Today, I’m sharing one of my favorite tools for lettering, calligraphy, and many other crafts and projects – the light box (“light pad” or “light tablet.”) If you’ve ever wondered how to use a light box, read on.
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Years ago, I discovered light boxes (now also called light pads or light tablets) when I began learning calligraphy and lettering.
What is a Light Box?
A light box is basically a thin box or tablet with a translucent surface that is lit from inside. You simply place a sheet of paper on it that has guidelines or an image you want to trace, and then place another sheet of paper on top of that. When you turn on the light, it allows you to see the image on the paper beneath.
How Do I Use My Light Box?
- It’s perfect for practicing calligraphy, brush lettering, (or any lettering!), because you can just place a sheet of the original letterforms you want to practice on the tablet and trace over them on the top paper. This develops your muscle memory and helps your lettering improve really quickly.
The image from the paper underneath shines through so you can trace it. I used a Tombow Dual Brush Pen (large brush marker) on HP Premium 32 Paper. If your goal is simply to keep your lines straight, another wonderful tool is a laser level.
- Also, because you are never actually writing on the original itself, you can use your lettering guidelines over and over. Guidelines help keep your lettering consistent, especially while you are learning or when you’re addressing envelopes, and with a light box, your original guidelines remain pristine and unused. Much better than printing out worksheets over and over! (Of course, for practice, tracing paper works too.)
The practice sheet in the photo above is free at tombowusa.com. Search “lettering practice worksheets” at the site. They’re free to download. I used a Tombow Fudenosuke pen (small brush marker.)
- If you’ve ever had problems with trying to remove pencil marks, after you’ve watercolored a project, you will love a light box. You can sketch the layout in pencil, place your paper over the pencil sketch, go over your lettering with watercolor, and not have to worry about the pencil lines showing through the watercolor.
- And, creating a lettering layout is much easier with a light pad, too. It saves so much time.
For Dry Embossing, Scrapbooking, Tracing
There are many other art and craft applications for a light box. I used to use mine a lot for dry embossing, but I haven’t done that in a while. (I need to get out my stencils and do some dry embossing!) I’ve used it for scrapbooking, too.
For Pattern Tracing and Quilting
Although I haven’t used mine for sewing (pattern tracing) or quilting, those are some other ways to use a lightbox.
Kids love a light box for tracing over lettering or drawings, too.
As you can see, a light box is really fun to have!
I love my LightPad930 because the light is bright LED light that shines through a lot of different papers. It’s relatively thin, so it’s not difficult to store. But, there are many other thinner and less expensive ones on the market these days.
I have seen this newer Huion light pad (below) used by lettering artists on Youtube, and it is very highly rated. The work surface is 16.9 x 12.2, bigger than my LightPad 930. It’s thinner too.
This one, below, has a smaller work surface than the one above, but is much less expensive.
You might be able to find a light box at your local craft store.
DIY Light Box
There are even several ways to make your own simple lightbox, and I did this early on.
The easiest way to DIY a light box is to simply place a lamp under a clear table. The light shines up through the paper, and allows you to trace over an example. I have also used a window, (but this doesn’t work for all projects of course.)
Another way to make a DIY light box is to have a translucent piece of plexiglass cut, lean it on some books, and place a lightsource under the plexiglass.
These DIY alternatives are very cost effective, especially if you don’t plan to use it a lot.
My light pads are some of my favorite tools, and I highly recommend them. Have you used one before?
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