How to Light Artworks at Home

how to light artworks

There’s nothing more fun than hanging a new piece of art from a craft fair, garage sale, or local gallery.

Artwork can take your home from ordinary to extraordinary with little to no money at all. So why not make it magical with lighting designed to make your collectibles shine?

Lighting your artwork is almost as critical as choosing where to hang it, and there are several ways to do it. Here are a few ways to light your artworks and one way to avoid at all costs.

Follow along!

Picture lights

Want an easy way to quickly illuminate your artworks? Then you may want to consider installing picture lights around your pieces. Picture lights are great if you don’t have any prior artwork lighting experience and are looking for a no-fuss option.

Picture lights are installed as one singular light mounted up top and come in a variety of materials like brass, chrome, bronze, and nickel. You can also find minimalist picture lights, vintage style, classic, and more.

3D art? Light from multiple angles

Artwork is more than just framed photos and paintings. If your new piece is a statue or sculpture, lighting it without casting a huge shadow can be a bit tricky. The key here is to use diffused (or softened) lighting and choose multiple angles to reduce shadows. You can place diffuser fixtures (like film and shades) over your lighting sources to soften the glow.

Pick the right light bulbs

When deciding on the right fixtures, don’t let your bulbs get lost in the shuffle. Choosing the right light bulbs are essential for lighting artworks (and protecting them too!)

Because LED bulbs don’t radiate heat or UV rays, they’re the safest choice for lighting artworks at home. Like halogen bulbs, LEDs also come in different temperatures. This is important because some artworks look best with ‘cool’ bulbs like 5000k, while others need a warmer 3000k bulb.

Mounted ceiling lights

Ceiling-mounted lights are common technique for illuminating artworks in the home. This takes just a bit more knowledge of how to light artworks than picture lights, for example. However, all you need to remember is to keep your light fixtures at a 30° degree angle. Not only will it keep the light been centered on the middle of the piece, it reduces shadows underneath the painting.

Adjusting for under 30° will create more shadows, while adjusting over 30° will create a distracting reflective glare on the surface of the work. Another rule of thumb is to make sure your artwork lighting is 3X as bright as any surrounding ambient lighting (or main source of lighting.)

Avoid: direct sunlight

Direct sunlight is one of the fastest ways to destroy a piece of art.  The older the painting, the more vulnerable it is.

Stick to gentler lighting, and move the painting if you notice the sun’s rays hitting it spot on. If direct sunlight is unavoidable where you live, place UV protecting film on the windows to protect your works as much as possible. If this is the case, you may want to avoid hanging your artworks in bright common areas and display them in milder lit rooms instead, like your study or library.

Lighting the way

Understanding how to light artwork isn’t difficult, it just takes a little knowledge and bit of practice. Start putting this techniques into practice right now to start displaying your art in the best light possible — literally.

Need more creative tips in your life? Check back often for more hacks to make your creative life a little easier!