Important Tips for Properly Lighting Your Artwork

Proper artwork lighting can leave you speechless when displaying your art. It can make you feel like you are in a gallery. Or, if drenched in sunlight or shadows, it’s most likely to look bland and fail to make an impact. 

Lighting, when used effectively, makes your artwork take centre stage. Different effects are possible, ranging from a subtle highlight to an intricate display. 

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach lighting for artwork, these important tips will help you properly light your artwork

Consider Lighting Choice For Longevity

When choosing the type of lighting, it should be based on protecting the longevity of your artwork collection. The aesthetic appeal should take a backseat. Otherwise, it’s possible to cause light and heat damage. This can lead to brittleness with the artwork, as well as permanent discolouration. 

  • Don’t display any artwork in direct sunlight

Infrared radiation and ultraviolet light can lead to artwork fading over time. To keep pieces in perfect condition, position them away from any direct sunlight sources. 

  • Stop light from directly facing the artwork

Doing so helps protect the artwork against any heat damage which may otherwise occur

  • Don’t use fluorescent lighting

Fluorescent lighting emits a high level of ultraviolet energy. This not only causes colour fading to speed up for the artwork, but it also distorts the colour. 

Are you unsure about heat damage occurring? One way to check is to put your hand between the light source and the artwork. Can you feel the heat from the light? If so, then the light source is most likely too close. 

Types of Light Sources 

For best results, artwork lighting should be three times brighter than the ambient light in a room. By using the right ambience or intensity, you can achieve stunning results. 

The trick is to make sure that the lighting portrays the colours of the artwork accurately. To do so, you need to find the Colour Rendering Index (CRI) percentages of your lights. The closer they are to 100, this means the more vibrant the colours will be. 

When lighting for artwork, there are three main options. They are: 

  • LED Lighting:  gives off little heat and UV radiation. It also has a long lifespan. Led lighting is ideal for when there is not much space available between the light source and the artwork. LEDs are available in both cool and warm temperatures to suit the vibe of your art. 
  • Incandescent Lighting: gives off a warm glow which can be comforting. But, it also emits too much warm light. For lighting artwork, it should be avoided. LED lighting is also a lot more efficient than incandescent lights. 
  • Halogen Lighting: gives off a cooler tone, but also produces higher heat levels. If used, they should be a safe distance from the artwork. Also, consider using UV filters to add extra protection. 

Guidelines For Specific Types Of Artwork Lighting


There is no one size fits all approach for artwork lighting. But, there are some guidelines you can follow to help you get the best results.

  • To reduce glare, angle lighting at 30 degrees. 

This is the suggested angle to start with for lighting any artwork. It allows enough light to cover the artwork, and reduces reflectance and glare on the glass. 

  • For larger frames, add 5 degrees 

This will get rid of casting shadows from the larger frame

  • To highlight textures, subtract 5 degrees

It brings out the accent of the painting and affects how the details are illuminated

Oil Paintings

Oil paintings generally are textured, especially any which use an impasto technique. Direct lighting can really bring out different highlights or shadows. They may have appeared hidden before. 

What if this isn’t the type of effect you are after? Then you use a broad light for oil paintings instead. Doing so will illuminate all details evenly. 


To highlight all the fine details on sculptures, they are best lit using three different light sources. You should avoid lighting sculptures from directly below. Also, use your judgement and discretion to work out the best angles. There are no guidelines as each sculpture is unique.

Other Artwork

For lithographs, serigraphs, watercolours or any other graphic media, glare can be caused due to being under reflective glass. The 30-degree method will help to reduce this so that the artwork can be enjoyed in all it’s intended glory.

Different Types of Artwork Lighting 

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Whether your art is oil or acrylic paintings, breathtaking sculptures, or family photos, they all have one thing in common. They all deserve flattering lighting, which makes them the focal point of your home.

Ceiling-Mounted Accent Lights

Recommended for: when you want to make the artwork the centre of attention, not the lighting. 

Ceiling-mounted lights can be either surface-mounted or recessed. This allows the light direction to be adjusted. 

For best results, ceiling-mounted lights should be positioned with the light beam hitting the centre of the artwork. The fixture should be adjusted to a 30-degree angle. 

Track Lights

Recommended for: a display which is continuously changing

Track lights now have a more minimalist look than in the past. They are easier to install than ceiling lights. As well as providing flexibility for future change. 

Changing the track lighting is easy as moving a fixture or removing one. But, it doesn’t look as aesthetically appealing on the ceiling.

Wall Washers


Recommended for: flexibility with your setup

Wall washers are available in many fixtures, like surface-mounted, recessed, and track-mounted. They can be mounted on floors, walls, or ceilings, and deliver wide light to an entire wall.

Wall washing evenly illuminates the entire wall. This gives you total flexibility to move, add, or remove any art in the future without needing to make any adjustments.

Picture Lights

Recommended for: renters, and intimate lighting


Picture lights work by being mounted to either the frame of individual artworks or the wall. By using low-wattage lamps, it lets the light source be close to the artwork and provides an intimate feel.

Picture lights are decorative and can help enhance the look of the room. There is no need to cut any holes. But, picture lights do need outlets to be used with cords, or power for the hand-wired models.

By following the above tips you will help ensure that you have the best artwork lighting for your collection. If you are unsure of the right lighting for artwork for you, LA Lounge’s friendly lighting experts are ready to help. Call (02) 9999 4948 or contact us