Imagine this: You spent a ton of money on a piece of landscape photography that you’ve fallen in love with and you want everyone to see it.
In fact, you want it to be the focal point of your home.
You hang it in a space you think will get noticed and…
Not even your mother notices.
What are you doing wrong?
Well, maybe quite a lot. Did you think you could randomly hang your amazing art and everyone else would fall in love with it, too?
It’s going to take more planning and strategy than that, but lucky for you, there are answers.
Keep reading for seven tips on lighting artwork in the right way so that it’ll POP.
1) Decide on Your Lighting Source
There are quite a few types of lighting for art. In fact, the lighting of the art is its own art form!
Some methods may require an in-depth mounting of track lights, for example. Or you may need to hire a contractor to install ceiling-mounted accent lights.
You’ll have to decide what your budget is, and how devoted you are to your light source.
This blog has a comprehensive list of the different styles of lighting you can use.
You can also use a mantel light that is set in front of the artwork, usually on a shelf. They light the artwork from underneath.
2) Research and Avoid Common Mistakes
There are art advisers who work out of firms- people whose job and passion is to enter clients’ homes and analyze their art lighting and placement.
These advisers see the same mistakes over and over again.
Chief among these mistakes is hanging the art behind cheap glass that’s positioned by a window. This is an issue because all you’ll see if the window’s reflection!
In fact, you shouldn’t put all your art behind glass as a general rule.
When you frame your art behind cheap glass, it effects the appearance of the art and can lead to a foggy or lower quality appearance.
Another mistake that can make the proper lighting look off is using the wrong hardware for hanging.
If you attach your D ring too low or too long on the back of your piece, the art will hang at an awkward angle.
3) Experiment with Lighting Angles
Most works of art will display best when lit by three different angles. Painting and photographs, however, can be lit with one angle.
The angle of that light will be subjective. That means there’s no way to know which angle works until you try them all.
Some art needs a light from underneath, and some will need to be top-lit.
The angles will work with shadows, so getting familiar with the shadowing in your piece will help.
Take a look at this landscape photograph to get an idea about what lighting angle might work best.
4) Framing is Everything
Ultimately, your frame is going to be your guide.
If your piece has no frame, you can use a spotlight or recessed light (listed above.)
Likewise, if it’s got a light frame, it won’t be able to support an attached light. You’ll have to light your work with a spotlight or tracklight, etc.
If the piece has a heavy frame, though, it can support a picture light. The width and depth of the frame will inform what attached light you’ll use.
These picture lights come in a variety of lengths and styles so you’ll need to measure your frame.
5) Use a Safe Light Source
Not all light is equal!
Some light is far more appropriate for your precious art and will look better, too.
For example, LED lights are safest for the longevity of your art, as well as having the best effect for showcasing your art.
Incandescent light can also be a lovely option.
Be careful with halogens, as they emit heat, and avoid fluorescents.
Direct sunlight will damage and fade your artwork, as well.
6) Position Your Light
Your goal here is to reduce glare, so position your light at a 30-degree angle to the art to minimize the glare. Add another 5 degrees to the angle if your frame is larger. That way you won’t have an unwanted shadow.
If you want more texture to be noticeable in your artwork, subtract another 5 degrees from the lighting placement.
Typically, a rule of thumb is to light your art at three times brighter than the rest of your room.
And remember: don’t crowd the space around your art with anything distracting! Keeping your mounting surface as neutral as possible is ideal.
Oh, and another reminder: heat damage is an issue! Never ever place a strong light too close to your art. To test your light, place your hand over the bulb.
If you can feel the heat, it’s not appropriate to place it too close to your picture.
7) Ask for Feedback
Really. Ask people what they think about how your lighting, positioning, and the presentation of your art.
Just because someone isn’t a professional doesn’t mean their opinion isn’t valid.
Art should be enjoyable to the viewer, so speak up and seek out opinions to guide your lighting journey.
Lighting Artwork Like a Pro
Now you’re equipped with some actionable tips for lighting artwork and start getting it noticed.
If you liked these tips, please comment or contact us, and also check out this blog for more photography tips as well as beautiful landscapes.