How to Light Artwork in Your Home: Tips for Enhancing your Collection

When you have artwork in your home, it is important to think about the best way to light it. You want to make sure that you are enhancing the piece and not taking away from it. There are a few different things to consider when lighting artwork: color temperature, brightness, directionality, and type of light. In this blog post, we will discuss all of these factors and give you some tips on how to light your artwork in the best possible way!


Phantom Falls surrounded by fog and the light of the setting sun, on Table Mountain in Oroville, California.

Before we get into color temperature and brightness, let's take a look at some of the lighting options for displaying art.

The different types of light and how they can be used to enhance artwork

General Lighting

The first type of light is general lighting. This can be provided by overhead lights, lamps, or even natural light from windows. General lighting should be bright enough to light the entire room and provide a good base for other types of lighting.

General lighting alone usually is not sufficient for artwork because it is often too dark, which will make it difficult to see accurate colors or the details in the artwork. It is best to use general lighting in conjunction with other types of lighting.

Picture Lights

Picture lights are typically mounted to the wall or ceiling. Picture lights are a great way to light artwork because they provide focused, direct light. This allows you to see the details in the piece and enhances the colors. They are also a great way to avoid glare, which can be a problem with other types of lighting.

Picture lights are a great way to light artwork, but they do have some disadvantages. One disadvantage is that they can be quite expensive. Another disadvantage is that they can take up a lot of space. Additionally, they can be difficult to install and may require an electrician. I also find that the light is often uneven.

Sunrise Over the Painted Dunes

Sunrise's soft glow hitting the trees and Painted Dunes in Lassen Volcanic National Park, California.

Track Lighting

Track lighting is a type of accent lighting that uses a series of spotlights that are mounted on a track. Track lighting is a great way to highlight multiple pieces of artwork or create a dynamic display. Its cost is also relatively inexpensive. It is also a great way to light artwork because it provides even and consistent light. It is also relatively easy to install and can be adjusted to highlight different pieces of artwork.

One must consider, however, that track lighting can take up a lot of space and that it usually isn't aesthetically pleasing.


As an alternative to track lighting, spotlights can be used to highlight specific pieces of artwork. These lights are usually directed at the artwork from above and provide a bright, focused light. This type of lighting is great for showing off the details in a piece of artwork. It's also available in a variety of shapes and sizes, allowing it to be both more minimalistic and attractive.

Some disadvantages to spotlight lighting are that it can be quite expensive and it can be difficult to install.

Northern Lights in Chico

A fiery sunset on the Horning property in off Durham Pentz, in Chico, California.

Strict Production Limit of 100 Editions.

Wall Washing

Wall washing is a type of accent lighting that uses a wide, diffused light to evenly illuminate a wall. Wall washing is a great way to make artwork stand out without creating harsh shadows.

Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting is a type of general lighting that is installed in the ceiling. Recessed lighting can be used to evenly light a room or create a dramatic effect.

What is color temperature and why is it important when lighting artwork?

The color temperature of light is an important factor when it comes to lighting artwork. The color temperature of a light source describes the apparent warmth or coolness of the light. This is measured in Kelvin (K) and can range from 1000K to 10,000K. Lower Kelvin values appear warmer (more yellowish) while higher Kelvin values appear cooler (more blueish).

The Buttes and the Blossomed River

The "world's smallest mountain range", the Sutter Buttes, overlooking a river of almond blossoms at sunset, in Sutter County, California.

The color temperature of the light affects how accurately the colors in the artwork will be displayed. In general, warm light sources (3000K -5000K) are best for artwork because they render colors more naturally and enhance reds, oranges, and yellows. Cooler lights (6000K – 10,000K) tend to make blues and greens look brighter but may make reds and oranges look duller.

When selecting a light source for artwork, it is important to consider the Color Rendering Index (CRI). CRI measures how accurately a light source renders different colors compared to natural sunlight. A higher CRI indicates that more accurate colors will be produced. Look for bulbs with a CRI rating of 80 or higher when using artificial lighting to display artwork.

Solux bulbs are often recommended for art lighting because they have high color accuracy and excellent color rendering capabilities due to their unique spectrum distribution curve which mimics natural sunlight better than other types of lights. Solux bulbs also have long lifespans, making them a great choice for those who want their art to remain properly lit over time.

When selecting lighting options for displaying artwork in your home, it is important to consider both color temperature and CRI rating in order to ensure that you get accurate colors as well as good illumination without glare or shadows. Choose warm temperatures in conjunction with a high CRI rating to produce beautiful results!

How to use brightness to your advantage when lighting artwork

Brightness is an important factor to consider when lighting artwork. Too much brightness can wash out the details of a piece of artwork, while too little brightness can make it difficult to appreciate the finer points. As such, it is important to find the balance between brightness and darkness in order to create a pleasing look.

When using spotlights or track lighting to highlight artwork, it is important to position the light fixtures far enough away from the artwork so that they do not cast harsh shadows on it. The intensity of the light should also be adjusted until it provides enough illumination without washing out any details. If possible, use dimmable lights so that you can adjust their brightness as needed.

Procession of the Tempest

A clearing storm at north rim in Upper Bidwell Park in Chico, California.

Wall washers are an effective way to provide gentle yet even illumination for artworks displayed on walls. Wall washers should be positioned in such a way that light is spread across the entire wall instead of being focused on one specific area. To prevent glare, position wall washers slightly below eye level and adjust their intensity until it creates a pleasant effect without making any details hard to see.

Picture lights are specifically designed for illuminating artwork and can provide excellent results if used correctly. Position picture lights at least 8-10 inches away from the artwork and aim them at a downward angle towards the center of the piece. Picture lights should be placed far enough away from the artwork so that they are not casting any harsh shadows, but close enough so that they provide adequate brightness without washing out any details. As for sizing, aim for 2/3 the size of your frame.

In addition to artificial lighting, indirect natural light can also be used when displaying artworks in your home. While direct sunlight should be avoided as it will cause fading over time, indirect natural light can add a nice touch of warmth and character to your art pieces without causing damage or making them difficult to view properly.

Overall, when choosing lighting options for your artwork, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution – different types of lighting may work better depending on factors like size, color palette and texture of your artworks and how they are displayed in your home environment.

Directionality and its importance in regards to artwork

Directionality is a key factor to consider when lighting artwork, as it affects how light falls on the surface and helps enhance different details and features. Generally speaking, directional lighting is used to emphasize texture and shape while ambient lighting is used to even out the color of an artwork.

When using directional lighting, it is important to position the light sources so that they are directed towards the areas that you want to emphasize or bring out in your artwork. The angle of the light also plays a role in emphasizing certain textures and shapes. For example, a downward angled light can create dramatic shadows on an artwork’s surface which can be quite visually appealing.

Ambient lighting works best for evenly illuminating art pieces and making them look less harsh. When using ambient lighting, make sure that you position your lights at least 3-4 feet away from the artwork so that all of its surfaces are evenly lit without any harsh shadows or dark spots. You can also use multiple lamps spread around the room for a more even effect.

Last Light in Lassen

The rays of the setting sun layered over Mount Lassen and the valley in Lassen Volcanic National Park, California.

Lighting artwork in your home is an important part of displaying and enjoying art pieces. The right type of light can make all the difference when it comes to accentuating different features or textures within a work of art. Directionality plays a key role in this regard as directional lights create dramatic shadows that help bring out certain details while ambient lighting provides even illumination for smoother color transitions. When selecting artificial lights for your home, remember to consider factors such as CRI, color temperature and intensity so that you get the best possible results without causing any damage to your artwork over time.

If you need assistance with how to best light your newly purchased artwork, I'm always here for you! Don't hesitate to contact me - I'd be more than happy to help.