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How to Light Artwork

5 Tips For Lighting Art

I'm a serious proponent of collecting original artwork. In my opinion, the best design advice is to build an art collection that reflects your personal taste, because that's what separates your home from trends — and keeps it from looking like a furniture catalog. That said, it's easier said than done. I only own a few pieces of original artwork, and I've been saving to collect more. But when the day comes that I do add another painting or photograph to my walls, I will sure as heck make sure it's safely displayed and well-lit. Lighting plays a major part in that. To that end, here are a few art lighting tips for you:

  • As beautiful as natural light can look on your original artwork, its UV rays can also damage it and cause pigments to fade over time, particularly so with photography, prints, watercolors, and pastels. To prevent this, frame your pieces in UV-blocking glass if they'll be exposed to natural light. Fluorescent lights also give off UV rays, so steer clear of those, too.
  • If you want to bring out the warm colors in your artwork, use incandescent bulbs. If used on works with cool colors though, those beautiful oceanic blues and greens will be flattened out.
  • Halogen bulbs can be a great option for lighting art as the white light draws attention to details. At a high wattage, the white light is too strong. So go for a low-wattage bulb, instead.
  • Though you often see light sources directly above artwork (such as at left), it's better to have indirect light sources from a few different surrounding places. Use a mix of sconces, can lights, table lamps, and floor lamps instead to fully light the area.
  • Because all light — natural or artificial — will damage your artwork over time, to best preserve your investment pieces, swap in new artwork from time to time and put the alternate piece in storage for a bit. Or maybe keep a few affordable prints around to use for the time being.
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