​5 Art Lighting Tips from Expert David Munson

​5 Art Lighting Tips from Expert David Munson

5 Art Lighting Tips from Expert David Munson

Photography of Grayscale Portraits on Wall

 There are many reasons why we purchase artwork for our homes, offices, or other spaces: to add color, to present a piece of work that means something to us, or just to simply fill up wall space. Regardless, there is always an intent behind purchasing and hanging up art. Just think: Why did you purchase that painting hanging in your hallway or above the sofa in the living room? There is always a reason!

But many don’t consider illuminating their hung artwork. Yet, museums and professional artists often go the extra mile to ensure hung art is properly lit for full enjoyment. Fortunately, lighting expert David Munson has useful art lighting tips to ensure we all can have professional-illuminated art in our own homes!

1. Think of the possibilities for different art light options.

This tip that Munson suggests should be one of your initial steps before committing to any art light fixture. However, one of the most important parts of deciding what type of lighting is most relevant is considering the size of your space and how much art you’re seeking to incorporate.

Munson mentions that track lighting is a great option if you have many hung pieces of art on the wall and/or plan to move around your art or switch it out from time to time. Tracking lighting hangs from the ceiling and offers several bulbs that can be adjusted to point at different directions, making them ideal if you have art of all different heights and sizes on your wall. Opting for a picture light for each of your hung works of art would be expensive, unattractive, and inconvenient, especially if you wish to swap out art. But as a downside, track lighting tends to require a decent amount of ceiling space. Having ceilings that are very low may not be as attractive with track lighting.

However, if you only have one or a few pictures you want to illuminate, a picture light would be your better option. Otherwise, track lighting would be a waste illuminating things that are not even there, but with a picture light, you would save more on your energy bills and have illumination on in the one or few areas where you actually need it.

2. Know how art lighting works.

Munson makes a great point that artwork shouldn’t be the brightest thing in the room, and not to mention, that not all pieces should be illuminated. Instead, one should seek to light their works of art as naturally as possible. It should draw eyes in without acting as a distraction. Art should pop out without being extraordinarily loud or annoying.

adult architecture art

But as expected, darker works of art would not only be more likely to need art lighting to begin would but would also need brighter lighting. Typically, people enjoy art lighting that is slightly brighter or slightly less bright than the ambient (overall) lighting in their space.

If you plan on only turning on your picture lights or track lights at nighttime or when the room’s lights are off or dimmed, consider opting for the less-bright spectrum. If your space is fill with sufficient natural lighting, consider opting for lights with bulbs that are warmer in temperature to ensure they stand out.

3. Keep the artwork’s frame and any surfaces in mind.

Without considering the frame or surface of your work of art, if applicable, there’s a chance you may not only be buying a light fixture of a non-matching finish/material but may also potentially risk reflection onto your artwork.

Munson suggests that if you have a piece of art that is covered with glass, you’ll want to opt for a lighting angle that isn’t as steep. Additionally, he mentions that oil paintings and textured acrylics are prone to the effects of cast shadows. That said, lighting types and angles definitely matter when it comes to lighting art.

At any time you’re having trouble deciding what type of lighting to implement into your space or even how to install it, be sure to turn to lighting expert for the proper advice and/or professional installation. When in doubt, always ask for help. It’s better than buying the wrong light or installing it incorrectly.

4. Ensure the entire work of art is properly illuminated.

One big mistake, apart from not lighting up artwork that deserves it, is installing art lights that don’t illuminate an entire work of art. To only light up, for instance, half a work of art isn’t going to provide purpose, nor will it look attractive. In this case, this means you’ve picked out the wrong light for your work of art. Instead, take the time to learn how a certain bulb will work to illuminate your art.

art colors design

Interestingly, Munson suggests that if you don’t have the proper space available for lighting above a work of art, consider installing lighting below the artwork. If neither are suitable options, you may want to give track lighting a go as this is installed from the ceiling.

Apart from ensuring that illumination is thorough throughout your work of art, also confirm that your artwork is lit the way you imagined. Work that is too dimly lit won’t make much of a difference in your space while work that is very bright may appear too obnoxious, thus, increasing risks of eyestrain and headaches – not very favorable or aesthetic.

5. Never make use of incandescent lighting for art.

Regardless of what others may say, Munson makes it loud and clear to never, ever use incandescent lighting for artwork, that is, if you plan to enjoy it for many years to come! Some, however, may have the misconception that just because incandescent light bulbs offer love UV emission that this means that they are safe for even tougher works of art. Wrong.

Apart from UV radiation, heat is a crucial factor to weight when picking the right bulb for art. Incandescent lighting over or near artwork can radiate just enough heat to quickly damage your prized pieces. The heat from incandescent lighting alone has the power to crack varnish and fade once-vivid colors. The more delicate your work of art, the more permanent damage that could result from this type of lighting. That said, your best bet would be just to play it safe and not opt for incandescent lighting for your art lighting needs at all.

On the bright side (no pun intended), LED lighting – because it utilizes little UV radiation and emits very little heat – is the best option when it comes illuminating works of art. Best of all, LED lighting is simply gorgeous and comes in a plethora of temperatures from warm to bright white. At Cocoweb, we specialize in LED lighting. We see it as the safest, most energy-efficient source of lighting out there. Plus, you get cheaper energy bills as an added bonus! You just can’t go wrong with LED.


Lighting artwork is a great way to make a piece pop and to immerse yourself into deeper, more thorough enjoyable of the work hung in your space. After taking David Munson’s tips, your next step is to implement art lighting of your own. If you’re interested in doing such, check out Cocoweb.com as we have thousands of art lights, including picture lights, available. Please get in contact with our team if you have questions regarding art lighting.

8th Aug 2018 Priscilla E

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