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Tips for Lighting Your Artwork

Tips for Lighting Your Artwork

Your art is often one of your most prized possessions. Whether it’s a unique sculpture, oil or acrylic paintings, or a wall of family photos that needs to be properly displayed you should carefully consider the lighting system that you would like to use for your artwork. Using a variety of techniques, here are a few easy tips on bringing some light to your works of art.

Oil Paintings

Lighting oil paintings can be a difficult task. This is primarily because when strong lighting points directly at the painting, it can create odd highlights and streaks in the artwork. You want to make sure that you choose a diffused light source for your oil painting. A diffused light source creates more uniform and even illumination on an entire space. Consider using LED light bulbs that are equivalent to 100W incandescents. Like their incandescent cousins, these LEDs emit a traditional warm glow, except they last longer and are more energy-efficient than incandescents.  Another plus to using LEDs is they emit less light in the UV range, which limits the damage that can be caused from direct light sources. They also emit less heat, which reduces the issue of temperature changing in artwork.

When illuminating your oil paintings, choose a fixture that will not allow the light to shine directly onto the painting such as a close to ceiling flush mount or semi flush mount light fixture. These can provide your room with overhead lighting without casting down heavily on your oil paintings, creating few shadows and more even illumination.

Acrylic Paintings 

Unlike oil paintings, acrylic paintings do not suffer from the same glare and shine issues found with oil paintings. Because of this, you do not have to worry so much about strange shadows on your art work; however, you should still choose lighting that does not emit a lot of heat. Although acrylics are less sensitive to UV rays than oil paintings, you still want to limit the amount of UV lighting your artwork is exposed to. To display your acrylic paintings, try using a picture lamp. These lamps can be mounted to walls easily allowing for a beautiful and well lit display.

Framed Photos 

Have some amazing, framed family photos that could use a little spotlighting? Similar to oil paintings, due to the glass that encases most framed photos, lighting can create glare that interferes with their beauty. To help with this you may try having track lighting installed. Track lights can easily be directed at your wall to accomplish wall-washing. Wall washing helps to draw in on details by flooding your walls with light.  Although using string lights to lighten up your photos is not flammable you should note that putting lights too close to photos can cause them fade. So you don’t have to worry about fading your originals, consider using photos that you have copies of.

If you really want to get creative with your wall of family photos, try mounting them as an open collage.  Remove the photos from their frames and use a string of battery operated Christmas lights to illuminate the exposed photos.  Tack or nail the string lights to your wall.  Next grab some small or medium sized clothespins and simply clothespin your photos to the wire to create a beautiful and intimate photo wall collage.


When lighting your sculpture you have to take different factors into account. For example, it is important to know what the sculpture is constructed from. Is your sculpture dense and opaque, slightly opaque or is it clear? Knowing this will help determine what type of lighting you’ll need. Unlike clear sculptures, such as sculptures made from glass, light will not penetrate opaque and semi opaque sculptures.  Also, in choosing lighting for your opaque and slightly opaque statues you’ll want to try having light come in from at least three different angles. Using one or two angles could create shadows, taking away from your sculpture’s lovely design.

Consider beginning with a form of overhead lighting such as track or recessed lighting.  As explained earlier, track lighting is a great option for overall lighting, and wall washing, but it can also be used as a spotlight. While both of these types of lighting must be installed by an electrician, they will help to create a wider more even lighting system. An added bonus is both recessed and track lighting is adjustable. In addition to recessed and track lights, you may want to try adding some multi-directional fixtures to the room where your sculpture is being displayed.

Adding depth to your already wonderful works of art is simple with the use of the right lighting and fixtures. All that’s left is to gaze at their beauty. Have any questions about illuminating art or any suggestions? Feel free to give us your thoughtsin the comments below. As always, you can also drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest or Instagram!

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