How to Light Artwork

When purchasing a piece of art, you probably have an idea of where it will go in your home, office or business. What you might not have thought of, however, is whether or not the lighting in that place was appropriate for the painting. You wouldn’t want to get home and hang your beautiful new painting, only to see it a little differently than you did in the art gallery because of the lighting in your house. Glare from natural light, shadows and poor quality room lighting can very negatively affect the way your painting looks, and even how the painting ages. These concerns can be easily fixed with the consideration of some key factors and a little planning.

LEDs are the Way To Go

Think of the lighting that already exists in the room, first. Incandescent and halogen light bulbs are not only less energy-efficient, they also give off a heat that can be dangerous and harmful to artwork. . And generally speaking florescent bulbs produce very poor quality light for viewing art.  LED lights – unlike incandescent, florescent and halogen lights – don’t give off infrared or ultraviolet rays which can actually damage your painting over time. Make sure that the light on the paintings is from an LED-type of bulb for the best results, but make sure it’s a good quality light. LED lights that are lower-quality will make you feel like you are looking at artwork in a dressing room or dentist’s office. Try to get LED lights with a minimum color-rendering index of 90+ this is close to the sun’s CRI, which is 100. The color temperature of the light is also important, lower color temperature produce a warmer light and higher color temperature produces a cooler light. Selecting the right color temperature can make all the difference. Ideally the light will have an adjustable color temperature to insure the best possible lighting.

Avoid Direct Sunlight

While most people love looking at something in direct natural light, your painting should not be that something. Hanging your painting in direct sunlight can fade the colors over time. Also, try not to hang your painting next to the window when you are avoiding the direct natural light because you won’t see the painting’s colors as vibrantly during the day.


Choosing the Painting’s Light

When choosing the light that will shine on your painting, you have two options: picture lights or spotlights. Understanding the differences between the two and what you need in your room is key to making sure your new piece of artwork is shown “in the best light.”

  • Spotlights create a sheet of light over the painting.
  • Picture lights can be placed so that they shine in specific areas, rather than evenly on the painting.
  • Spotlights can also be used in track lighting which makes the painting look more like it is still hanging in the gallery.

A lot of this decision depends on the client’s style and the style of their home—there is really no wrong decision.

Also, make sure whatever type of lighting you choose for your painting doesn’t take away from the painting itself. For example, ceiling mounted spotlights can be brightened and dimmed depending on the time of day and are incredible discrete.


Deciding the correct lighting for your artwork can be simple and it can be a little more complicated depending on your goal. Always ask the salesperson at the story where you are purchasing your lights about the characteristics of the bulbs to ensure the light will not harm your painting over time. Consult the salesperson where you purchases the painting for their lighting recommendation, as well. They will be able to provide ideas and options that best meet your abilities in the room where the painting will hang.