Magnifying Desk Lamp
by djinn24

There are many different types of lights that a painter can use. From your typical lamp to exotic lamps designed for painting in mind. In this tutorial I will go over several common types of painting lights, what is good versus bad on some of the lamps. Being the penny pincher that I am, I will also cover how to get the most for less.

Incandescent Bulb

First I will be covering the standard light bulb. These are normally known as Incandescent light bulbs and are the lights that we all have grown up with over the years. The issue with a standard light bulb is the light they cast has a yellowish tint to it that can greatly affect the color variations of your painting.

Without getting into secialized painting lights there is a solution. Look for products marketed at Day Light bulbs. The most well known, and somewhat pricey of these is the GE Reveal bulb.

As you can see in the photo to the right they have a blue hue to them, which is what makes them stand out the most. The best part about these bulbs is they are available at most local stores. See below what makes these bulbs special and gives them their blue color.

GE Reveal bulbs make colors “pop” in a way they don’t with standard incandescent bulbs.

Why? The rare earth element neodymium that’s in the glass.(It’s what gives these bulbs their distinctive blue color when unlit.) When these bulbs are lit, the neodymium provides a pure, clean light by filtering out much of the dulling yellow cast common from ordinary light bulbs.

Compact Fluorescent Light

Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb otherwise known as the CFL is a newer styled bulb based on the Fluorescent tube bulbs that we have been using for years. In a nut shell, the tubes have been shrunk and made into a more user friendly shape. Your typical CFL is brighter, warmer, and uses less power. There is some controversy due to the chemicals they contain.

As you can see on the chart to the right are three bulbs of comparable wattage (13w CFL is equivalent of a 60w Incandescent) even the low end CFL puts out a purer color then the Incandescent (see below about color temperature and how it effects your painting).

The upside to a CFL is they last much longer then a typical lightbulb and use much less electricity then a standard bulb as well. They are also normally brighter and have a better light temperature.

The downside is they do contain higher amounts of elements that are bad for you and they do cost more. They also have a warm up period and they tube warms up and is able to put out its full amount of light. There are hybrid bulbs out there that mix halogen and CFL to minimize the impact but for our purpose the cost is not justified.

The CFL also comes in a variety of shapes to easily allow it to fit into almost any type of light fixture as well. You can also get them with the typical ending or the smaller end normally used in vanity or chandelier lighting. The straight CFL is normally brighter when compared to a spiral shaped.

Color Temperature and Lumen

Color temperature is a characteristic of visible light that has important applications in lighting, photography, videography, publishing, manufacturing, astrophysics, and other fields. The color temperature of a light source is the temperatureof an ideal black-body radiator that radiates light of comparable hue to that of the light source. Color temperature is conventionally stated in the unit of absolute temperature, the kelvin, having the unit symbol K. Lumen is how bright a light is. Higher the number is for Lumen brighter the light that the bulb gives off. Remember that you do not want your light too bright because it can cause eye strain and colors to wash out.

Color temperatures over 5,000K are called cool colors (blueish white), while lower color temperatures (2,700–3,000 K) are called warm colors (yellowish white through red).
As modelers we need to look for a bulb that is as close to 3,200k (white) as we can. If a bulb with a higher or lower K value is used, the use of a filter might become needed.
Painting in a light with a bad K value can effect a model by causing you to use the wrong hues to get the effect that you want. If you are using a low K value and painting blue you will over paint the color to try to fight the fact that the light going on the model is red. When you put the model under white light you will then see the mis-coloring. This is how models end up looking purple or orange when you take them from home to your FLGS.

Items to buy:

Well here we are to the part where you are going to put down some of your hard earned money down and pick up a light. I highly recommend going with a daylight bulb or a bulb that is rated at 3100-3300 K so you get the purest color (or lack there of) from the light. The best light that I can suggest in the low end price range is a GE Reveal. For years this was my light of choice because while expensive compared to a normal bulb they are cheap compares to the special lamps out there for painting. The best part about it is you can get yourself an inexpensive desk lamp and put a reveal bulb in it so overall your investment will only be about 15 dollars. One of the best parts about using a bulb like this is you can a large variety of lamps you can put them in so you can individualize to your needs. My lamp has an spinning office styled base that I keep my commonly used tools in.

Reveal 100w 4pk$9.70 per 4Color: True1352LM -1000 hours Reveal 100w Eqv$6.77 eaColor: True1570LM – 8000 hours

Full Spectrum/Daylight Bulbs

In this section we will be covering Full Spectrum/Daylight bulbs. These bulbs are designed to simulate daylight and give off the best color of the bulbs on the market. While there are many different types of light out there, the main one for our hobby is the OttLite. Its name is recognized by hobbyist all over the world, Ott brand is used is model judging for the Golden Deamon. I will be covering Ott brand lights after this but if you want to look around, there are several different companies that offer lights as well. You can also look up sunlight therapy as that uses daylight bulbs as well. These types of lights are going to show colors the truest, even better then reveal bulbs allowing you to see truly what your model is going to look like. I also find that painting with daylight bulbs help with the eye strain.

Types of Lamps

Now that we have had a chance to look at the different types of bulbs now we will look at the different types of lamps that are available on the market. I will be using OttLite Lamps as examples but you can find most of their lamp styles also made by other companies. We will be looking at desk lamps, floor lamps, adjustable arm lamps, ones with magnifying glasses built in.

This lamp has a 5x magnifying glass, an adjustable arm design and a bulb that surrounds the glass. The perks of this type of lamp is that you can easily adjust it to where you need it and you can do detail work through the glass for better control. It does take some time getting used to it tho. you brush strokes are much smaller then they appear while working through the magnifying glass. I have found that the CFL in this type of lamp is not as bright as a standard CFL.
This lamp is much like the previous example with the swing arm but this type will have more control and more swing. This type of light is good because you can position it behind you while you are painting which has its advantages as the glare on the model is less. This type of lamp also uses a standard style screw in bulb.

This lamp is versatile, it is small, compact but still packs a punch when it comes to lighting the subject. As a bonus this lamp is also battery powered. This is the lamp that several competitions use to inspect models. It is easy to transport from on area to another.

This lamp, while one of the most expensive that OttLite offers has some of the best versatility. It uses a straight CFL which is nice and bright. It has a clamp for holding things as well as a magnifying glass. The best part of this lamp is it has several configurations. It can be made into a floor lamp, a desk lamp, and a screw mount desk lamp as well. While the price is up there, it is worth it if you have the cash.

In closing there are a ton of different light, bulbs and bases to pick from and you do not always have to pick from one pre-packages light. I picked up an OttLite bulb from Hobby Lobby for 13 bucks and put it into an office style lamp that cost me 12 bucks. So for a total of 25 I have a versatile OttLite lamp that fits my needs well. As hobbyist we are known for being creative, you do not always have to use that creativity on our models, but in our tools as well!

If you have any questions please drop me a line at