It is incredible how many people paint miniatures in very poor lighting. Not only will your results be far worse but it is also quite a strain on your eyes.
I remember when I got a good lamp for painting. It blew me away how much more detail I could see on the mini now that the light was correctly positioned!
Once you have tried painting under a solid lamp, it is doubtful you will ever be able to paint with under cruddy light again.
Below I am going to show you the lamp I use and why I think it is the best light you can get for painting miniatures.
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The short version: the Lightcraft Professional LED task lamp is just incredible
If you want to cut right to the case, I think the Lightcraft Professional LED lamp is the best lamp you can get. The coverage is great, you can position it high above your paint area to avoid back spasms, it has a good spectrum of light and the intensity is adjustable, it is durable, and you can move it around without too much hassle.
In short, this is the one I would recommend once you are serious about painting miniatures. If you are just starting out, you might need to look at a cheaper alternative, as the Lightcract pro can be a bit on the expensive side.
Below I go more in-depth on why I think the Lightcraft Pro is the best option.
Note: the Lightcraft Pro is currently sold out. I have changed the link to the Neatfi XL 2, which is basically the same lamp (only a slightly never version and black).
What to look for in a good miniature painting lamp?
Before I go into why I think the Lightcraft pro is the best lamp, let us look a bit at what a good lamp for painting minis actually needs to do.
1. The colour of the light needs to show the actual colours of the model
When painting with a cruddy light, it will distort the colours on your miniatures. This is because it is either casts a too blue or yellow tone from the bulb, giving everything a tinge of that colour.
This means that you can spend ages getting the colour just right, but when you look at it in the morning (in sunlight) you will wonder why it now looks different.
To avoid this effect you are looking for a lamp as close to natural light as possible, meaning you are looking for something wit Kelvin between 5000 and 6000.
2. The light needs to decrease the amount of shadow on your miniature
Ever find yourself fiddling around with the models, trying to get the spot you are painting into the perfect light? This is because the position of your lamp and your hands are causing shadows to fall on your miniature.
Preferably you want no shadows from outside objects on your mini while painting. To reduce this you will need big coverage of light and getting something that sits above your paint station instead of being on the side of it (so you avoid casting shadows on the mini with your hands, brush and so on)
In the picture below you can see that the light will come from the right with that particular lamp (and you can also see how the light is very yellow/warm.
3. The lamp needs to be flexible and mobile
If you not lucky enough to have a dedicated fixed painting spot, odds are you need to pack away your painting equipment each time you are done. This means it needs to be quick to set up and put away.
A big part of this flexibility is also making sure that my lamp is not forcing me to sit with my neck in awkward positions. A lot of people will paint with their head bowed low to get closer to the light, because their lamp is rather small and not high up above them. This is one of the reasons for that neck and back spasm you can feel after a long painting session, and getting a lamp that decreases unnatural head movement can really help prolong your painting sessions.
4. The durability of the lamp needs to be high and the heat production needs to be low
For some reason lightbulbs will pop from time to time (it is like we lost the technology to make them last…). I would like as few obstacles to painting my minis, so something that is durable and does not require new lightbulbs is very good.
Also, some bulbs produce waaaay too much heat for my taste. I have a hard enough time keeping my paints moist in the summer (and cloth on the body when the heat is getting up there) so my lamp should definitely not add to any unnecessary heat.
The lamp that best fit my criteria: the Lightcraft Pro
I first found out about the “Lightcraft Professional LED task lamp with dimmer feature” I knew I just had to get it. I was using the old blue hag in the pictures above, and while I had installed and okay bulb back then, I knew it was holding me back. Little did I know how much it was cramping my painting style.
I heard about the Lightcraft from the awesome (but sadly extinct) Heelanhammer podcast. I had always wondered what sort of lamp the pro painters at GW was using and these guys said it was the Lightcraft Pro. I ordered it on the spot (despite the price tag) and have never been happier for any hobby tool I have owned.
Now, I never could confirm that it was used at the GW painting studio. Imagine the grin on my face when I saw the Lightcraft Pro in a video about contrast paint on the Warhammer Community site:
The reason I love the Lightcraft pro for painting minis
I know this lamp is by no means cheap (check the price here) but it is by far the best option I have found (and it have now lasted 4 years without any signs of slowing down).
So, what makes this lamp so incredibly awesome?
1. It produces a ton of light over a broad area and the light comes from above
The lamp features an incredible amount of small LED lamps that blasts light from above down on your painting station.
With this setup the light covers the entirety of me painting station, meaning that I do not have to sit in awkward angles to get the right light. Also, because the light comes from above I can sit upright (head and back in a natural position) AND my silly hands will not cover the light from the lamp.
Just look at the picture below and tell me what lamp you would most prefer to use!
2. It casts the perfect light for my taste
Some people are really interested in getting that perfect light off 5500 kelvin (natural sunlight style).
This lamp produces between 6000 and 7000 kelvin (depending on the setting of the dimmer), meaning it is a bit more on the cool side (blue tinge) than the warm side (yellow tinge).
I must admit I have a hard time spotting the difference in hue, but I can understand the people that really want to nail this. But I primarily paint armies and those armies are primarily seen in a light that has that some slightly blue tinge to it (poor light in big halls). It is very rare that my minis need to be viewed in natural sunlight, so painting with this blue tinge in mind is actually really great.
3. Can be used in video and photography
I take quite a lot of pictures of miniatures and do some video stuff. The lamp is actually pretty good for this. Some lamps will produce a really enjoying “flicker” when seen through a lens, but this amped up to a point where this is avoided.
4. No heat, no buzzing and no bulbs that need changing
Because of the LED technology, the lamp produces no heat and no weird buzzing sound (my last one drove me insane). Also, you will likely stop painting before any of the LED lamps breaks (it claims to have a good 50.000 hours in it!).
The lamp is overall very sturdy and I have noticed no damage from heavy use in four years (and I can be quite rough with it… What, I did say I love it!).
5. Flexible setup and flexible lighting
You screw the lamp on with a detachable screw thingy. It comes on and off really quick and even very small tables can be able to hold it. This means I can quickly relocate my painting station into the living room (making sure that Netflix and chill can include some hobby productivity).
The light can be dimed up and down and you can turn off some of the LED lamps when needed. Full-on light can be a bit bright when painting at night, so having this feature is really good.
The lamp is held in a sturdy plastic arm and once settled it sits tight.
Check out all the pictures below to get what I mean:
I am sorry if you feel like I am making a giant sales pitch here. But yeah, it is true I am. But it is only because this is one of those things that can actually change and improve the quality of your painting. It is just that good!
So what are you waiting for? Get that order in today!
Note: the Lightcraft Pro is currently sold out. I have changed the link to the Neatfi XL 2, which is basically the same lamp (only a slightly never version and black). Also, that one is easier to get in the United States!
Other options and why you might not like the Lightcraft pro
While I find the lighcraft pro amazing and the best lamp ever, it might be for everyone.
- If you are looking for a lamp that perfectly expresses true daylight, you need to get something else.
- Some people LOVE lamps with magnifying glass. I find them sort of weird and fiddly, without adding much value to my work. If you want a cheap option in that category, I have heard great things about this one.
- For me, quality tools are a must. I paint so many expensive figures, I might as well cut back on the number of minis I buy and instead have tools I love to use. But still, this might be too expensive for you. You can try and replicate it with various DIY solutions or with two small lamps with daylight bulbs in it.
- As for as I can tell, you cannot get it from a US store. I am linking to a very similar version instead. Same features and all, but different brand.