The best lightbox gives you a clear view of an image, making it a must-have for any photographer shooting with film cameras, or who has boxes of old slides and negatives to sort through.
Like the best light tents, a lightbox can also be used as an extra light source when shooting things like food photography in the studio. And that's just photography. Lightboxes are also used by artists, illustrators, animators, tattooists, architects, engineers, students and others to trace artworks, diagrams and photos, by placing it on the lightbox with some drawing paper on top.
So how do you choose the best lightbox? Well, you'll want to think about the size, weight, portability and brightness you need. Also consider whether you wish power to come from USB, mains electricity, or both.
Below you'll find the best lightboxes available today, for a range of budgets, as we explain what each of them has to offer. Meanwhile, you might also be interested in our guides to the best slide viewers and the best film scanners.
Best lightbox in 2023
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Made by Kaiser, a well-known photo accessory brand among film users, this sleek-looking higher-end unit is ideal for sorting out and reviewing slides and transparencies.
With a generous working area of 16.9 x 12.2in, you can power it either by the mains or battery. Features include touch on/off control, adjustable brightness dimming, and USB connectivity. The screen surround features a scale provided in centimeters and inches. And if you want to work remotely, the built-in battery will last for up to 1.5 hours at full power, or longer if the screen is dimmed.
At a slim 8mm, the screen also boasts a very slim pancake-like profile, while the large landscape format viewing area avoids having to cramp your transparencies when viewing several at a time. All this makes the Kaiser the best lightbox for photographers overall.
Want a cheaper option than our number one pick? Huion is a leading manufacturer of graphics tablets, and its light box provides excellent value.
The ‘active’ illuminated area of the box/pad is a very useable 12.6 x 9 inches (so basically A4) and, as with others here, the brightness is dimmable via the holding down of its on/off button. It also ‘remembers’ the brightness it was set to when last used – so you don’t have to make personal adjustments every time.
Suggesting that the pad provides the potential for 24-hour usage, its lifespan is estimated at 50,000 hours. Measuring a very slender 0.4cm in depth, this solution is also one of our lighter options at just 599g, so it could double as an additional light source for your photo shoots, if required.
Seeking a large working area? This light box is an excellent choice. It comes in at 12 x 7 inches, housed within an attractive aluminium frame with chrome steel corners. Being an LED device, it's always cool to the touch, and casts an even light, with brightness variable from 1000-5000 lux. It comes with a mains adapter, protective storage sleeve and one-year warranty. Note that it's one of the heavier devices on our list, though, at 2kg.
On a tight budget, but need a large working area? This is a larger version of the Huion LED light box (number 2) which offers an A3-sized space for your slides, negatives and tracing. It is still a lightweight choice, and has a rechargeable option, making it ideal for travelling, or for use as a light source. It has an adjustable brightness with a maximum output of 1500 lux.
This is the big brother of the Artograph LightPad 940 LX (number 3 on our list), offering a massive working area that is twice the size. With an double-layer acrylic A2 screen measuring 24 x 17inch (432mm x 610mm) it's great for big tracing jobs – or for comparing large-format film negatives.
This is a mains-operated device with a robust aluminum frame which is best suited to a studio or office setting. It's pretty expensive, though, so if it's beyond your budget, you may prefer number 4, above.
This is a larger version of the Huion LED light box that's number two on our list, and offers an A3-sized working area. It is still a lightweight option, and has a rechargeable option, making it ideal for travelling, or for use as a light source. It has an adjustable brightness with a maximum output of 1500 lux.
If you have very large slides you need to view, or large images you want to trace, here's our top choice. Huion's largest light box measures a hefty 56.9 x 37.1cm (22.4 x 14.6 inches), with a working area of 51.9cm x 32cm (20.5 x 12.6 inches). Despite the title, that's not quite A2 size, but it's not far off.
The brightness of up to 2,000 lux can be adjusted gradually, and there's a memory function for when you reach the perfect level of brightness and want to easily select this at a later date. There's also a handy 2m (6.5 feet) long cable to plug into the wall, and its LED lamps promise up to 50,000 hours of use.
While it's not available in the USA, this dedicated daylight color balanced solution from Dörr for viewing slides and negative film has much to offer readers in the UK and Europe. Specifically, its ultra-thinness.
It measures 38x38cm with an illuminated acrylic panel size of 34cm by 34cm – so, just slightly longer than a conventional school ruler. The device utilizes energy saving LEDs – the advantage being that this is a constant and consistent light source that never gets warm to the touch.
Once again the unit is dimmable to avoid eye strain, via a press and hold of the on/off button. Like its competitors this 14.4 watt light box is also very slim at just 0.8cm thick, while, in weighing 1.12Kg in total, it feels neither flimsy nor prohibitively weighty. Incidentally, this offering sits between two other available lightbox sizes from Dorr at either a smaller 20x20cm or a larger 60x60cm. Pay your money and make your choice.
Want a cheap lightbox for tracing? With a 9x12-inch illuminated area, this fuss-free, budget priced light pad comes highly recommended. This ultra slim unit utilises a Mitsubishi acrylic panel that measures 14.2 x 10.6 x 0.2 inches, and comes surrounded by a classic black frame.
You can dim the maximum 4000 Lux brightness by simply pressing down on its power button for a few seconds. And thanks to a provided two-metre USB cable, it can be conveniently charged or powered via a laptop, USB enabled mains plug or portable charge. However, a mains plug will cost you extra.
This sturdily built classic lightbox that makes up in solidity what it perhaps lacks in portability. Resembling something you’d find in a laboratory, this stainless steel framed beast is LED powered with a claimed life of up to 50,000 hours and is said to be eco friendly. Made in the USA, it provides both an even light source across its 10 x 12-inch plexi glass surface and what it boasts is excellent color rendering, thanks to the use of white LED with a neutral color temperature. A provided adjustable metal stand lets the device be angled for greater convenience and easier viewing, and it comes with a three-year warranty.
What is a lightbox?
A lightbox is a device used to view slides, negatives transparencies, or other types of transparent materials, such as drawing paper. It typically consists of a box-shaped container with a transparent top or front, and an illuminated bottom or back. The light from the bottom creates a bright, evenly-lit surface that illuminates your material and makes it easier to see. Lightboxes are used by photographers, artists and illustrators.
How bright does my lightbox need to be?
If you plan on using it for drawing or tracing, you will want a light box that can produce at least 3000 lux so that the light can shine through 2 sheets of paper. If you are just using it for viewing film scans you will get away with 1,500-3,000 lux.
What size should I buy?
If you're planning on moving your lightbox around a lot it would be best to get one that could easily fit in a big - so no bigger than A4. For use at home or in the studio, an A2 or A3 light box will allow you to produce much larger drawings but they aren't very portable.