Are you looking to highlight your artwork through lighting, but aren't sure how to go about it? With expert insights, Artsper is here to help you to find the ideal lighting!
Figuring out the lighting for an artwork isn’t always simple. That’s why we’re sharing our recommendations for finding the right color, intensity and distance for your artworks.
Selecting the artwork's location
The lighting you choose will depend on the room in which you decide to display the artwork.
If it’s a canvas, the best is to avoid placing your artwork in direct sunlight, in order to avoid UV and infrared exposure.
Each artwork is unique and has different aspects that need to be taken into account when choosing your lighting.
Due to the glossy nature of oil paintings, reflections can occur when these works are lit by spotlights or narrow-angled bulbs.
As a result, you should choose several, less intense light sources.
Unlike oil paint, acrylic paint is less glossy. To ensure optimal lighting, make sure the CRI (color rendering index) percentages are as close to 100% as possible.
Artworks behind glass (watercolors, prints, photographs...)
Be sure to adjust the angle of the light to reduce glare or choose a glass with UV protection or anti-glare framing.
Sculptures are probably the most subjective in terms of lighting. As a general rule, sculptures should be lit from multiple angles to allow viewers to see the full dimension of the sculpture.
A sculpture can also be displayed outdoors in natural lighting. Natural light can provide your artwork with different perspectives and angles that change throughout the day.
Selecting your light sources
There are 3 possibilities:
The first is to use a ceiling fixture, ideal for highlighting the artwork, without the light source drawing much attention. There are built-in and surface-mounted fixtures. Often used in pairs, they allow you to adjust the direction of the light, ensuring that the artwork is entirely illuminated. The light should be soft enough to avoid creating a shadow area upon the work.
The second option is to have light come from the wall through the use of an armed sconce or rail. If you only have one painting to light, then you can choose a wall sconce with a long arm. Placed above the painting, the sconce will diffuse a nice uniform light from above the painting.
If you have several works that need to be highlighted, rail lighting is best. Functioning similarly to ordinary ceiling lights, rail lights are easier to install and offer more flexibility.
Rail lights or built-in ceiling lights can also act as diffusing lights if they’re not pointing directly at the work. You can send light on a white wall so that it’s redistributed and indirectly illuminates the works. This technique is often used in art galleries and allows for changes in the artwork layout, seeing as the walls are evenly lit.
The last option available to you is highlighting your artworks through table lighting. If the work is on top of a piece of furniture, you can place one or more lamps near the artwork. In order to avoid unwanted shadows, choose low wattage bulbs to create an intimate setting around the work.
Depending on the angle of the light, works with irregular surfaces, such as textured acrylics or impasto oil paintings, may be affected by the shadows their paints cast. Make sure that the angle of the lighting is adjusted to minimize or accentuate the shadows they create, depending on how the work is meant to be displayed.
Ideally, lamps should be placed so that the light beam reaches the center of the artwork when the fixture is set at a 30 degree angle. A lower angle will cause too many shadows and a higher one will cause there to be glare.
Choosing your bulb
Opt for LED bulbs when you can, since they give off little heat and radiation and are perfectly suited to enhance the colors of a painting without the risk of damage. The ideal lighting choice is soft and does not emit any UV rays.
When selecting an LED bulb, aim for a color temperature of 2700K and a CRI of 95 or higher. Be careful, since poor quality LED bulbs can create a harsh, pallid light.