How to Light Artwork

Posted on: October 15, 2020 Posted by: MarketPlace 120

If you want to make sure that the new piece of art that you got from an estate sale, an auction, or ordered on a website like 1st Art Gallery gets the attention it deserves, it’s important to light it properly. With the right lighting, art owners can showcase their pieces in the privacy of their own homes or offices like they would see in a museum. However, it can be hard to know how to do this instinctively. Keep reading to learn how to light artwork like a professional!

Positioning Lights to Create Layers

Most often, artwork doesn’t require a single glaring spotlight on it. In other words, it’s not a good idea to have a room with a strong spotlight on the artwork while the rest of the room is dark. While it’s important to draw attention to the work of art, it shouldn’t come at the cost of a comfortably lit room.

Lights around in artwork can even find their use in changing the appearance of the whole room, not just the painting. For instance, using a light on the wall can change the perceived height of the ceiling whereas a light angled down at the painting to create a stronger point of light on it draws the eye to the painting. A good general rule of thumb is to make sure the artwork is lit by lights that stand out as collectively three times brighter than any ambient lighting.

Lighting Artwork While Protecting It

When lighting artwork, it’s crucial to remember that if the art owner isn’t being careful, it’s easy to accidentally damage the artwork with the wrong lighting. There are a few key rules to keep in mind.

First, never rely on direct sunlight to light an artwork. Over time, sunlight will damage artwork by making the paint colors fade. The same rules go for any ultraviolet or infrared light.

Similarly, one should never aim a light directly on a piece of art due to the heat that emenates from lights. It’s a good idea to light a piece of art indirectly to avoid any heat damage from the lights.

With both of these points in mind, it’s better to opt for an option like LED lights for lighting artwork. This is because fluorescent lighting tends to emit more heat and a higher level of ultraviolet light which is likely to age your artwork rather quickly.

Considering the Medium with the Lighting

Depending on the medium that an artist uses in a piece of art, it may have different lighting requirements. As a broad rule across mediums, lighting is usually angled at 30 degrees with a 5 degree difference depending on a few factors. Increase by five degrees to accommodate larger frames or subtract the same amount if you want to highlight textured details in the painting.

This angle is measured for a variety of reasons. At this measurement, a piece of art is likely to have more even lighting distributed across it and the heat from the light is less likely to damage it than if it was shined directly onto the artwork. This angle also helps to reduce the glare on the painting that can be caused by the reflectiveness of the glass in the frame.

For oil paintings, specifically, lighting in regards to texture is especially important. After all, oil paintings, by their nature, are heavily textured. This is especially true if an artist favors a technique such as heavy impasto.

Frame Size and Frame Lights

The frame that a piece of art is in also plays a part in how an art owner would light it. For example, a smaller frame won’t supprot a frame light and a piece of art that doesn’t feature a frame will definitely need an independent light.

If the art is positioned in a larger frame, the owner may have the option of using an attached light. However, it’s crucial to ensure that the frame that the owner uses can hold the weight of the light. Otherwise, there’s a risk of damaging the frame or the artwork itself.

Using Track Lights

One of the best ways to light artwork in a home while ensuring the entire room is lit equally is to take these tasks in a single stride by investing in track lights. These types of lights can be moved to aim at different parts of the room and offer lighting from floor to ceiling in an even manner but they’re also great for creating pockets of light to accent pieces in the room.


Lighting a piece of art properly is critical for multiple reasons. Namely, people should have the chance to see the art when it’s lit properly and proper lighting will draw the eye to the piece. Last but not least, it’s crucial to ensure that the way a painting is lighted won’t damage it in the long run.