Collecting and painting miniatures is a hobby pursued by a vast number of passionate enthusiasts. A majority of those who participate do so in the categories of gaming or wartime.
Painting miniatures, no matter which method you opt for, requires fine detail and a steady hand, not to mention precise skill.
What is the best magnification option for your miniature painting? The best magnification to use when painting miniatures is one that combines a light source and built-in magnification.
Three great options are:
- Brightech LightView Pro Magnifying Glass Desk Lamp
- Yoctosun Head Mount Lighted Magnifier
- Brightech Lightview Pro Dimming Clamp Lamp
The most substantial challenge faced in working with miniatures is the tiny size and intricate detail. The objects themselves are small, with accessories attached that are intricate and more diminutive.
Applying various colors using the naked eye is virtually impossible. Magnification is mandatory to give an optimal outcome.
There’s so much to consider when it comes to painting miniatures. Paints, brushes, washes, primers, airbrushes (purchasing guide here), layering, highlighting, the list goes on and on.
To try to save you time and frustration, I packed all the insights I’ve gleaned over the years into one place, The Miniature Painting Level Up Guide.
In my guidebook you’ll learn what basic tools are essential, what gear you’ll want to add as you move to more advanced work, what are the best ways to improve quickly, and so much more.
This guidebook will prove to be the only resource you need for miniature painting.
Now, let’s check out the best options for magnifying lights.
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.
Sure, Vallejo Primer does a terrific job and provides great coverage, but I feel that Stynylrez outshines and outperforms by a pretty good margin.
The 3 Best Choices For Magnification Lamps
Everyone is going to have their personal preference for what they feel is the best option for their work habits. A hobby of this sort is individual and will depend on your specific habits.
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.
But some tools are universally better as a whole for the demographic, and these have reached that level with some enthusiasts who feel they are ideal for the purpose of miniature painting. Let’s look.
The Brightech Desk Magnifying Lamp offers a classic modern design.
The magnification is ideal at 2.25, allowing for great detail with painting miniatures along with daylight LED bulbs implemented into the lens for perfect lighting.
There is the added advantage of a lens cover supplied with this product to offer a lighting source for the desk when you don’t need to use the magnification aspect of the tool.
Brightech is not a bright light. It would be equivalent to that of a 60-watt bulb or 800 lumens. You may need to add more lighting for back up.
It boasts as being a very cost-effective option for hobbyists on the market for a magnification tool.
- Durable swing-arm that is spring-loaded.
- Glass lens of 5” in diameter.
- Brightness equivalent to 800 lumens which is average LED.
- Brightness with the option to dim.
- There is the option to adjust the temperature of color from white-light to warm.
- Affordable for the value.
The floor lamp is essentially the same for all features, with the only real difference being that it comes on a wheeled stand that you can move throughout your space.
It takes the lamp off of your work area. The stand is relatively tall complete with a swing arm that offers excellent movement.
This lighted visor is 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.
The glass frame offers built-in LED lights for even lighting over the workspace, which you can adjust to suit the project that you’re working on and the specific detail that is central.
- 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.
The Brightech Clamp Lamp offers a 5” in diameter lens with a focal point up to 9”.
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.
The magnification capacity is 2.25x.
The white light allows you to view your project as though it were natural daylight.
The lights produce at 9 watts or 650 lumens. The notation is that this is brilliant when focused in one area.
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.
(I explain all about color light range, lumens, watts, and other light terms in “The Best Lighting for Hobbies and Miniature Painting.”)
You can remove the magnification lamp for maintenance and cleaning, but the dust cover is not removable. This lamp is electric with the ability to use outlets of 110v or 220v.
The lamp goes from as small as 6” to as tall as 29” depending on your preference with a reach up to 39” — and clamps on the side of your worktable.
- Authentic Diopter glass 5” lens diameter with 9” of the focal area.
- Glass resists heat, scratches, and warping.
- Magnification up to 2.25x.
- Allows for hands-free work.
- Color adjusting from cool white up to warm white.
- Dimming capable.
- Bright light when focused on one detail at 9 watts or 650 lumens.
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.
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 the wartime, which would consist of various periods, and then there are the gaming varieties involving science fiction or fantasy.
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 2021-04-14 at 18:10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API