Category Archives: Lighting Art

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Before you can successfully light your artwork beautifully and effectively, it’s essential to understand how to light every room of your home to best advantage as well.

Most of us, for lack of a better experience, under-light our rooms with too few light sources, or worse, “over-light” with few light sources at very high wattage. The effect is unpleasant and odd, veering from blinding bright, to dim with shadows.  Leaving a bulb without a shade has the same unfortunate effect.

What you want is a range of lighting options to fill a room with light without dark corners, so the overall effect is welcoming, comfortable, interesting and lovely.

There are three categories of lighting that, when used in appropriate combinations, will give the most successful results.

  • Start with creating ambient light, which is a soft, low, all over glow. Background lighting should be strong enough so there isn’t excessive contrast between it and bright task lighting. The source could be from overhead lights, standing floor lamps, table lamps and wall lights or indirectly from behind a valance, or screen. Low wattage ceiling lights, or any fixture that hangs or is near the ceiling, are best.  Torchieres are in this category too because the light is directed upwards.
  • Task lighting is what it sounds like. Lighting your activities appropriately greatly enhances your comfort. Add task lighting wherever you are likely to be doing something that depends on good vision. Kitchens and bathrooms are a given, but don’t forget that your favorite reading chair needs a lamp beside it to avoid eyestrain.Some examples are the lamp you use on your desk when you work, counter lighting in the kitchen, or spotlights above work surfaces.  It should provide sufficient lighting for the job at hand, as well as interesting pools of light and shadow elsewhere in the room.
  • The third layer of lighting is commonly referred to as accent or decorative lighting. Its purpose is to call attention to possessions or vignettes, or our topic at hand, hanging artwork. This category includes spotlights, wall washers, up-lights, down-lights, picture lights, candlelight and even firelight.

Which brings us to the heart of the matter:How do you balance the various types of lighting in a room? The most common mistake is to emphasize only the lighting on the artwork, when the best effect for both your artwork and your room(s) is to build up layers of light as described above.

Therein Lies The Rub…All Light Sources Are Not Created Equal

A purist might insist that any art be seen in natural light. A pragmatist would remind the purist that natural light, with unfiltered ultraviolet and infrared rays will fade any artwork in short order, not to mention the inevitable cloudy days when all light bets are off. Then, there is the actual color of electrical light from various types of bulbs. Incandescent bulbs, with their warm light, enhance the color spectrum of reds, oranges, yellows and browns but flatten out all the cool shades in the blue, green and purple family. Florescent bulbs don’t even show the full color spectrum and give off a high amount of UV rays, which are very harmful.

Next Time: Lighting Your Art #2: Enter the Wonder Bulb

Related Posts

(Lighting Your Art Three Part Series)

Lighting Your Art #2: Enter the Wonder Bulb

Lighting Your Art #3: Think Like A Lighting Master



This is part of a recent article I wrote for publication on It’s represented here as a foundation for further topic discussion and updates.