Top Questions About Art Lighting


Top Questions About Art Lighting

Top 15 Questions about Art Lighting Answered

Art lighting is an essential element in the display of artwork and it can completely change how we experience art. As professional art lighting suppliers, it is our mission to provide you with all the answers to your art lighting questions. We have hereby compiled the top 15 frequently asked questions from our clients and our respective answers to each.

1.     Why is Lighting Important in Art?

A Moscow House Uses Texture to Create Interest, Home Designing, via Pinterest.


Patrícia Hagobian, Casa de Valentina, via Pinterest.

Art Lighting Helps You See Your Art In The Right Light

There is no way to overstate the importance of light in art display.  When properly executed, art lighting accentuates an artwork, drawing instant attention to it, and making it appear more vibrant. Whether you're putting a Picasso on display in an art gallery or hanging your daughter's finger paintings in her bedroom, choosing the best lighting for art can make all the difference.

2.     What Color Temperature of Light is Best for Art?

Warm light is ideal for art that features warm or neutral tones such as skin tones. Warmer color temperatures will not only enhance reds, yellows, and oranges in your artwork but also creates a cozy and inviting ambiance for your interior spaces. If you have paintings that feature people or animals with realistic skin tones, then a warm art light will do them justice.

On the other hand, cool light is ideal for art that features cool colors such as blue or green. Blue skies and paintings of waterscapes and green landscapes will pop under this type of lighting, since the cooler hues are enhanced by the cool lighting. 

For a painting that has a balance of warm and cool colors, you can go with a neutral color temperature, or a warm 3000K light for a relaxing, welcoming ambiance. 

3.     What Specifications Should I look for in an Art Light?

According to the principles of lighting design, there are many specifications you should consider when investing in art lighting. However, we find that four are most important: lumens, color rendering index (CRI), color temperature, and beam angle.

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·       Color Rendering Index (CRI) measures how accurately a light source renders colors, on a scale of 0 to 100. Art lighting applications require a high CRI of 90 and above, which brings out the textures and details in your paintings, making the colors appear more vibrant.

·       Lumens measure the amount of light produced by a light source. When lighting art, ensure that your picture lighting is at least three times brighter than your ambient lighting to make your artwork stands out.

·       Color Temperature is measured on a Kelvin scale. The lower the number, the yellower the tint. Similarly, higher Kelvin numbers indicate whiter/bluer hues. 

·       Beam Angle refers to the spread of light coming from your bulb or fixture. A larger beam angle will provide a wider spread of light onto your painting, therefore illuminating a larger surface. A lower beam angle will generate a more focused and brighter beam when pointed at your artwork. You can also opt for art light fixtures with adjustable beam angles, allowing you to switch from spotlighting to floodlighting with ease.


4.     What Art Light Fixture Do I Need?

There are many different types of art light fixtures, but the two most common options are track lighting and picture lights. 

Track lighting is a great option if you have a gallery wall or an installation with multiple paintings in an art collection. A track system allows you to fix multiple track heads that you can easily reposition along the track and aim as required.

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A picture light illuminates one piece at a time and comes in either wired or wireless models. They can be mounted directly onto the frame of your artwork, or onto the wall, providing an even spread of light onto the art piece.  See a light like this - a direct wire 14" wide Slim Line LED in Oil Rubbed Bronze. 

5.     How Do I Choose the Right Light Bulb for My Art?

Your best choice for illuminating your artwork is LED (light-emitting diode). LED bulbs last longer than halogen lights, incandescent bulbs, and CFL options. They do not get as hot, are more energy-efficient, are more durable with longer-rated life, are better for the environment, and LED bulbs offer an impressive array of color temperatures and lumen outputs.

Read about one of the contemporary artists who use light as their medium: Dan Flavin Lighting Artist Installations

6.     What are Framing Projectors?

Framing projectors are a versatile lighting solution that can display precise, uniform light on your art. They feature an adjustable frame, which allows you to focus the light exactly where you want it.

You can simply adjust the lens of a framing projector to create the projection you want or purchase framers with custom shapes or letters for special projects and events. Framing projectors are available in single or double-framed models. The double-frame models allow for overlapping projections, creating unique looks and effects for your art or architecture.

7.     How Much Light Does My Artwork Need?  

How bright should your art lights be when displaying artwork? A good rule of thumb when designing a lighting plan for displaying artwork is to make sure that the light on the artwork is three times brighter than the ambient lighting in the room. This level of light will help to draw attention to your art and highlight details that may not be visible with less lighting. 

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However, an artwork with a darker color palette will generally require more lighting than a painting with bright colors, hence will require different art lighting techniques.

8.     Do I Need a Dimmer for My Art Lighting Fixtures?

A dimmer is a device that allows you to adjust the brightness of a light source. Dimmers are extremely useful when lighting artwork, because they provide control over the light levels of your art light, ensuring that the lighting is neither too dark nor too bright. Poor lighting can make a painting appear dull, while overly bright lighting can wash out the colors in a painting and cause glare.

A dimmer allows you to reduce glare and reflections on glass surfaces, which makes it a great tool for highlighting art pieces with glossy surfaces or glass covers.  Furthermore, it also lets you regulate your art lighting depending on the ambient light and time of day, with brighter lighting during the day and softer illumination at night. When installed correctly, a dimmer can be an excellent addition to any room with LED lighting fixtures.

9.     Why Does My Art Light Produce Glare?

Glare occurs when light reflects off the surface of the picture glass (or acrylic) and into your eyes.  Glare is almost certain (and difficult to prevent) when glass or acrylic covers the art. Read this article by Teodor which gives a good explanation of glare (both the psychological and physiological impact) and how to try to mitigate or prevent glare when lighting your artwork.  To ensure proper lighting and eliminate glare, you can use a light with a wider beam angle, or simply change the angle of the fixture head so that it is aiming at about 30 degrees.

However much we try to, it is very difficult to avoid glare.  Some of the ultra tech solutions can be seen at fine frame shops where museum glass is sold.  This newly available product is different than the older style non reflective glass.  The older nonreflective glass is etched on the back, to have a diffusing effect on glare.  To get clearer view of the artwork with the etched glass requires that the glass actually be in contact with the etched side of the glass.  This runs counter to protocol in archival protection of artwork.  It is a conundrum, see it better or risk damaging the artwork with the very protective measures of having the glass in the first place.

  The downside to this etching is that the artwork itself can no longer been seen as clearly.  The museum grade glass is made with a process similar to laptop screens, it is baked in the very formation of the glass with an ultra clear and ultra protective result.

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Theatre of Tone, Read Cereal, via Pinterest.

10.  How Wide Should a Picture Light Be?

The width of a picture light should be approximately one half (1/2) to two/thirds (2/3) of the width of the artwork, which is a general rule applied by lighting designers. You can utilize our Picture Light Calculator to determine the best picture light size for your artwork. A standard picture light illuminates up to 40” downwards, therefore, for taller paintings, you may require a frame projector, or several art lighting pieces.

11.  How Can I Ensure Energy-Efficiency in Art Lighting?

There are a number of actions you can take to ensure energy efficiency in art lighting. First, opt for energy-saving light sources such as LED light. Next, install dimmer switches, motion sensors, and occupancy sensors for your art lights. This can help reduce your energy consumption by up to 70%. Switch off art lights, accent lights, and task lighting when they are not in use. Additionally, go for low-wattage bulb alternatives, as well as Energy Star-rated fixtures. 

12.  How Do I Light an Individual Piece of Art?

To light an individual piece of art on a wall, consider these options:

·        Frame-mounted art lights, particularly picture lights, offer an intimate light source for paintings. It provides even illumination across the whole artwork. For individual art pieces with a steady picture frame, frame-mounted art lights are the way to go.

·        Wall-mounted lights projecting above the artwork or on each side of the art piece are also a great alternative you can consider.

·        Ceiling-mounted spotlights focused on the painting are another option commonly used. Depending on the size of the art piece, you can aim single or multiple spotlights onto your artwork, mounting them onto the ceiling, approximately 2 to 3 feet from the wall.


13.  How Do I Light a Whole Collection of Art?

There are several methods of lighting an entire collection, but one of the simplest and most effective is using wall washers. They “wash” the entire wall with light so that each piece of art is evenly illuminated by the lighting from above. Wall washers are also an excellent choice for illuminating large collections and groupings over mantles and in hallways.   


Light and Intimacy, Casacor, via Pinterest.


Custom Gallery Lighting - One of a Kind!

Yet another option to light up your personal art gallery wall is to check out our wonderful custom gallery lighting!

Of course you can also consider monopoints from the ceiling, or a track lighting systems with multiple track heads fixed along the track, allowing you to easily illuminate several pieces in your collection from above. 

Track lighting is a great way to add layers of light and gives you more control over ambient lighting in the room, plus, with frame projectors and spot lights designed for art lighting you can easily expand the use and impact of an existing track system. 

Track lighting can be used in addition to traditional hardwired wall lights or plug in picture lights, especially when illuminating artworks more than sixty inches tall.




14.  Does My Art Light Need to Be Hard-Wired?

There are three main types of art lights: hard-wired art lights, battery-operated art lights, and plug-in art lights.

·        Hard wired art light fixtures are installed into an existing junction box in your home and therefore work best when there is already an electrical source present behind the artwork.

·        Plug-in art lights have a cord that plugs directly into a standard socket outlet and thus does not require any expert installations.   However the issue of hiding the cord of a plug-in light can be addressed in several ways.  You could position furniture to hide the cord, and that is definitely very common as a quick solution.  If you are certain that you will always want artwork in this position but you don't want a hard wired fixture you also have the option of hiring an electrician to install what is known as a "clock-outlet" or a "recessed outlet."  The electrician needs to be asked to make sure the juncture box for the outlet supports a dimmer switch which the electrician can place in a convenient location for you based on your preferences.  Then, simply plug the art light in, turn the click switch to "ON" and you can use the dimmer switch to control the plugged in art light.   Never cut the cord of an art light, it voids the warranty!  Instead you can custom order your art light to arrive with a cord exactly the length and color you need.  You can also customize to have a cord with no on/off click switch.  This way it plugs in simply, and the cord doesn't have to be tied or wrapped behind the artwork.  Because the outlet is recessed you don't have to worry about the plug bumping out of the wall and touching or pushing out the artwork itself.

·        Battery-operated art lights are often cordless and can be mounted anywhere inside your home. They work well in spaces where there is no direct access to an electrical outlet from the position of the artwork.   However, battery-operated art lights have limitations on battery life, convenience of changing the batteries, and need to be turned on and off manually, so you cannot conveniently access them if they are too high to reach.  Many people like battery operated lights if they only need them very occasionally.  They are also much better in naturally dark areas, like under stairways, in dark corners, etc.  Because of the battery life issues the amount of light emitted is much less intense than plug-in lights.

Therefore, there are several alternatives to hard-wired art lighting.

15.  Do I need UV Protection for Art Lighting?

Yes! It's important to protect your artwork from the harmful effects of UV rays. Most LED lamp fixtures have UV protection built-in, but it's a good idea to double-check. Do not simply assume that the lamp has UV protection.

UV light from artificial or natural light can cause damage and slow degradation to certain media, like paper or fabric-based materials over long periods. For watercolor works, pastels, or photographs that could fade over time due to UV exposure, this risk is multiplied if you are planning to keep your works on display long term. Invest in a UV filter when working with halogen, fluorescent, and incandescent light sources.

Where Can I Get the Best Art Lighting Fixtures?

For years, Perfect Picture Lights has been supplying exceptional art lighting fixtures to galleries, homes, and museums around the world. We offer quality handcrafted and custom-made picture lights in brass, bronze, nickel, chrome, gold, and painted finishes to complement your art. 

We also supply an assorted range of track lights with high color rendering index and specifications that will bring the best out of your artwork. If you need any help choosing the perfect art light fixture for your indoor or outdoor lighting, our friendly customer service team is here to help!


 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 as well as 3D visualization skills for architectural and interior design.