How do you light up artwork at home?

Image taken from @lydiamillenhome.

Using the right lighting can make a world of difference to artwork displayed in your home. Lighting, in many respects, is a part of the artwork. Therefore, it is important to consider the lighting conditions you first saw your chosen artwork displayed in. The fabulous artwork you have chosen for your home, which when first viewed evoked so many emotions, may feel dull in your chosen space if it’s shrouded in darkness or is being blasted by sunlight.

Whether you are creating a vast array of interesting works or using a statement piece in your home, lighting can be used to place your artwork at centre stage. With the right arrangement and lighting techniques, you will be able to admire your artwork in optimal conditions for years to come. Here we will be exploring the most effective ways to light up artwork in your home.

How to present your artwork in the best possible way using lighting

When using lighting to accentuate your artwork, there are 3 key tips to consider; the longevity of your artwork, types of lighting as well as which medium is suited to which type of lighting.

Longevity of the Artwork

When it comes to finding the right lighting for your artwork, the first thing to determine is which lighting conditions will best preserve the piece. Some lighting choices may look great but can be damaging to artwork, causing it to fade or discolour over time.

When looking to protect your artwork you should always avoid direct sunlight as ultraviolet light and infrared radiation can cause artwork to fade over a short period of time. Ensure that your art is not in the direct line of the sun or any other lighting in your space to help protect it from heat damage. You should also try to avoid fluorescent lighting, which like the sun, emits ultraviolet light, again causing discoloration and fading. A good way to test if a light is placed too directly onto your artwork is to place your hand between the light source and the piece, if you can feel any heat then the light is too close.

Lighting Options

The general rule for lighting up artwork is that the light spotlighting it should be three times brighter than the rooms ambient light. There are two ways of achieving this, either by choosing the appropriate light intensity or ambience in the surrounding area.

Should you hang your artwork in well-lit rooms?

Put simply yes, artwork is meant to be seen and the best way of achieving this is in a well-lit room. It is advisable to seek out high colour rendering index percentages in your lights as this will help to ensure the colours are portrayed as the artist intended. The closer your lighting is to 100 percent, the better and more vibrant the colours will appear.

Or is it better to add lighting to an area to improve its appearance?

There are different types of lighting you can choose from depending on the type of artwork you have and how you would prefer it to look. Ultimately it is subjective, determined by whatever you think looks best. Some examples of lighting you can add to your space are:

LED Lighting

LED lightbulbs have a longer lifespan than standard lightbulbs and emit less ultraviolet radiation and heat. Therefore, they are a great option for lighting artwork. If you are working with displaying your artwork in a cosy and more compact space, LED’s are ideal as they will not damage the work if placed close by. They are also available in warm and cool colour temperatures, perfect for those looking to create a warm and welcoming vibe or a more modern and sleeker atmosphere.

Incandescent Lighting

For those looking for warmer and more inviting lighting for their artwork, modern incandescent lights are perfect for creating that homely glow. Do however ensure that you use modern versions as the traditional incandescent lighting can cause heat damage to artwork.

Halogen Lighting

If you are looking for lighting that will match your contemporary space and a more modern piece of artwork, you may want to consider halogen bulbs. This lighting casts a cooler tone, but do not be fooled, it also generates much higher levels of heat which is why it is advisable to keep them a safe distance from your art.

Different Mediums

It is important to remember that not all artwork is the same and therefore will require different conditions in which to thrive. Artworks comes in a variety of mediums from oil to acrylic, gouache to watercolour and so much more and each will react differently to different environment. You must also consider whether your artwork is an original piece of work or a Giclee fine art print which each require different treatment and lighting.

Where should lights be placed?

It is recommended that lighting should be angled at 30 degrees to reduce any glare, making sure to add an extra 5 degrees for larger pieces and subtracting 5 degrees if you are looking to highlight key textures in the piece. By positioning your lighting at 30 degrees, your artwork should be completely illuminated and if it is encased in glass it should reduce glare.

If you are working with an oil painting, you will notice that when light is directed onto the piece, the textured impasto technique will cause a range of shadows to be cast along with various highlights.  In this instance you should try adjusting the angle to play with how the light falls onto the piece until it is to your liking. Alternatively, you may want to use a broad light which will ensure light is evenly distributed and all aspects of the piece are illuminated.

If, however, you are dealing with a three-dimensional piece of work such as a sculpture or a mixed media piece, you should try to ensure your lighting is bright and diffused across three sources of light. This is in order to capture all the beauty and intricacy of the piece. Again, choosing angles for lighting artwork is entirely the choice of the owner but it is not advised to light pieces from below as this can cast large unattractive shadows whilst failing to highlight the piece itself.

Ultimately, much like art, lighting artwork at home is subjective, and it is down to you to decide what lighting best suits the aesthetic choices and atmosphere of your space.  If you are interested in one of Toni Thornton Art’s original pieces or a limited edition giclee print but are struggling with the lighting and overall displaying of the piece, why not get in touch with our team?

We will be more than happy to assist you with finding the right piece of art for your space and advising on how best to exhibit the work to achieve the effect the artist intended to suit your space. We are available on 01977 809048 or email us at


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