How to Install Tracking Lighting to Highlight Artwork


How to Install Tracking Lighting to Highlight Artwork

If you need art lights that offer you flexibility in the positioning of your artwork, then track lighting is the way to go. Track lights are versatile light fixtures that comprise a powered track that allows you to install multiple track heads anywhere along its length. As such, you can just as easily move your art light with your artwork, making them perfect for accentuating art and for temporary exhibitions.

Office for Three, Notapaperhouse, via Pinterest.

Where the is only a single junction box available on your ceiling, a track lighting system offers you an opportunity for easy installation and distribution of several fixtures along a single track. This makes them utterly suitable for illuminating large paintings as well as art collections. While track lights have been used over the years for ambient lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting applications, they have several distinctive qualities that make them stand out as the preferred gallery lights for illuminating art. These include:

1.     Unobtrusive Design

Track lights are designed in simple, sleek, and unobtrusive models that go well with any type of interior décor and theme. Additionally, they fit flawlessly with any art type, from sculptures to abstract paintings, photography, or vintage art, drawing all the attention to the artwork. They exist in a wide range of painted and metallic finishes that will complement whichever artwork you are trying to illuminate. 

2.     Color Rendering Index

Track light fixtures come with an exceptionally high Color Rendering Index that will bring out the best in your art. With CRI values that exceed 90, your artworks will look more vibrant and bold, with every texture, brushstroke, color, and detail conspicuously appreciable by any observer. 

3.     Beam Angle Adjustment

Depending on the size and shape of your artwork, you will need a track light fixture that can illuminate just within its frame, creating a contrast that makes it stand out from its background. Some track lights come with beam angle adjustment capabilities and interchangeable lenses, allowing you to switch from spotlighting to floodlighting as needed. Additionally, a number of models accommodate framing projectors for precise beam adjustment and framing of light, or wall washers to illuminate over an entire gallery wall.

4.     Horizontal Rotation and Vertical Aiming

Besides shifting the position of your track head along the track, track lights offer up to 360° horizontal adjustment and 90° vertical adjustment of the track head for a perfect aim. This feature is particularly important when art lighting because you need a 30° aim of the light beam onto your artwork to minimize glare on glossy surfaces and glass-framed artworks.

5.     Light Level Adjustment

When accentuating art, the artwork needs to be illuminated at a brightness level that is at least three times higher than the levels in the room. Purchasing a track light fixture with high illuminance and Center Beam Candle Power (CBCP) will provide the required light output to make your artwork stand out. However, since lighting levels fluctuate throughout the day, the dimming capabilities of your track lights will allow you to adjust the lighting levels as required.

Design project of apartments in the city of Izhevsk, Behance,
via Pinterest.

Illuminating your artwork too brightly might make the colors appear washed out while lighting it too dim will make the piece appear dull. Furthermore, an artwork with dull colors will generally require higher lighting levels than a brightly-colored painting. The light adjustment feature of the track light is therefore crucial in setting just the right amount of light for your artwork. 

6.     Color Temperature

Track lights come in different light source options with varying color temperatures, from incandescent bulb types to LED bulbs. LED lights are often preferred, not just for the energy efficiency and longer rated life, but also for their wide range of color temperature options. According to the color palette of your artwork, go for warm LED track lights to bring out the warm colors in your pieces, or a cooler color temperature light source to make the cool colors in your artwork pop. 

7.     Lens Accessories

Another feature that makes track lights remarkable when lighting art is the lens accessories available. There are UV filters that protect your artwork from light damage, glare control accessories for soft uniform lighting, and other flat lens accessories. This allows you to curate a quality viewing experience for your artwork. 

CaptApartment |Tel Aviv, Fineshmaker, v
ia Pinterest.

Track Lighting Installation for Art

The installation process of track lights slightly varies with different models. Each model comes with an installation manual that will guide you on the entire process. Usually, track lights are fairly easy to install and you can do it yourself with basic knowledge of electrical concepts. However, it is always safer to hire a professional electrician to carry out your installation to avoid any potential hazards. 

When it comes to installing track lights particularly for the purpose of highlighting art, there are a few principles that you have to consider. These include:

·       Position from the Wall

Art is often positioned at eye level, and the positioning of any track light should allow it to be illuminated at an angle that minimizes glare and shadows on the piece. As a result, the position of your track light largely depends on the height of the ceiling.

Generally, track lights are placed between 1.5 feet to 3 feet from the wall. A higher ceiling would warrant the increase of this distance. However, when it comes to art lighting, the position of the track lighting from the wall is largely influenced by the need to attain a 30° angle of incidence to avoid glare. 

As such, for art lighting applications, measure the distance between the center of your artwork and the ceiling. Multiply that distance by 0.55 to find the right position of your track from the wall. You can then aim your track head at a 30° angle to avoid any glare and reduce cast shadows. For highly reflective glass surfaces place your track light within 3 feet from the wall.

Décor do dia, Casa Vogue, via Pinterest.

Mounting Method

Before embarking on your track light installation, you will have to decide on the mounting method that works for you. Depending on the type and height of your ceiling, the mounting options include: 

1.     Surface Mounted Track Lights

Whether ceiling-mounted or wall-mounted, this mounting method involves installing your tracks flush onto the surface. It is the easiest and fastest method of installation for your art lighting needs.

2.     Recessed Mounted Track Lights

Recessed track lighting produces an elegant and neat finish to your track lights, housing the tracks within a ceiling opening. This may entail installing your tracks onto a U-bracket fixed within a false ceiling or creating a bulkhead within which to fix the recessed lighting.

Loft design project, Behance, via Pinterest.


The Running Magnet, Flos Architectural, via Pinterest.
Eighty One Wellesley, Free Agency Creative, via Pinterest.

3.     Suspension Mounted Track Lights

When working with high ceiling heights, it is prudent to bring your track lights to a lower position to achieve effective illumination with a perfect aim. Therefore, suspension mounting allows you to hang your track lighting system to the required level using suspension wires, rods, cords, or chains fixed onto the ceiling. 

·       Type of track

Tracks come in different designs, from flexible track lighting to linear tracks. The standard tracks most commonly used for artwork lighting include the Halo, Juno, and Lightolier tracks, named after their respective manufacturers.

Breathable Apartments Display Suite,
Sphera, via Pinterest.

Each track type comes with a wide range of compatible track fixture styles and designs from which you can choose. However, fixtures from different manufacturers are not interchangeable. This is a key point to note when purchasing and installing your track lighting system.

Additionally, you will need to choose between a single circuit track and a dual circuit track for your lighting design. While a single circuit track will switch on all your lighting fixtures at the same time, the dual circuit track allows you control over which track heads you can turn out at any given time. For instance, you can choose to switch on just two out of five track heads on the same track.

Installing the Track Light

Once you have selected your preferred tracks, the compatible led light track heads, and the desired mounting method, you can proceed to begin your installation. Always start by switching off the mains power switch, the circuit breaker switches, and the wall switch. Cut your tracks to size, using connectors and angles to join the various pieces as required.

Identify the junction box, and mark the position of your track light with masking tape. Attach the mounting plate to the junction box, using wire nuts to connect cables of the same colors and tucking them into the box. Mark the position of the mounting screws as located along the tracks and drill the holes onto the ceiling. If working with a false ceiling, ensure you locate the studs, and use toggle bolts at any points with no ceiling joists. Secure the tracks onto the ceiling by inserting the screw through the track, placing the toggle bolt onto the screw, and then folding it into the drilled hole in the ceiling. Once it unfolds within the ceiling, you can tighten the screw. 

On the other hand, if you’re working with a concrete ceiling, simply insert wall plugs/anchors into the drilled holes, and then screw the track into position.

Track lights, Paanta.J, via Pinterest.

Fixing the Track Heads

Slip the track head adapter into the groove in the track, pushing it up and turning it in the indicated locking direction to fix it in place. To move or remove the track head fixture from the track, simply reverse the process. Ensure to stay within the acceptable number of track fixtures per track, to avoid overloading the circuit.

Light Your Home Artfully

Task lighting has gained popularity for its superior features in interior lighting applications; from general lighting in your dining room and living spaces, to its installation as a task light, and finally, its accent lighting applications in art lighting.

For your gallery lighting needs, Perfect Picture Lights has a range of quality track lighting kit designs in various black and white painted finishes, brushed nickel, brass, dark bronze, and platinum metallic finishes. They also provide a hand-crafted picture light collection for art lovers who prefer more intimate lighting for their pieces.



Winny Okoth is a practicing Construction Project Manager and Interior Designer. She is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Construction Project Management. Winny Okoth has a great passion for every form of design and specializes in 3D visualizations for architectural and interior design.