If you find yourself creating a fair amount of illustration or calligraphy, then a light box may help you to work more efficiently! In the next few paragraphs, we’ll discuss what a light box is and how you can use it to enhance your creations.
What is a Light Box?
A light box provides a very bright surface for you to use. The bright surface is designed to shine through two pieces of paper, and allows you to trace content from the bottom piece of paper on the top piece of paper.
I use a 9″x12″ Artograph LightPad 930 light box. I like it because its light shines very bright, and it provides a large surface for me to work on. That said, this specific light box is not moderately priced for occasional use. There are many light boxes with rave reviews available on Amazon — like this one — offered at a fraction of the LightPad 930 price!
I would recommend reading reviews before you decide which light box to purchase. If you don’t like the light box that you buy, you can always return it!
Common Uses for a Light Box
1. Envelope Spacing
If you plan on addressing several envelopes at once, then a light box can really help with spacing! First, make a template to slip into your envelope. The template should mark the middle of the envelope, and clearly show you where to write the address.
Put the envelope and the template on the light box, and the template lines will shine right though!
You can write directly on the envelope while it is placed on the light box. After you finish, there’s no need to erase any pencil lines! This can save you an incredible amount of hassle, and eliminates the risk of smudging not-yet-dry letters or accidentally crumpling the paper.
The caveat? You can only use this technique for light-colored envelopes. Light will not shine through dark envelopes!
2. Envelope Art
I love using my light box to make quick work of envelope art! In fact, I created the Illustrated Roses Template with light box use in mind. You can put the template under any light-colored envelope and trace over the roses with waterproof ink (like Ziller).
Once you trace roses in the upper left and lower right corner of the envelope, fill them in with watercolor. Finish up by adding the recipient’s address in the calligraphy style of your choice (Kaitlin Style was used in the example below). Your envelope — featuring an ornate and impressive illustration — is now ready to send!
There are two printable templates on the TPK site that were created for use with a light box. They are the Woodcut Art A7 Envelope Template and the Typography Art Envelope Template. Both templates offer a means to make beautifully illustrated envelopes in an efficient and fun way!
3. Sketchbook Journaling
A light box can enhance your sketchbook journal pages by allowing you to create accurate representations of photos. I trace over photos all the time in my sketchbook! As long as you’re using a clean sketchbook page (without drawings/content on the other side), this technique will work.
Once you finish tracing, you can enhance the drawing however you see fit! I finished up this drawing with haphazardly-created cobblestones and interesting, earthy shades of watercolors.
A lot of people really enjoy freehand drawing in their sketchbooks, particularly because sketchbook content is personal and doesn’t need to be perfect. That said, I think that the fun part of sketchbook journaling is adding watercolor! That’s why I usually speed up the drawing part by using a light box.
4. Everyday Illustrations
A light box can accelerate and enhance the production of illustrations for your home. For example, to make the Arc de Triomphe illustration below, I used the light box to trace over a photo of the Arc in pencil. Then, I used the same pencil to trace over the Illustrated Roses Template in strategic places behind the Arc.
For illustrations like the Arc de Triomphe, I like to trace over the photo in pencil first. I then work from that pencil illustration without shining light through the paper. The pencil lines give you an excellent idea of proportion, and you can use your skill and imagination to fill in the rest!
Light boxes aren’t only useful for pen and ink drawings; you can also use them to create watercolor paintings! In the Herbal Watercolor Tutorial, I used a light box to create the base layer for a lovely basil illustration.
Light Box Alternatives
Before you rush to place your order for a light box, it’s important to remember that you’ve got other options! Here are some effective DIY alternatives that people use:
You can tape a printout to your window, then tape a blank piece of paper over it. The light will shine right through! The disadvantage here is the severe vertical angle that you need to work at.
Shine Light Through a Glass Table
Before I had a light box, this was the set-up that I used. I simply shone a lamp up through a glass table! The effect wasn’t as potent as a light box, but it worked.
Use a Computer/iPad Screen on Maximum Brightness
This is a genius technique that reader Srividya used to make this sketchbook page after she saw the sketchbook journal post here on TPK. You can just set your electronic device to maximum brightness and open a photo of the subject that you want to trace over. Place a piece of paper over the screen, and trace!
I, personally, love my light box and use it often! I hope that this article helps you to decide whether that will be the case for you as well. Thanks very much for reading, and enjoy your weekend!