) is well-suited to painting miniatures. A neat feature of this lens is the lens cover. This allows you to keep the light shining only on your working surface, instead of through the lens when you don’t need the magnification.

The cover protects the lens, too, and essentially turns this into a regular office lamp. Neat!

The swing-arm clamps to the side of my desk. The thickness of my desk is about 1.5 inches, but the clamp will allow this lamp to attach on much thicker surfaces.

The brightness of the LEDs is on the dim-side, at about 800 lumens (about a 60 watt bulb equivalent). So, for my needs, I usually supplement this light with another lamp. You can see that light and others I recommend here.

For long painting sessions or hobby work, e.g., soldering, model-making, this is probably the most cost-effective magnifying lamp you can get.

Key Points:

  • Sturdy spring-loaded swing-arm
  • Large 5″ diameter glass lens for superb optical clarity
  • Average brightness LED (800 lumens)
  • Dimmable brightness
  • Adjustable color temperature (warm to white-light)
  • Best value for the money

3. Brightech LightView Pro LED Magnifying Glass Floor Lamp

7 Best Magnifying Lamps for Painting Miniatures (Buying Guide and Review)
You might find one of these in a nail salon or professional art studio. I would love one of these in the future.

The Brightech LightView Pro LED Floor Lamp is essentially the same as the Brightech LighView Pro LED Desk Lamp (above).

This lamp has the same feature set. 5″ glass magnification lens that is made of glass. It has the 2.25x magnification power, which is my recommendation for hobbyists working with miniatures (which provides a good working focal length).

The brightness is similar as well, at 800 lumens (providing 60 watt bulb equivalent of light). With both dimmable and color temperature adjustable settings, this lamp is also versatile.

The major difference with the lamp is the wheeled stand. You can move this around your room! Or, if you want, you can maneuver this around your desk or to another room entirely.

The fact it is a floor stand model also means that it’s great for those of you who have precious little desktop space. This takes up zero footprint on your table.

The overall stand is quite tall, but the swing arm on top provides a high degree of movement range. Of course, the entire lamp assembly is heavy (at close to 30lbs).

Overall, this is a fantastic magnifying lamp for its mobility and other features.

Key Points:

  • Sturdy spring-loaded swing-arm
  • Large 5″ diameter glass lens for superb optical clarity
  • Average brightness LED (800 lumens)
  • Dimmable brightness
  • Adjustable color temperature (warm to white-light)
  • Best value for the money
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4. Carson DeskBrite200 LED Lighted 2x Magnifier and Desk Lamp for Hobby

7 Best Magnifying Lamps for Painting Miniatures (Buying Guide and Review)
A portable, no-hassle magnifying LED light. Battery or wired adapter power gives this unmatched portability.

This is actually the very first magnification “aid” I ever purchased. The reason I got the Carson DeskBrite is because it was battery-powered. I was able to take it around my small apartment without need to plug it in.

For small, short spurts of detail work, this magnification lamp was fine. It was also very cheap (less than $20). So for a supplemental tool for my burgeoning hobby (I wasn’t a commission painter back then), this lamp was useful.

The lens is made of plastic, but it is fairly large (about 4 inches in diameter). The magnification power is also the highest on this list at 5x power. However, because of this magnification power, you don’t have a very long focal length and I did find myself bumping into the lens a lot with my brush handles.

The flexible neck was kind of a stiff and hard to maneuver, but once in place the lamp stays there.

The LED is a simple two bulb affair, which kicks out a poor bright level of light (ambient overhead kitchen lights were probably brighter). But, again, it was battery operated and did the job for small tasks.

If you’re looking for something really small, useful for light task work, this is the best you’ll find in the sub-$20 price range.

As an alternative, if you’re looking for a really good portable light, minus the magnifying lens, I do highly-recommend this portable LED light.

Key Points:

  • Fairly-large 4″ diameter plastic lens
  • Clear view with 5x magnification
  • Short-focal length, e.g., small working space under lens
  • Very dim LEDs (only 2 bulbs)
  • Battery-powered or AC/DC adapter
  • Portable
  • Very inexpensive

5. LED Magnifying Lamp with Clamp, Addie 1,200 Lumens Dimmable Super Bright Full Spectrum Daylight

7 Best Magnifying Lamps for Painting Miniatures (Buying Guide and Review)
This a beautiful magnifying lamp with a super clear glass lens. The LEDs are the brightest you’ll find on a lamp of this tier.

The Addie LED Magnifying Lamp is the direct competitor with the Brightech LightView Pro LED. Nearly the same in price and functionality, there are several notable differences.

The Addie Lamp is brighter than the Brightech at 1200 lumens (compared with 800 lumens of the Brightech). Although the Addie Lamp has a glass lens that is only 4″ in diameter compared with the Brightech, the Addie has slightly more magnification power at 2.5x.

Because of the diffuse very bright LEDs on this lamp, the quality of the lighting could be arguably better in general. With full-spectrum daylight color temperature, the light quality is perfect for painting miniatures.

The LEDs are dimmable, which is very useful for reducing potential glare or hotspots on some reflective surfaces. If you’re reading, for example, or assembling models, you may want less light to keep the glare down.

Less glare means lower risk of eye fatigue. You’re more comfortable.

As with other clamp-on swing arm lamps, the Addie can be placed on the side of a hobby desk. The swing arm has a high degree of freedom so you can place this lamp where you need it.

The lens has cover that both protects the glass lens and keeps unwanted light from saturating other areas of your hobby space. In general, this is a great lamp for professional work, painting miniatures, and other modeling activity.

Key Points:

  • 4″ diameter glass lens at 2.5x magnification
  • Very bright at 1200 lumens
  • A slightly shorter focal length than the Brightech LightView Pro
  • Clamp-on swing arm lamp
  • Handle for moving the lens
  • Fairly priced

6. Brightech Lightview Pro XL Magnifying Glass with LED Floor Lamp & Rolling Base/Stand

7 Best Magnifying Lamps for Painting Miniatures (Buying Guide and Review)
The extra-large lens provides an ample view of your working surface. The rolling stand allows you to move the light and magnification where you need it most.

The Brightech LightView Pro XL with rolling base stand is the epitome of magnifying lamps. It has a HUGE 6″ wide by 4.5″ inch long glass lens (e.g., rectangular shaped lens).

The 2.25x magnification power is in-line with other suitable magnifying lamps for painting miniatures and fine-scale modeling.

As with the regular sized Brightech LightView Pro lamp with rolling stand this LED lamp emits a slightly brighter 900 lumens.

It uses 60 LEDs embedded into the lamp’s housing, which produce a cool white light (5000K). Unfortunately, the color temperature on this lamp cannot be adjusted.

The light has 3 brightness settings, so you can reduce the brightness for regular reading or other uses where hotspots or glare might cause eye fatigue.

As with other magnifying lamps with rolling floor stands, you can move this where ever you need it. If you have limited work area on your desk (e.g., clamp-on lamps also take some table footprint space), this is a good lamp to have around.

Key Points:

  • Huge 6″ diameter rectangular shaped glass lens
  • 2.5x magnification power
  • Bright LED panel at 900 lumens (3-brightness settings)
  • Non-adjustable color temperature
  • Daylight white light 5000K
  • Rolling base with tall stand and swing-arm
  • Fairly priced

7. Brightech LightView Pro LED Magnifying Floor Lamp

7 Best Magnifying Lamps for Painting Miniatures (Buying Guide and Review)
Similar to the rolling base version, this magnifying lamp has a large glass lens. With 2.25x magnification power, you will easily see those model details. The floor stand is weighted for stability.

The Brightech LightView Pro LED Magnifying Lamp is similar to the XL version with the rolling base. However, instead of wheels, the base of this lamp is weighted to prevent the lamp from tipping over.

This lamp uses a flexible arm instead of a swing-arm system. You can change the height of the vertical stand from between 24 to 44 inches. This is a versatile lamp with the ability to use it alongside tables or work benches of different heights. Because the lamp has a floor stand, it won’t take up any room on your desktop.

The LEDs are bright, emitting 870 lumens (close to 60 watt bulb equivalent of brightness). The color temperature of the light is on the cooler side of the daylight spectrum (6,000K), which is great for reproducing accurate colors on your subject. Unfortunately, you can’t dim this light or change the color temperature.

The glass lens has the same large rectangular shape of the Brightech LightView Pro XL lamp (6″ wide and 4.5″ long lens). The magnification power the lens is 2.25x, which provides a really nice 8-10″ focal length for working space.

Key Points:

  • Huge 6″ diameter rectangular shaped glass lens
  • 2.5x magnification power
  • Bright LED panel at 870 lumens
  • Non-adjustable brightness and color temperature
  • Daylight cool white light at 6000K
  • Weighted anti-tip base with adjustable height vertical stand
  • Priced well

Final Word

The best magnifying lamp is the one you find most comfortable for your needs. There are a lot of options, but the ideal lamps for miniature painting has several key features.

Look for lamps with a 2x or 2.25x magnification power, which provides ample focal length for your brushes and tools to move about under the lens. Bright LEDs (above 800 lumens) provide good contrast and improve visual details. Daylight color temperature lighting is useful for accurate color reproduction in miniature painting and model work.

Ultimately, as with any lighting system, you pay more for better quality light and functionality. Think about the countless hours you spend painting miniatures and models. Why do it in poor light?

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