A drafting light table is a useful tool designed to aid artists in the delicate process of creation. Typically, light tables consist of a piece of durable frosted glass, thick plexiglass, or translucent plastic that is lit from beneath by a bright light. This particular tool is often used by visual artists to assist in viewing and reviewing film negatives. A drafting light table is also invaluable in tracing designs and images.
There are a variety of drafting light tables on the market. The most basic kind, also called a light box, is a small lighted box which can be easily held on the lap or set on any flat surface, can be purchased at almost any arts and crafts store. Larger, stand-alone tables can be purchased through online dealers and at select art supply shops. The angle of the tops of these larger litetables are often adjustable, as with a studio drafting table. Higher quality lite tables feature drawers, cubbies, and niches for storing art supplies and tools. Big drafting light tables are generally significantly more expensive than their smaller, more portable cousins.
For those with skill in carpentry, metalworking and electrical installation, it is possible to build a custom drafting light table oneself. A large, sturdy table can be constructed with a solid wooden frame. For a more portable, yet durable drafting light table, lightweight aluminum can be used. A common method of doing this cheaply and easily is to use a metal picture frame for the top of the box. Simply replace the glass with semi-transparent plexiglass or frosted glass and attach the picture frame to the top of the box with hinges and a clasp (this will allow easy access when you need to change out light bulbs). Install banks of low-energy lights (those used in nightlights work especially well), spaced so that light will diffuse evenly through the transparent top. Finally, mount the light box on legs (prefabricated wooden legs are available at many craft and hardware stores, or one can make legs from strong metal tubing).
The location of a drafting table's interior light is crucially important. For lite tables to be effective, the light must be evenly dispersed across the entire surface of the box. It is also important that the light not be too close to the translucent surface, otherwise the table will become too hot to use and may even damage film or art supplies. The best way to accomplish even lighting without generating a lot of heat, is to use diffusers and many individual lower-wattage lights; this is what most quality commercially manufactured drafting tables utilize. The reason that most light tables have semi-transparent tops is because this allows the light to come through crisply without being glaringly bright.
Many artists find it convenient to be able to alter the light from their tables. An effective means of doing this is to simply purchase colored transparencies, which are available at most copy shops and office supply stores. This can be laid over the top of the drafting table and will serve as an inexpensive filter.
Light tables are useful in a wide variety of artistic areas. No serious artist should ever be without a drafting light table. Whether a small portable light box or a full-sized drafting light table, light tables are indispensable to visual artists.
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