What magnifying systems do you need for painting detail? To paint details on miniatures, you need good fine-motor skill and eye sight. Magnification aids in particular, e.g., visors, headsets, or reading glasses, can improve detailed painting.

LIGHTS FOR MINIATURE PAINTING (TIPS AND RECOMMENDATIONS)

I use a visor when I’m painting faces, eyes, or free handing.

When I’ve shown my work to others, and when they look close, I often get asked, “do you use a magnifying glass, or something–“

My answer is “sorta”.

The magnification aid I use for painting miniatures and highly-recommend is:

Donegan Optivisor Headband Magnifier (Glass Lens)

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Donegan DA-7 OptiVISOR Headband Magnifier, 2.75X Magnification Glass Lens Plate, 6″ Focal Length

Why this magnifier? The best reason to choose a particular type of magnifier is comfort.

Comfort is the first and best reason why you should choose a particular visor system. You’re going to be painting for hours. Do it in comfort.

The other advantages of the Optivisor Headband is the ability to switch out the glass lens inserts for different magnification power (1.5 to 3.75x). This makes the visor incredibly versatile and can adapt to your personal needs and tastes for painting miniatures.

You can even adjust the headband part for your specific head-shape and size. Because it is an open air design, you won’t sweat or overheat from wearing it for long-periods of time. I’ve personally worn one of these headbands comfortably for more than 3 hours (for a big painting commission job).

Notably, the front lens part flips up when you don’t need to use magnification. This allows you to keep going with your task without removing the visor. This is very convenient. Finally, I am able to wear my normal glasses while using this visor. I can jump between normal vision and magnified vision with a flick of the wrist.

The following would be my choice if I wanted a cheaper option, with more bells and whistles:

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Headband Magnifying Glass with Light

The extra light isn’t necessary. You’ll have your desk lamp. This visor comes with lenses of different optical power. But, in contrast to the Optivisor (above) that uses glass lenses, this visor uses plastic lenses. Plastic lenses are cheaper, but don’t have the optical clarity of glass, and are more difficult to clean. Nonetheless, aside from more visual options, e.g., more lenses, a light, and a loupe, this visor has the same function as the Optivisor.


Magnifiers for Miniatures (Tips and Recommendation)
Miniatures lined up for war paint.
Magnifiers for Miniatures (Tips and Recommendation)
Photo taken through the visor lens of the Optivisor (2.75x magnification power).

What is the best magnification power for painting minis?

I recommend 2.75x as the default magnification power.

Why?

At 2.75x magnification power you have sufficient improvement in seeing detail while also balancing out the drawbacks of too much or too little power.

In general, magnification power between 1.5 to 3.75x is sufficient for improving the ease of painting details on miniatures. Too much magnification and you lose depth-of-field (see article on how depth of field affects photographing miniatures), which can make painting more difficult. Too little magnification and you might as well not use any vision aids.

Why is focal length important?

Focal length of a magnifying visor is the distance between the lens and the magnified object. Focal length determines how much space you have between your miniature and your face. If your focal length is too short, then your brush will bump into your visor.

Magnifiers for Miniatures (Tips and Recommendation)
Improve your confidence in painting contrast and detail.

Generally, a visor/lens with a shorter focal length has greater optical power (also measured as diopter) than one with a long focal length; that is, it bends the light rays more sharply, bringing them to a focus in a shorter distance.

At 2.75x magnification, the focal length is 6 inches, which is for me is the perfect distance to hold a miniature while I’m painting it for detail.

If you wanted more distance between yourself and the miniature, you would need to decrease the magnification power, e.g., 2x magnification has a focal length of 10 inches (you can buy this lens plate for the optivisor).

At the end of the day, what magnification strength and focal length you choose is personal. Get what is comfortable and useful for your needs.

Two Recommended Magnifying Visors for Miniatures or Scale Models:

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Donegan DA-7 OptiVISOR Headband Magnifier, 2.75X Magnification Glass Lens Plate, 6″ Focal Length ($37.75)

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Headband Magnifying Glass with Light ($25.99)

If you don’t want to “wear” magnification, then use a magnifying lamp.

Brightech LightView PRO – LED 2.25x Magnifying Glass Desk Lamp For Close Work ($65)

Magnifiers for Miniatures (Tips and Recommendation)
Seeing through a magnifying lamp.

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Thanks for reading!

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7 Comments »

  1. I use either reading glasses at 3.0 magnification (I have various strengths from 2.0 up to 3.75) I also have a magnifying headband with clip in lenses (and lights) from 1.0 to 4.0 magnification. You can add two lenses. So magnification up to 6.0 which is way to strong. To be honest I prefer the glasses as they are lighter and I can look over the top to watch TV or underneath to find my paint.

    • Yep, definitely second the reading glasses. Cheap, easy to store, and comfortable. I think the main one I use is a 1.75 or 2x, and I switch to a 3x pair when doing minute details.

      I first got a headband similar to the white one, but it put all the weight on the bridge of my nose. I found that super uncomfortable.

  2. But, I wear glasses….and so hence, the visor. But, the synergy of adding additional lenses hasn’t been something I noticed. I’m going to check it out. Yeah, 6x seems a bit too much for miniature work.

  3. I wear glasses and have two pair, regular for when I drive or ride my bike and reading prescription glasses. I need a third prescription for computer, but that’s going to be a while.

    Sounds like somebody needs to come up with one of those visors with several different strengths where you can flip between the strengths as you need a different one.

      • I figured there were some expensive options out there for this, but I would like to see somebody do a crowdfunding option for a good pair that didn’t cost anywhere near that much. Although some of the crowdfunding items I see for different things cost way more than they should.

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