How to Arrange Perfect Lighting for Your Artwork

November 25, 2015

So, a big day, huh? For the first time, you have bought some seriously good and seriously expensive artwork, and you just can't wait for the moment it will be delivered to you, so you could enjoy it in the privacy of your home - and boast and brag about it to your friends, of course, you can't go without that! Yet, if you have forgotten that you would be needing something else besides the bought artwork, you won't have much to brag about when your friends come. Lighting! If you just put the artwork on the wall without any emphasis that it's there, then don't call your friends. Arrange lighting for your artwork, and do it quick!

lighting for artwork picture brass antique bronze plug options fans nickel picture brass antique bronze plug options fans nickel picture brass antique bronze plug options fans nickel picture brass antique bronze plug options fans nickel lights free lights free lights free
The Channon Gallery, Australia

Could you Damage Your Art With Improper Lighting?

Hell, yes. You know what future doctors and healthcare students had been taught first for thousands of years now? Primum non nocere! Or, in English, above all, do no harm! The same goes for your artworks. First of all, never hang your paintings where direct sunlight could reach them. Ultraviolet (UV) light and infrared (IR) light is deadly for your artwork - it will eventually fade, and its condition will deteriorate. Also, if you have thought that it is a good idea to put the artwork between two sources of natural light, what we now know as "windows", think again: put yourself into position of someone that wants to take a look at that artwork during the bright day. You won't see a thing. But not only sunlight carries risks of excessive heat and UV radiation - if placed near the artwork, halogen lamps would do pretty much the same damage, as well as fluorescent light, if you are the only person on the face of the Earth that had deliberately chosen fluorescent light for your art lighting. There is a solution for halogen lamps - keep it far from the artwork, and use some UV filters to reduce the radiation. After all, you all do that when you go to the beach: apply sun cream to your skin, in order to block the UV radiation and keep your skin's longevity and good health. Same goes for your artworks.

lighting for artwork
Lighting for artworks


LED bulbs, although considered to be expensive, emit no UV radiation and a fraction of halogen lamps' heat. LED also doesn't emit IR radiation. So, invest wisely, and go with the quality, not with the price. After all, in your interest is that your artwork stays in good condition for as long as you have it. If you go LED, you will cut your costs significantly in the area of burned energy, and you'll have a better light distribution. But, there are LEDs and there are LEDs - if you decide to go for LED, and then you go for some cheap LED bulbs, your home will start to look like some waiting room, with a sort of unhealthy-looking lighting, and you don't want to do that. Good, quality LEDs, from a reputable manufacturer are perfect for colored and heat sensitive artworks, just be sure to choose a color temperature of 2,700K, with a color rendering index (CRI) of at least 95 or higher.

lighting for artwork
Wall Washer for Art Lighting, Courtesy of Modulightor

Track Lighting and Wall Washer Lighting

You may want to install a recessed ceiling fixture lighting for your artwork, and that's OK, but, what if you decide to move your painting to some other wall? Suddenly, you'll end up in big and boring wall preparations and reparations, and nobody wants to have that in their home. But, if you choose track-lighting system, you'll have no problem if you change your mind about your artwork's location. Track lighting are nowadays produced with a modern, minimal design, and if you equip it with some right lamps, you'll get the similar effect as ceiling-mounted accent lights, but this solution will give you more flexibility.

The other option is to evenly light the whole wall with some wall washer lighting. This is usually being done when you have a large artwork that covers the most of your wall, or when you have many smaller artworks on the same wall. So, if you don't want to get into emphasizing every single painting, you can "wash the wall" with light, creating one bright wall for every artwork you choose to put there.

lighting for artwork
National museum in Warsaw

General Advices

First of all, uplighting of artworks is very rare, since it creates shadows of the frame above the painting (and while you are here, be sure to check tips on how to frame an artwork). If your are using ceiling lighting, the light should hit the center of the artwork with an angle of about 30 degrees. If it' less than 30 degrees, those shadows will be created bellow the painting, and if it's more than 30 degrees, than you'll get some reflection from the artwork. Also, you don't need to light the whole room evenly - you might to start thinking as a scenographer in the theatre: what is that you want to accent and emphasize, which part of your living space is vivid and full with action, and which is not? For the same purpose, use some table and floor lamps. Generally, a light source for your artwork should be three times brighter than the room's lighting. Also, you should never forget that people, including yourself, want to see the artwork, not the lighting itself. In a manner of the best sports referees, the best lighting is the one that is there, but you are not even noticing it.

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