Lighting for Artwork: Tips, Tricks & Great Options

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Finding the perfect piece of art for your home is only the first step. Learning how to light it properly is the other. Why? Well, properly lit artwork can add ambiance to a space, emphasize the room’s focal point, or serve as another layer of accent lighting. Not to mention a well-lit piece of art will show others all the reasons you fell in love with it in the first place.

So what do you need to keep in mind when figuring out lighting for artwork? Let’s consider a few popular options along with some pro tips.

1. Recessed lighting. Recessed art lighting is popular and sleek, and options are available for both new construction and retrofit applications. Plus, you can choose from a wide range of recessed sizes. Think accent adjustable fixtures that can be as small as an inch to larger aperture fixtures that can match your other recessed lights.

ArtLighting Recessed.jpg

Recessed downlights offer many options as well, but make sure you know how to use them. As the image from our art lab above demonstrates, different types of downlights can cast different light on the wall or artwork:

  • Use a wall washer to pass light out of the housing at an angle to illuminate the vertical surface.
  • You can position adjustable downlights to cast light on a wide range beneath the fixture, such as tabletops, cabinets, and walls.
  • As this article from Architectural Digest reminds us, “ceiling-mounted lights should be placed so that the light beam hits the center of the artwork when the fixture is adjusted to a 30-degree angle.”

Art Lighting Waltham Lab.jpg

2. Designated artwork (“picture”) light. This sort of fixture allows placement of the light source directly above and slightly in front of the artwork, allowing for optimal illumination. A couple of notes:

ArtLighting Picture Light.jpg

  • Some mount directly to the frame. Others mount to the wall, centered on the artwork.
  • Highly decorative, these fixtures can be available in almost any finish, design, and width.

Here’s a great option: House of Troy’s Slimline LED picture light. This is available for special order in a wide variety of finishes.

ArtLighting Slimline.jpg

  • Pro tip: Select a picture light that is roughly half the size of your artwork and center it on the piece.

3. Display case lighting. Want to show off that gorgeous vase or your grandmother’s China? Place small aperture downlights within your display case to illuminate and direct the eye into the display cabinet. Read up on some small sized fixtures that would be great for artwork lighting.


  • Pro tip: Puck lights or LED tape can install easily into display cases or glass-front cabinets with a little bit of planning.

When selecting your perfect art lighting, keep these points in mind:

  • 90+ CRI is essential to ensure accurate color replication.
  • Consider a dimmed fixture or dimmer to avoid glare and protect the artwork especially if using halogen lamps. Halogen lamps emit UV light and heat, which can hurt fine artwork.
  • Consider using LEDs since they do not emit UV (and since they emit less heat).
  • To avoid fading, don’t hang paintings in direct natural light.

And, of course, if you need help selecting the perfect light for your artwork, stop by our showroom. Our lighting experts would be happy to assist!

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