Best Magnifiers for Miniature and Model Painting – Big Decision!

A close up of one of the many magnifying lamps I have on my hobby desk

I always think of “The Big Three” when it comes to simple things you can do to immediately improve your miniature painting. 

Stability is the first, meaning keeping your hands and arms braced to remove any wobble. 

Lighting is next, you need to be able to see what you’re doing clearly. 

Finally, there is Magnification.  So much easier to see what you’re doing when it’s a bit bigger.

In this article, I’ll be sharing what I recommend for magnifying your miniatures while painting.

Key Takeaways:

Desk Mount vs Headset Magnifiers:

This seems to be very much down to personal preference.  A lot of people swear by the headsets and I don’t like them at all.  Others hate the desk mount ones that I use every single time I paint.  

I think the bottom line here is I don’t like that wearing the visors means everything is viewed through the lenses unless I take them off.  Meaning if I look up from the miniature to find a new paint or clean off my brush, I’m still looking through the visor. 

With a desk lamp, I don’t have that issue.  Magnification is very focused on the subject, and nothing else.

I recently watched an Eon’s of Battle video and he came to the same conclusion I did:

Again though, a LOT of people use the headset, and they are not very expensive.  It’s worth trying if you think you might like them!  So, with all that said, let’s get to the best magnifiers:

Best Overall Hobby Magnifier – Brightech LightView Pro Flex

Sale
Brightech LightView Pro Flex 2 in 1: 2.25x...
  • CLARITY & QUALITY: GENUINE GLASS MAGNIFIER THAT MAGNIFIES 225%.: Review: "The magnafine [sic] glass...
  • BEST FOR COMFORT: GET THE LENS & LIGHT WHERE YOU NEED, WORK HANDS FREE, AVOID UNCOMFORTABLE MAG...

This is the one I use every day.  I’ve been using it for over 2 years now actually, it was one of my first breakthroughs to getting better at painting.  Maybe it’s because my eyes aren’t as good as they used to be, but magnification seems like a no-brainer.  

Get the 5 diopter one, it’s worth the extra 5 bucks.  

The one thing I’ll say is that although the LED on it is very good, I do still find that I need more light in general.  So be sure you have other sources of light for your desk.  It will light up what you’re painting just fine though.

I’ve also tried other ones that claim to be higher magnification, and it was all BS.  Same exact thing as the Brightech.  So beware if you see any that claim to be 10x or whatever else.  

100% recommended and one of my essential pieces of equipment for painting.  Here it is on my desk:

Oh since everyone always asks, the big light is the Phive LED Task Lamp, and yes I love it.  Good strong clean light and looks great on the desk. 

On to the next category…

Best Headset Visor for Hobby MagnifiersYoctosun Head Mount Magnifier

Sale
YOCTOSUN Head Mount Magnifier with 2 Led...
  • 5 interchangeable lenses with 1.0X, 1.5X, 2.0X, 2.5X, 3.5X magnification, scratch-resistant acrylic...
  • Comfortable eyeglass frame with rubber nose-pads or switch to headband for more-secure fit.

This is the one I own.  It’s fully adjustable with acrylic lenses that are optical grade and made to be scratch resistant.  You have the option of choosing different magnification grades range from 1.0 up through 3.5x using five detachable lenses. 

It does have an LED on it but I find it to be weak.  You can wear these if you also wear glasses, I didn’t have a problem with that. 

For around 15 bucks, it’s 100% worth trying to see if it’s right for you.  The goal is to find magnification that works comfortably.

Features:

  • Power of magnification from 1.0 up to 3.5.
  • Detachable lenses in 5 ranges.
  • Size for the frame of 8 ¾” x 5 11/16”.
  • The light angle is vertically adjustable.
  • Head strap can be adjusted.
  • LED lights.
  • Three batteries (AAA) included.
  • Lens case included.
  • Has the option to be used as a headlamp.

Best Retractable Magnifier – LANCOSC Magnifying Desk Lamp

LANCOSC Magnifying Desk Lamp, 8 Diopter, 5X Real...
  • 5X Magnification: This magnifying glass with light has an 8 diopter real glass lens, a diameter of...
  • 3 Color Modes - Stepless Dimmable: This Magnifier Lamp has three color modes to choose from (white,...

The LANCOSC has a 5x Magnification, 4.3” diameter glass lens at 8 diopter.  The 4.3 is the viewable space so it’s the same diameter as my Brightech desk lamp.  

The big decision here is if you want the retractable arm, or you want the table lamp.  Ultimately both depend on your setup.  If you can put the hinged arm somewhere that it’s out of the way, this is a great solution.  

The glass consists of authentic diopter glass, which means that it will give you resistance to scratches, warping, and heat as opposed to any type of plastic or acrylic lenses.

There is also dimming capability. You can adjust the color from a crisp white to a warm white varying from 6000K to 3000K with all points in between. Again I would make sure to have other lighting available, but this is good.

(I explain all about color light range, lumens, watts, and other light terms in “The Best Lighting for Hobbies and Miniature Painting.”)

Features:

  • Authentic Diopter glass 4.3” lens diameter.
  • Glass resists heat, scratches, and warping.
  • Magnification up to 5x.
  • Allows for hands-free work.
  • Color adjusting from cool white up to warm white.
  • Dimming capable.
  • Bright light when focused on one detail at 1500 lumens.

I, for one, have tried just about every option under the sun when it comes to miniature painting equipment to find what works the best. I share my favorites – the best of the best – in this article.

Why Do You Need a Magnifying Tool to Paint Miniatures?

All enthusiasts who pursue this hobby insist their most significant asset is a light source with built-in magnification.

The word is that this is an invaluable tool for seeing the real, authentic colors via the light and having the scale enlarged by way of the magnification.

When priming and preparing your figures with the appropriate paints down to the tiniest details, you must enlist a hands-free, high-standard, and dependable magnification tool to assist in the process.

This is where many find magnification lamps beneficial with their projects.

I give you a complete rundown on priming options in this article. My favorite, hands down, is Stynylrez in black, white, and gray.

Sure, Vallejo Primer does a terrific job and provides great coverage, but I feel that Stynylrez outshines and outperforms by a pretty good margin.

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Badger Air-Brush Co. SNR-410 Stynylrez, 3 Piece...
  • Self leveling primer Simple and easy application detail enhancing coverage. Excellent adhesion and...
  • For use on plastics, metals, woods, resin, various other substrates, Simple and easy clean up

How Does a Magnifying Lamp Work?

A magnification lamp is a necessary tool for those who work on specific projects that require precision or assembly, design, or inspection of intricate detailing.

This is exactly what painting miniature requires. 

It allows users to view the smallest of details without the possibility of eye strain or the onset of any vision fatigue.

Maintaining sound eye health is exceptionally advantageous and critical for those who participate in the miniature painting hobby. 

The essential part of an excellent magnifying tool is going to be the lighting aspect.

In many workplace scenarios, there are poor indirect or shadowy lighting situations, which result in skewed viewing of the projects in front of you.

A light magnifier can compensate for this handicap, typically with an LED component around the lens or frame.

This light source enables a clear sight by flashing a solid beam of clear light on the object.

How to Properly Use a Magnifying Lamp

One of the main benefits of using a hands-free magnification lamp is the ability to work while still having the advantage of magnification.

It is essential when you are trying to paint a tiny figure in all of its intricate detailing.

Other things that are vital when working with a magnifying lamp are: 

  • Use a magnifying lamp with both eyes open as you would when you have on a pair of prescription lenses. Don’t close an eye as you’re painting. Keep both eyes focused on the project.
  • The lens should be in a position where the item is entirely in focus, clear, sharp with no blurriness having your eyes at approximately 10” distance from the lens. The recommendation is to give the appropriate amount of magnification while providing the least distortion to your vision.
  • Keeping a good posture while seated at your station, ensuring the chair is a proper height, and the desk is aligned is vital. There should be no leaning in any direction when performing your work.

Magnification Lamps and Their Options

When you partake in the increasingly popular hobby of painting miniatures, you must be able to see the smallest, most intricate details to define each part as it should be.

It requires the assistance of magnification tools that are stand-alone to allow you the freedom to use your hands for work.

Those That Offer Full-Spectrum Light Are Touted to Be Among the Best

The items note to be the ideal magnification of approximately 2.5x with a focal length running about 10” from lens to the desk.

The lenses in these lamps are constructed within a frame. They are typically either glass or plastic, with glass said to be the best choice for clarity purposes.

Plastic Lenses Are Suitable for Those Who Are on a Budget

They are much more portable as they are typically smaller and lightweight. They do the job sufficiently.

If you are hardcore and want the very best option without fear of cost, glass is the ultimate option when painting miniatures.

Glass Is More Durable and Better for Your Eyes

Glass is, of course, going to be much more durable in handling abuse and avoiding nicks and scratches.

You can clean glass with harsh chemicals that may be damaging to plastic using any type of tools/brushes that would be destructive to a plastic surface.

Functionally, glass offers higher light transmission to where all the wavelength is capable of going through.

Warm Light

The warmer light choice is going to be better for your eyes and cause less eye fatigue than that of the blue light, which will bring disruption to your sleep pattern.

You should choose a magnification lamp that offers a good daylight lamp or a full spectrum bulb. 

Dimmable, Stable, and Dependable

The brightness for these lights is in lumens as opposed to watts for which you would want something in the 800-1000 range.

A dimmable option is ideal, so you can check your work at every level making sure it looks good in any contrast.

A magnifying lamp that provides stability and dependability is going to be your best bet.

The lamps are hands-free, allowing freedom to work on your painting with the added benefit of magnification for fine detail.

You can find this type of stable system in either a floor or desktop model, which gives you the chance to move your lens to suit you with the desk lamp being a more compact preference. 

However, the most popular choice among enthusiasts is the clamp-on versions that give you the same freedoms of the desktop, but they take up much less space on your work surface, and they generally have a swing arm.

What Is Diopter?

Diopter is a measurement. It relates to the curvature of a lens.

  • The higher the diopter, the thicker the lens, and the most curve. 
  • The greater a curve becomes, the more of your retina fills as the light rays receive a new direction. 
  • In turn, the object appears larger. 
  • Power or magnification indicates exactly the size an object looks through the lens. It is generally designated by an x, e.g., 2x. 

The focal length will reduce as diopter increases.

The ultimate focal point is between the middle of the lens and the magnification, where the piece is the clearest. This measurement is taken in millimeters or mm. 

Any object seen under high magnification should be close to the lens to decrease the distance to view it more clearly.

The notation is that three diopters or 1.75x are the most common or standard of lens choice as a good magnification for ease of use.

For a good overview of this subject, check out this video. 

The Fundamentally Important Factor In Painting Miniatures

One thing that hobbyists speak of when painting miniatures as the ultimately critical aspect is the lighting.

Lighting is crucially essential to the outcome of the piece.

The experts indicate that it doesn’t necessarily have to be top-of-the-line expensive devices to give you what you need. It just needs to be good, and not all light is.

The Science of Light

Light, it would seem, has a color of its own. The color that it gives influences the colors of the objects that our eyes see around us.

It is true whether you are using a typical yellowish-colored bulb or that of an off-color bulb, say blue or green.

Kelvins are the measurement for which light color uses based on its temperature, not in the way of hot or cold, but in the way we see an object. 

  • A low kelvin appears as a more yellow light (warm).
  • A high kelvin number means the light looks more white or blue (cool).
  • The middle offers what we would consider as a daylight color.

The middle, or daylight-colored light, is the optimum setting for miniature painting because it provides less distortion.

Trying to sit down and paint with a standard light bulb that has no way to diminish shadows will result in distorted colors and a less than satisfactory result. 

(Check out my article on the color wheel to see how I select colors when painting my miniatures.) 

Why Is Lighting So Important to Miniature Painting

The lighting is ultimately the quintessential component when it comes to miniature painting, particularly if you are someone who opts to go for the authentic art as opposed to just painting creatively.

In this instance, your colors must be exact to what they were in their original format. It is not something you can do without the optimal lighting.

Magnification is nearly as important. It would be virtually impossible to see the most intricate of details on the miniature pieces with the naked eye.

Too often, there would be parts missed if you were to rely solely on standard vision.

Those who participate in the hobby take their work seriously and want the results to be precise.

It is why most invest in the proper tools such as the magnification lamps to assist them in priming, prepping, and painting their figures in the finest detail.

Having the proper gear makes a huge difference in your painting. Head over to “My Favorite Miniature Painting Gear” to see what I personally use and recommend.

Why Go Through All of the Trouble of Magnifying and Painting Miniatures?

Many of the people who are involved in painting miniatures do so in a select few categories.

A few of these include wartime, which would consist of various periods, and then there are the gaming varieties involving science fiction or fantasy.

Role playing games (RPGs), such as Pathfinder (learn how to get started here), Dungeons and Dragons, and Warhammer are particularly popular. 

There are a plethora of other types of miniatures, but these seem to be where the painting comes more into play using materials such as metal, resin, and plastics.

Painting the miniatures provides excellent satisfaction to the hobbyist in a couple of different ways. 

  • They can display the work that they do in a sort of showcase-type capacity strictly for viewing or photograph their prize pieces to show off a bit (tips on that here). 
  • They can use the pieces that they hand paint in their gameplay. These custom-painted pieces are a source of pride and provide a sense of gratification for the person who put in the time and effort to create the piece. And having others enjoy their work is doubly satisfying.

It makes sense why enthusiasts are investing more time and money on tools such as magnification lamps to incorporate into their work.

The ‘hobby’ is fast turning into more of a collectible type of endeavor as opposed to just a pastime.

As more people get involved, pieces soon turn into works of art, and enthusiasts become collectors as opposed to merely artists.

Miniatures Have Major Popularity

Miniature painting seems to be the growing trend that is ever-evolving with no signs of slowing in popularity.

It has its share of groups popping up to promote the vast array of authentic work accomplishments of all the artists around the globe.

Not only can you display your pieces in your personal location, but they can be put online for the whole world of miniature painters to admire.

That is a benefit to our modern technological society and widespread social media.

If you enjoyed learning about magnifying lights, you’re sure to find a ton of other topics of interest in all of my miniature painting articles.

Tips, recommendations, explanations of techniques and terminology, and more. Click here to see them all.

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of The Miniature Painting Level Up Guide to see how easy it can be to get started with the hobby and quickly advance from a beginner to a pro.

Last update on 2021-10-22 at 19:59 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API