Lighting Your Artwork: The Dos and Don’ts
Natural light is the best lighting for viewing and enjoying your art however natural light AKA sunlight is detrimental to the health of your artwork and is best avoided. Never hang your artwork or photos near windows as they are sources of natural light.
Many homes do use fluorescent lights as general lighting fixtures and that’s fine but fluorescent lights are harsh and have a cool green tone to them that will not flatter your artwork – so don’t use this type of lighting. There are several art lighting dealers that offer fluorescent art lights and fixtures. I strongly recommend that you avoid using those types of lights for your artwork. Fluorescent lights emit high levels of ultraviolet rays which may lead to the deterioration of your artwork.
Incandescent lighting intensifies the richness of artwork created with warm colors such as reds and golds- it’s not so great with cool colored artwork alone. However, incandescent lighting combined with halogen lighting will give you the ability to successfully and beautifully light your warm and cool colored artwork. Halogen lighting is the purest light – white – but it also generates the most heat and must never be placed in near proximity to your artwork.
I’d recommend that you consider taking a trip to your local art gallery and see how they are using lighting to bring out the beauty of their art pieces. You can learn a lot from art gallery professionals and many will be more than happy to share their art lighting tips and techniques (even more so if you will be purchasing ) Museums are another great source of art lighting design inspiration but you may find it more difficult getting the museum curator or museum gallery designer to share their expertise with you -but it never hurts to ask because most will be delighted and flattered to share their design knowledge with you.
General Lighting Tip When Lighting Artwork
My general tip for do-it-yourself lighting designers is to first design your artwork layout – think about size, orientation, color, genre, style and theme then think about how you want to use lighting to accent each piece or a group of art pieces. Most homeowners implement artwork accent lighting via uplights, downlights or targeted track lights (which in my opinion are the best and most flexible).
When lighting your artwork remember to use a light source that is three times the intensity (brightness) of the ambient (room) lighting and to direct the light source at a thirty degree angle for the best lighting and to avoid glare.
Remember also that oils, some acrylics and glass covered art will bounce light causing reflections and marring the view. To avoid those problems use non-reflective glass or plastic instead of reflective glass. It may be more expensive but it will show off your art or photographs better. Oils have a natural sheen and the best method to light an oil painting while minimizing glare and reflection is to use broad-based lighting. Most acrylics generally do not have a reflection issue but for those that do I recommend the broad-based lighting for oil paintings.
Experiment with lighting your artwork until you are satisfied but always remember to avoid directly shining the light on your artwork as that will, over time, lead to the deterioration of your art or photographs.