Artful Lighting: Tips to Illuminate Your Art

You’ve invested in a piece of art and it’s time to show it off in your home, but what’s the best way to do so? While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when lighting art, there are two general approaches to how you should illuminate your art – directly illuminate the art or just have a piece live in a nicely lit room.

Check out our best tips to help make everything from prints to gallery walls shine. 

  • Determining the best lighting for your art comes down to choosing the best lighting to showcase your art while minimizing heat damage.
  • Choose the right light fixture for the size and position of your artwork, to minimize glare and highlight details.
    • Ceiling-mounted accent lights – Ceiling fixtures can be recessed or surface-mounted, and they allow the direction of light to be adjusted.
    • Track lights – A series of small, flexible lamps attached to the ceiling on a track bar, track lights can be easily adjusted, which is beneficial if you move your art around frequently.
    • Wall washers – Wall washers are individual lights, or a strip of light positioned directly above or beneath a wall to wash it in light. This is a great option for a print gallery or when you have a lot of artwork on a single wall.
    • Picture lights – The most specialized art lighting option, a picture light sits directly above a painting or wall-mounted work of art. It’s a small, covered lamp that’s angled down, at a slight angle to light the artwork.
  • Choose the right lightbulb to show off your artwork without fading it or doing other damage.
    • LED light bulbs: Not only are LED bulbs energy-efficient and available in a variety of colors, but they’re also the safest and least-destructive lights for art.
    • Halogen light bulbs: Bright and cool, halogen lights are a popular choice for lighting artwork. However, the bulbs can become very hot, so be sure to avoid positioning your light source too close to the art to avoid the risk of heat damage.
  • Incandescent light: Similar to natural light, incandescent lights have a warm glow. This can be flattering for certain artworks but may interfere with the natural hues in the art. Again, incandescents can be very warm and the heat could damage your art, so be sure there is enough space and airflow between the bulb and the light.
  • A good rule of thumb for the placement of lighting is so that the light beam hits the center of the artwork when the fixture is adjusted to a 30-degree angle.
  • Keep in mind that improper lighting—like direct sunlight or fluorescent light—can potentially damage the artwork.
  • Enjoy your artwork!

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