An Art Advisors Guide for Lighting Art: How to Light Artwork in Your Home and Office

Discover the best methods for lighting art, and clearly showcase everything from paintings to sculpture.

The artwork that made your heart sing online, via your art advisor, or in the gallery might not have the same effect if it’s hard to see because the space is too dim or if the artwork is being blasted with too much light. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to lighting art—and there are several ways you can go wrong.

Lighting a piece correctly is vital to your enjoyment and when you invest in art, you want to enjoy and present it in the best light! Groan… I know, I know….  With proper lighting techniques like the correct light source, the best bulbs, education on 2 and 3D artwork lighting and more, your art collection will continue to make your heart sing and be admired by your guests for years to come.

What NOT to do

The first step is learning what’s forboden. Some lighting choices may cause heat or light damage, often resulting in permanent color distortion and brittleness. 

  • Avoid direct sunlight. Ultraviolet light and infrared radiation coming in from windows can cause fading.
  • Don’t light art directly. Doing so may cause heat damage.

Avoid fluorescents. These lights emit a high level of ultraviolet energy that accelerates color fading and distorts colors.

Artwork on Embrace Creatives to light!

- How To Light Artwork 2
Asparagus and Garbonzo - 24"H X 24"W - Photogragh digitally printed by Karen Hochman Brown
- How To Light Artwork 3
Celebration of Nature I 44"H X 43"W I Fiber by Boisali Biswas

Let’s talk bulbs

  • LED: They boast a long lifespan and give off little ultraviolet radiation and heat. Plus, for tight spaces they are a good option if there is a small amount of space between the art and the light source. 
  • Halogen: These cast a cooler tone but generate higher levels of heat. Keep them at a safe distance from the artwork and add UV filters.
  • Incandescent: If you want a warm glow, use these bulbs. However, traditional incandescent lighting displays too much warm light, so be careful.
- How To Light Artwork 4
Unknown Ritual Object Rs458 I 9.5″H X 6″W X 9″D I acid-stained cement, bronze leaf, copper, rock, wood by Dan Woodard

See more artwork by Dan Woodard on Embrace Creatives

- How To Light Artwork 5
Lotan 6 I 30"H X 24"W I ink on yupo paper by Christipher Rico

Ceiling-mounted accent lights

When the art, not the light source is the focus.

Ceiling fixtures can be recessed or surface-mounted, and they allow the direction of light to be adjusted. They can also be specified with a range of light-beam spreads so you can make sure the light covers the majority of the artwork, not just a portion of it.

Where to purchase;

- How To Light Artwork 6

WAC Recessed Lights on Lumens.com

These directional recessed lighting units are adjustable, allowing you to illuminate your art in the perfect light.

- How To Light Artwork 7
Island Hideaway - 20"H X 24"W - Oil on canvas by Paul Bertholet
- How To Light Artwork 8
Unreal Reality: Blue, Orange, and Yellow - Brooklyn, NYC I 24"H X 24"W - Photo dye-sublimation floating metal print by Shane Taremi

See more artwork by Shane Taremi on Embrace Creatives

Track Lighting

Equipped with the right lamps, newer track lighting performs similarly to ceiling-mounted accent lights but with more benefits. They’re easier to install and offer light focus flexibility. Unlike recessed lighting, which has to be removed by a professional, track lighting is easily modified by removing and adding lights, and of course you can angle the light easily, too.

From a room aesthetics standpoint, track lighting stands out more and may not suit your design desires, which is a trade off to ease of use.

Where to purchase;

- How To Light Artwork 9

WAC Track Lights on Lumens.com

Track lights with adjustable lamps are a great option to cover a long wall of individual pieces. They can also serve to place two or three spotlights on one large painting.

What artwork did you light using this extensive guide?

Send us a photo! Team@EmbraceCreatives.com

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This article was written by Andrea Bogart, professional artist, lead art consultant and the founder of Embrace Creatives, matching you with original art to love.

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