2 tips to help find the right light for your art works

Imagine, for a moment, that you have purchased your next favourite piece of art. You know a thing or two about properly hanging the art to complement your existing pieces, and have carefully considered the impact of the art work’s colours on your space and mood.

Here’s the problem. You are in the dark about setting up the proper lighting for your art work (pun intended!).

Here are two big questions to ask yourself to help guide your decisions around the kind of lighting you will use for your exciting new art acquisition.


  1. What materials comprise your new art work?

If you have a new piece of art which is three-dimensional, such as a sculpture, you can play with creating shadows. Most sculptures are lit by a single light source. Using a recessed light, angle the light onto the sculpture from above or below to create the desired shadow effect.

Placing the art away from direct natural light offers several benefits. UV and infrared radiation from natural light can fade art works of any material type. Positioning the art work between two large windows can also cause problems with glare and make it hard for the eyes to see the art during regular day time hours.

Oil paintings should rely upon broad-based light sources for their illumination. If intense light is directed at an oil painting, spectral highlights can make it hard for the eye to focus. In contrast, acrylic paintings do not have a gloss to them. Light your acrylic painting with any type of light source.


  1. How is the art work framed, if at all?

A three-dimensional piece of art does not have a frame and can be illuminated with lighting from any angle or location. This gives you the freedom of creativity! You can position the light source from a mantel light, spotlight, track light or a recessed light.

Framed art works can encounter problems with reflection or glare. To minimize this problem, you can change the materials used in framing. Nonreflective glass can help.

Frame size can influence the type of light you use for your art work. A small frame will not be able to support the weight of an attached picture light. Instead, locate your light source external to the art piece, based on the space available.  

A larger, heavier frame which can support the weight of an attached picture light allows you to position the lighting source directly onto the frame. Find a light which makes sense for the frame’s width and depth.  


Stay tuned next week for another article on lighting and art! That article will shift the spotlight away from the art work itself and onto the types of lighting you might consider.