Tips to Lighting Wall Art

Lighting for artworks requires a little more attention than simply putting a downlight, or even a gimble downlight near it in the ceiling.   

Get it right, and you will fall in love with your favourite pieces all over again – miss the mark and you’ll end up disappointed.

There is no one-size fits all solution – that said, we have a few nifty tricks to share with you that will work in 90% of situations – and we can leave the last 10% for art galleries who have both the budget and the reason to go the extra mile.

The first question is – do you want the artwork to be the feature of the room? Or should it simply exist in a well lit room, where the focus is elsewhere?

Regardless of which way you want to experience your art, it is critical that you choose lighting for that room – or specifically for that wall – that has the best possible colour rendering. 

TECHIE BIT

Colour Rendering describes the quality of the light being made by a globe or a fitting, and is shown as an “Ra” number on the packaging.  The testing procedure is quite complex, however the easiest way to think about it is this: Light is the full Rainbow – but electric light is not always complete. 

You can think of colour rendering measurements as a way of knowing what percentage of the rainbow is available in the light. 

Ra80 = 80% of the colour and is OK (it’s what most quality LEDs do) – but 90% of the colour is much better – and if I really care about the colours being shown accurately, then I want 90% or more – so my light has to have an Ra90+. 

Back to the inspiration and motivation….

How then do you actually create the right light to showcase your art?

 

Option 1: Ceiling-mounted accent lights

Spotlights with controlled light and glare control are a great way to light individual artworks, and can also be very effective for sculpture.  They can be recessed or surface-mounted, and they give you the freedom to adjust the direction of the light to best suit your art.  Always check that the “beam spread” you choose is appropriate – narrow for a small piece perhaps – but wide for a large piece, you want it to cover the majority (if not all) of the artwork.

How do you know where to install them? A good rule of thumb is that the centre of the beam should hit the centre of the artwork when it is at a 30 degree angle.  More and you’ll likely get glare, less and you’ll get shadowing.

 

Option 2: Track lights

Beloved by architects and interiors designers, track lights can be very effective as they offer so much flexibility.  Modern LED fittings for track can be quite sleek, and the variety of styles is huge.  Interesting to not however, that even though they provide all the flexibility you could ever want – I’m yet to see anyone outside of a commercial gallery actually change their location.    

 

Option 3: Wall washers

Wall washer lights are a fantastic option – especially if you’re not sure exactly what your art will be – or if you like to change your style regularly.  They can also be a great solution simply bouncing the light off a white wall for making a room feel more expansive.  They come in all different shapes, sizes colours and effects most commonly used as recessed fittings in homes and can be placed on walls, ceilings, and floors.  They deliver a wide, even distribution of light, usually covering at least 1M – 1.5M in even light.  Through creating a bright wall, you highlight your artworks, and indirectly light the rest of the room.  It’s a more casual approach, and very well suited to homes with art collections. 

 

Option 4: Artwork lights

Picture lights or Artwork Lights are either mounted on the wall, or fixed to the frame itself.  The put the light close to the artwork, and can create a dynamic intimacy in a room, especially when they are the only lights on.  With LED technology, we don’t have to worry about the heat from the lamp damaging your art, so these lights are back on the rise.

 

Option 5: Using the room

You may not want to feature you artworks so much as enjoy them as the setting for your room.  If that is the case, but you still want them well lit, lighting that is not directional will create the best effect.  This means no downlights, but yes to pendant lighting that creates diffuse or omni-directional light with no shadows or texture.  It means wall lights that illuminate the ceiling and fill the room with in-direct light, floor lamps that again bounce the light off the ceiling or cove lighting, that fills the room, with no obvious source of light.

Please note some images are sourced from third parties to highlight design options, MINT Lighting does not claim ownership of these images and have simply chosen these as an example.