Let there be light! 2 tips for illuminating your favourite art works

In last week’s blog post, we explored two tips to help find the right light for your newly-acquired art pieces. This review focused on the art piece itself. We examined how to light art based on the art’s material and framing.

This week, we want to cover the more technical aspects of the lighting types you might consider.

Pull back the curtain of uncertainty and explore some of these guidelines for letting in the light!


  1. Start with the Light Bulbs

First, the type of light bulb you select will impact your budget, the visibility of the art work, and your arrangement of the room.

LED light bulbs cost a little bit more than other forms of lighting, but do not emit damaging heat, ultraviolet rays, or infrared light. This means you can place them closer to your art work. In contrast, halogen lights generate a lot of heat. Place them further from your art work or shield the light with a UV filter over the bulb.

Halogens emit a pure white light which is quite different from, say, an incandescent light.  Incandescent lights create a warm colour which will bring out the yellow and reds in art. Take care with your incandescent bulbs, as they can be damaging to more delicate art works.

Avoid placing your artwork in direct sunlight. This can cause fading from the ultraviolet rays. Fluorescent lights also emit ultraviolet rays which will cause fading. They are not recommended for lighting art work.


  1. Find the Right Fixture Style

Next you will want to find the right light fixture for your space.

Start by looking at the room as a whole. In which locations will the most activity take place? Since you will want to draw people to these areas, light up furniture and mantelpieces with floor lamps, table lights, or picture lights.

Picture lights hang over a painting or attach to the frame. They often use low-wattage bulbs and create a sense of intimacy with the art. Take care with your arrangement of framed art incorporating picture lights, as the picture light may need a cord to operate.

Spotlights mounted to the ceiling create a pool of light over the artwork. Spotlights are best for a minimalist space where the art collection changes regularly, as they are both discreet and flexible. These ceiling fixtures can be either recessed or surface-mounted.

Aim your spotlight so that it hits the center of the artwork. With the flexibility of this lighting scheme, you are not limited to lighting only one section of the art. You will want to adjust the spotlight to a 30-degree angle. This avoids casting long shadows below the art work and reduces reflective glare.


These tips will help you get started with lighting your next art acquisition. Take special consideration of the type of light bulb you choose. Try to opt for the heat-free and energy-efficient LED bulbs whenever possible. You may also find that spotlights are adaptable and discreet for the space in which you hang your art. Happy lighting!