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How to Light Your Artwork at Home

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Light Your Artwork Like a Pro

One question we often hear from our collectors here at The Erin Hanson Gallery is, “How do I light my new painting?” This is a topic close to our hearts here at the gallery, since we want every Erin Hanson painting to look its very best in every home.  Because the lighting of a piece is so vital to one’s enjoyment of the artwork, we wanted to take a deep dive into the various lighting options you can utilize in your home or office as you display your painting.

Recommended Ceiling-Mounted Lighting Fixtures

The most common way to effectively light artwork is to install a ceiling fixture which focuses on an individual painting. Most fixtures allow you to use the bulb type of your choice, so you are free to use the fixture that most aligns with the aesthetics of your home. When you point the bulb at the painting, focus on highlighting the center of attention within the painting.

Here are our favorite ceiling-mounted lighting fixtures:

WAC Recessed Lights on  

These directional recessed lighting units are adjustable, allowing you to illuminate your art in the perfect light. 

 WAC recessed lights on

WAC Track Lights on  

Track lights with adjustable lamps are a great option to cover a long wall of individual pieces. They can also serve to place two or three spotlights on one large painting.

WAC track lights on

SoLux Ceiling Mount Lamps at 

Galleries and museums all over the world use SoLux fixtures. They are adjustable up or down and can be mounted on a wall or ceiling. 

We recommend their black-backed, 24-degree bulbs for these fixtures, with no diffuser.

SoLux ceiling mount lamps at

If you are hanging a favorite piece in your home or office for an extended period, ceiling-mounted fixtures are an excellent way to light up your painting. 

Ceiling Light Placement

Correctly placing your fixture is essential to getting the most out of your product. Install ceiling lights so that the light has an angle of about 30°- 45° to the artwork. If the fixture is placed too directly overhead, you will have harsh shadows down the painting. If the light angle is too flat, then you will get unpleasant glare off the art. 

If the ceiling is very high, then you’ll also want to get a bulb with higher wattage and narrow beam to compensate for the longer distance. A 10° bulb will light a 30”x 30” painting when mounted on a 20-foot ceiling.

Ceiling light placement by ceiling height   

Image Source:

Recommended Painting-Mounted Lights

Many spaces with high-ceilings or a rotating inventory choose to mount lights directly on a painting. This technique beautifully lights any piece, no matter where it is positioned. 

Picture-mounted lights are typically attached to the back of paintings and often use art-safe bulbs. Be sure to consult the lamp specifications and choose one with light that is suitable for your home. 

Art Lights from Revelite Fine Art Lighting 

Revelite provides high-end art lighting solutions which can be customized to the dimensions of your painting. Their product offers even lighting with excellent color accuracy across the surface of the piece.

Art Lights from Revelite Fine Art Lighting

Fine Art Lighting from 

Lumens carries a variety of lights in all styles, temperatures, and colors. Many of them allow for either incandescent or LED bulbs. 

We often recommend LED lighting for picture-mounted lights, as these are cool and art-safe.

Fine Art Lighting from

Picture and Art Lights from 

These painting-mounted lights come in a range of styles. We recommend these fixtures for homes with warm light.

Picture and Art Lights from

The variety of fixtures available mean that you can often choose how you’d like to power your picture-mounted light. Some utilize battery power, others can be plugged into an outlet, and still others have hardwired power supplies that require an electrician install a circuit box into the wall behind the painting. This system is well-demonstrated by the graphic below, provided by  . 

plug-in standard mount onlyhardwire standard or direct wire mount

The Effect of Light Bulbs on Your Artwork

Some light fixtures give options for pre-installed bulbs. These options may be difficult to evaluate when purchasing lighting online, so The Erin Hanson Gallery would like to share our rule of thumb when it comes to purchasing artwork lighting.

When shopping, pay attention to the Color Rendering Index (CRI) and the color temperature. Here is a brief explanation of both, as well as what bulbs we recommend based on your home’s lighting color temperature:

The Color Rendering Index (CRI)

CRI is a scale from 0 to 100 percent indicating how accurate a given light source is at rendering color when compared to a reference light source. The higher the CRI, the better the color rendering ability. You want the light to bring out the art’s true color. Light sources with a CRI of 90 or higher are considered best at color rendering.

Color Temperature

Color temperature is a number assigned to a light bulb that tells you how warm (yellow) or cool (blue) the light is. Color temperature is measured in degrees of Kelvin (K) on a scale from 1,000 to 10,000. Light with a color temperature below 3500K will look warm, while a color temperature that is higher than 4000K results in cool tint. 

Warm white vs cool white comparison

Image Source: Integral LED   

For homes lit in warm white, we recommend a lighting color temperature of 3000K to 3500K for your paintings. For homes illuminated in cool-white, we recommend a lighting color temperature of 4000K for your pieces. We use 4000K Sorraa LED bulbs at The Erin Hanson Gallery.

Advanced tip: If your painting has predominately warm tones in it (reds, oranges, yellows), then use a bulb at 3500K. If your painting is mostly cool tones (blue, green), then use 4000K bulbs. Either way, make sure you have a CRI over 95, otherwise your painting will look "muddy."

Selecting the Size of Picture Lights for your Art
As a general guideline, the picture light should be at least half of the width of the frame you are illuminating. For example, if your frame is 20 inches wide, choose a picture light with a width of 10 inches. For pictures over 30", choose a light 2/3 or more the width of the frame. - The House of Antique Hardware

Additional Technical Specifications

There are several other technical specifications to consider when choosing bulbs. For example, the bulb must plug into the fixture properly. This means you have to find a base that works with the fixture you have purchased. Here are three bases that will most likely fit your fixtures:

GU 5.3 base, or often generically called MR16 - GU 10 base - E26 base, also called the standard baseAdditionally, the beam spread of the bulb determines how wide a circle of light your bulb will produce. The beam spread is measured as an angle (in degrees). A 25° bulb in a ceiling-mounted fixture will light a medium-sized painting of around 40”x 40”. A 10° bulb will light a petite painting brilliantly.  

As the beam widens, the intensity of light decreases. So, when lighting larger paintings, we recommend setting two or three separate lights on the piece, rather than purchasing a wider beam bulb. 

Intensity over distance chart

Image Source: DLU Lighting   

Recommended Bulbs

There is a wide selection of bulbs available, and the type you purchase will depend on base, wattage, and size as it relates to your existing fixture. However, we cannot end our light bulb segment without providing two of the bulbs we most highly recommend:

Soraa LED Lights on 

These bulbs come with different bases, color temperatures, and beam widths.

When dimmable light is desired, please consult your electrician before installing LED bulbs, as these may also require special circuits and wall switches.

Soraa LED Lights on

Solux Halogen Bulbs 

These bulbs come with different bases, color temperatures, and beam widths. 

Halogen bulbs run hotter than LEDs. They also project light out the back of the bulb, unless the back of the bulb is coated (as in the image to the right). A “black-backed” bulb cuts halogen light leakage.

Solux Halogen Bulbs

Properly lighting your art will allow you to enjoy the piece as the artist intended. We hope this lighting “how to” has provided you with all the knowledge you need to illuminate the stunning work in your collection to its greatest advantage.

If you’d like to see how we light Erin Hanson’s artwork or would like to view her incredible pieces in person, we invite you to any of The Erin Hanson Gallery locations. 


Erin Hanson ArtistERIN HANSON has been painting in oils since she was 8 years old. As a young artist, she worked at a mural studio creating 40-foot-tall paintings on canvas, while selling art commissions on the side. After getting a degree in Bioengineering from UC Berkeley, Erin became a rock climber at Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. Inspired by the colorful scenery she was climbing, she decided to paint one painting every week for the rest of her life. She has stuck to that decision ever since, becoming one of the most prolific artists in history. Erin Hanson's style is known as "Open Impressionism" and is now taught in art schools worldwide. With thousands of collectors eagerly anticipating her work and millions of followers online, Hanson has become an iconic, driving force in the rebirth of contemporary impressionism.

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