Museums Use Picture Lights for their Artwork and You Should Too

Museums Use Picture Lights for their Artwork and You Should Too

living room with ceiling lights

(Image Source: Pinterest/

Your artwork deserves recognition. Whether the product of your own creation, a piece you commissioned, or something you picked up at your favorite home décor retailer, you’ve already made the effort to devote precious wall space to that painting. But don’t stop there! Your painting demands proper lighting to tell its full story—that’s where picture lights come in. A mainstay in professional art galleries and world renown museums, picture lights have a proven track record of enhancing the natural beauty of artwork. Read on for ideas to incorporate this essential art gallery fixture in your home.

living room with picture light

Consider your lighting goals

One thing to think about when planning the lighting in tandem with your artwork is the overall goal of the two. Do you want the artwork (or artworks) to be the ultimate focus of the room? Or do you prefer that the artwork blend into the room and act as one piece of the greater whole?

If your aim is to have the artwork take center stage, consider combining multiple forms of light to really enhance the painting and draw attention to the piece. A ceiling-mounted spotlight paired with a slim wall-mounted picture light will dramatically brighten the painting, calling attention to the canvas.

On the other hand, if you desire a subtler route, a single picture light should do the job. Its size and lighting radius is generally sufficient enough to allow a viewer to admire the artwork in all its detail up close without allowing the art to command all the attention in the room. This is an excellent option if you’re prioritizing the overall room ambience over an art gallery feel.

picture light

How picture lighting enhances (but doesn’t compete with!) artwork

In an artwork and lighting duo, the artwork is the superhero and the lighting the sidekick. Never should a picture light detract from or compete with the artwork itself—and don’t worry, it never will. By its very nature, picture lights are versatile and adaptable because:

  • Their hardware and finish coordinate with your room décor. Make your lighting work with the artwork and the rest of the room by coordinating its color and/or finish with the overall room décor. Your room has predominant blue tones? Go with a matching chrome. Or maybe the other light fixtures, or even the frame of the painting itself, is an oil-rubbed bronze. If that’s the case, opt for a picture light in bronze as well.
  • They enhance the colors in artwork. Art does its best with the right lighting, and picture lights are designed just for that. Even the finest masterpieces will look dull and drab without the enhancement of natural-looking light.
  • Their color temperature is optimized to work with—not against—the artwork. Picture light color temperature is designed specifically to work with wall-mounted artwork. Whereas cheap LED lighting will wash out the colors in a painting (imparting the dreaded hospital or doctor’s office effect), picture lights emit warmer light to enhance the predominant color schemes in artwork—more on LED lighting’s role in that below.
  • They can be mounted to the wall or attached directly to the artwork. In a perfect world, the design of each room in our home would be planned far in advance. If you’re lucky enough to have planned ahead, Cocoweb’s picture lights can be customized to mount directly to the wall. If you need artwork lighting on the fly, however, our picture lights can also be designed to attach directly to the back of the artwork frame.

fireplace and picture light

The benefits of choosing LED picture lights

Art gallery lights have been moving away from incandescent/halogen lighting and towards LED lighting, with good reason. In fact, all Cocoweb’s customizable picture lights are LED-based because LED lights are:

  • Safe for artwork. LED picture lights emit low amounts of infrared rays, no UV rays, and significantly less heat than traditional incandescent bulbs. The most obvious benefit? The longevity of your valued artwork. Over time, LED lights won’t risk damaging works, versus traditional halogen/incandescent lights which can cause mediums such as oil paint to crack and fade.
  • Better than natural lighting. LED lights emulate the desirable color and softness of natural light without the damage that the sun’s UV rays can cause. Displaying your artwork in direct sunlight is not recommended as this carries similar risks to using incandescent lighting: damage, cracking, and color fading among others. Displaying artwork next to, between, or opposite from sunlit windows may also detract from viewing appeal, as the contrast can wash out the artwork (and blind the viewer).
  • Highly energy efficient and long lasting. Our LED picture lights are so energy efficient that they can last up to twenty years. Economical and environmentally-conscious, LED lights use significantly less energy than traditional bulbs, meaning less impact on the environment and less money wasted on replacement lights!


(Image Source: Onojeghuo)

How museums and professional art galleries do it

Even museums and professional art galleries are transitioning to LED lighting due to the benefits described above. After all, a long-lasting LED light means less time and money wasted on replacing them, in addition to the benefit of preserving the longevity of their art collections. It’s safe to say that LED lighting is museum-approved!

According to the Museums Association, LED lighting, including picture lights, have evolved to a satisfactory level. Good quality LED lighting is no longer cost prohibitive, and therefore prestigious museums such as the National Gallery of London have been transitioning to LED lighting in some of their galleries. As preexisting halogen lighting reaches the end of their lifespans, museums are opting to replace them with LED lights.

It makes a lot of sense to trust museum authority. Stephen Cannon-Brookes of Cannon-Brookes Lighting & Design asserts that “Color is very important for collections such as paintings, which suggests color rendering should be the priority.” Originally this meant sticking to traditional bulbs (halogen/incandescent), but since museums have been transitioning to LED, it’s safe to conclude that even with color rendering in mind as a top priority, LED is a viable option.

And another note on cost. An article on LED lighting from Museums Association cites the deputy director general of the National Museum Wales as saying that switching to LED lighting will help potentially reduce their energy costs by around 50%. That figure is hard to ignore.

By the way, it’s worth mentioning that Cocoweb’s picture lights are museum grade!

In conclusion

Suitable for both the novice collector and the die-hard connoisseur, LED picture lights are the ideal solution for displaying artwork in your home or office. Amazingly versatile, environmentally-friendly, and visually appealing, LED picture lights bring forward the best version of your artwork, elevating both the individual pieces and the room as a whole. For a selection of LED picture lights that suits all sizes of galleries and artworks, shop Cocoweb’s customizable picture lights today and find the perfect lighting solution for your home.

27th Mar 2018 Ann Smarty

Recent Posts