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:


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 Clamp-on Swing-Arm Lamp, Black ($80) – 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. 


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.

A regular bulb is bad for painting
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.

If you’re looking for a portable light for painting miniatures, check out the Ottlite task lamp.

Highly-recommended lighting setups for miniature painting!

Brightech LightView Pro LED Magnifying Lamp

Amico 11W LED Architect Desk Lamp

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?




  1. Nice job on the painting. For several years I was building 1/87 – HO scale buildings and vehicles, I loved the building and weathering. I never had a train, but I really enjoyed making little dioramas.

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