The most incredible artwork can be reduced to a mediocre piece if not lit properly. After all, what beauty can be admired in a work of art if hindered by constant glares and scary shadows?  Vibrant abstract works or traditional Radha Krishna paintings can enliven any home, and good lighting will really lift them enhancing the overall effect. Aside from these aesthetic factors, proper lighting also ensures the optimal longevity of your priceless painting, assuring that it can be admired safely for years to come.

We have compiled a comprehensive guide to help you light your artwork so that it looks at its very best:

No matter if you have placed an Old Master’s or a traditional Radha Krishna portrait or a simple DIY painting or any other work of art, our tips will ensure that your piece does not miss the warm focus it deserves:

 Position Art Carefully

Artworks placed in direct sunlight will be exposed to UV and infrared radiation, causing the pigment in the paints and even the prints to fade. To avoid this damage, it is important that you position your paintings away from strong and direct natural light. Also, think before you hang them between large windows, as you will often find yourself struggling to see the art during the day.

Many experts suggest north-facing light as optimal for the artwork, so plan space accordingly. You can also go for a simpler option by choosing a wall space where sunlight doesn’t find itself aiming directly at the surface of the artwork.

Understand The Room’s Balance

Whilst the priceless piece of art should enliven your space, it is likely that it is not the brightest item in the room. So, while lighting your artwork, make sure that the light source brings out the inherent beauty of the piece without undermining its visual qualities. That being said, remember that not all artworks need to be lit unless the lighting of the piece adds to the ambiance of the entire expanse as a whole. Also, make sure to avoid very obvious or intrusive lighting methods and logistics.

Choosing the Right Artificial Light

Remember the rule of thumb — good lighting is one that only draws attention to what it is lighting, rather than itself becoming the focal point. A helpful way to ensure that the colors in your artwork are shown correctly and vibrant is to opt for high Colour Rendering Index (CRI) percentages in the light sources you buy. The closer they are to 100%, the superior color rendition will it offer.

You may find many ways and techniques to light your artwork correctly. However, make sure to never use fluorescent bulbs. This artificial light source is not only too bright but also emits a high level of ultraviolet energy, which accelerates fading and distorts the color of the artwork. A safer option is to use lights that simply replicate daylight.

Though incandescent lights seem like a good option as they cast a warm and comforting glows. However, they can be rather inefficient and display too much warm light which can damage delicate artworks. This when switching to LED lighting makes sense. On a brighter note, LEDs allow better light distribution and last exceptionally long and hardly emits the infrared and ultraviolet rays.

Explore the Lighting Options

  • Ceiling-mounted accent lights

While looking to make art the sole focus, ceiling-mounted accent lights are the best options to go for. Extreme versatile, these fixtures let you adjust the direction of the light and can be easily recessed or surface mounted. Even the bulbs that are compatible with these ceiling-mounted lights provide a range of light-beam spreads, ensuring that it covers the majority of artwork.

However, it is pertinent that you make sure that ceiling-mounted accent lights are placed in a way that the light beam falls exactly at the center of the piece when the fixture is adjusted to a 30-degree angle. If you place lighting at an angle smaller than 30-degrees, you would find long shadows cast below the frame, while anything more than 45-degrees, would create unfavorable reflective glares hindering the art.

  • Picture lights

These fixtures are mounted on the wall space immediately next to the piece or directly on the frames, thereby providing a light source close to the artwork. With a more definite cut-off, picture lights create an intimate display, engaging viewers to go closer, and explore the sense of intimacy with the artwork.

Additionally, the decorative aesthetics of the picture light add to the interior design of the entire room. Using these decorative picture lighting systems is not limited to smaller artwork, as larger picture lights suited for massive paintings are also available in the market. The use of these lights boils down to only one point that if it goes well with the decor of the space and effects that you are trying to achieve.

  • Track lights

The bulky track-lighting acting as a sort of art installation of their own is a thing of the past. Evolving over the years, track-lighting systems are now available with sleek and minimalist iterations. If paired with the right lamps, they can serve the same purpose as those of the ceiling-mounted accent lights.

Far easier to install, changing the bulbs of track lighting systems requires minimal efforts. Also, it allows for future flexibility in case you decide to change the artwork.

  • Wall washers

One of the most favorite options for both indoor and outdoor lighting, wall washers are mostly used for huge artworks that cover the majority of the wall wherein, it creates a well-illuminated wall for any artwork displayed.

Owing to its ability to create a wide and even distribution of light and built-in flexibility which allows for easy addition, removal, or relocation of the art, these are a preferred mode of lighting by contemporary art collections. This lighting system works with the inherent idea that if a wall is even lit, then nothing else really needs to be adjusted.

Consider The Composition

Needless to say that throughout the process of figuring out what kind of illumination best suits the artwork, the main priority is the piece itself. For artworks with darker tones, you need more light than works featuring lighter colored ones, also its surfaces should be considered while choosing for the way it should be lit.

Works with uneven surfaces such as textured acrylic paintings or glossy impasto oil paintings are required to be lit at certain angles else they are significantly affected by the shadows their paints cast. Depending on how the artwork is displayed, ensure that the angle of the lighting is adjusted appropriately so as to minimize or emphasize the shadows created.

Know The Specific Mediums And Their Lighting

Owing to the use of specific mediums, every artwork possesses its own distinctive characteristics and therefore must be considered differently when looking to be displayed in its best light. Here’s a detailed guide for you:

  • Oil paintings

Owing to their longevity, durability, oil paintings can easily be passed down generations and thus are great investments options. However, it is very important that you keep them protected, especially avoid hanging them on a wall where sunlight hits directly as the oil pigments are highly susceptible to cracking due to heat. When it comes to lighting them, you might face issues of glare due to their glossy nature, especially if you lit them with spotlights or bulbs with narrow beam angles. The simple resolution of this problem is to use multiple light sources that are less intense.

  • Acrylic paintings

Unlike oil paintings, you will find that works of acrylic are more forgiving when it comes to problems of reflective glares. So, if you have a traditional decor setup with Radha Krishna paintings done in acrylics, all you need is to ensure optimal lighting. However, be mindful of the CRI percentages and make sure it's close to 100% if possible.

  • Watercolor paintings

Watercolor paintings are usually done on paper, so you will not encounter issues of glare with them but as they have to be protected by glass, you need to plan their lighting accordingly. Always ensure that there is sufficient gap between the light and the artwork so that the heat or UV radiation does not damage it. Alternatively, you can go for installing UV protection or anti-reflection framing glass to achieve the finest illumination for the artwork with the best protection possible.

  • Photographs and Prints

While looking for a lighting setup for photographs and prints, treat them similar to watercolor paintings placed under glass. However, you need to take into account their type of finish as it is likely to be the decisive factor for the glare issues. For example, if you have a print of a Radha Krishna portrait with glossier finish, you will have to treat it with more care than ones with matte finishes.

  • Sculptures

Experts recommend to light sculptures from multiple angles so as to engage the viewers with all of its dimensions. However, lighting for sculptures is the most subjective as it varies significantly from piece to piece. Also, it is more of a personal preference and can easily differ from one to another.

Ensure Even Distribution of Light

Regardless of the medium, across all artworks, it is crucial to ensure that they are evenly illuminated. This is essential not only for showing off the artwork itself, but also to bring out its colors and highlight it’s every nuance and detail. Though there are many ways to light your artworks ranging from one picture light to creating layers of multiple low beam lights, it is essential that you ensure that it is lit evenly from every angle.

Remember even lighting does not always mean choosing the specific light with recommended features for the artwork. Its way beyond than that, it also constitutes pulling light sources away from the position of the painting to avoid distracting shadows as well as installing museum-grade glass to fend off the reflections that would hinder the view.

Get Up Close and Personal

Now, when you pick the right mode of lighting for your artwork and get it installed properly as suggested, test out if it illuminates your artwork by observing it from close as well as from a distance. Sometimes, you may find that an artwork that is well lit up close may not appear so appealing from a distance. This problem is primarily due to its size and texture, and even the frame that holds it can be held accountable for it.

Preference is also an important factor throughout this entire process, some may prefer picture lights for their oversized Radha Krishna paintings while others may like to install spotlights to create a gallery feel, so take time to think how you would like your artwork to be lit with regards to the rest of the room decor.


Don’t let the joy of adding a new piece of artwork to your home be overshadowed by the improper lighting logistics. The way you plan to light your artwork will either accentuate the qualities of the artwork or completely diminish it. No matter how expensive or high-end your artwork is, it will seem to be an ordinary piece if it’s bathed in shadow or aggressively met with direct natural light. So, when planning its illumination, all you need is to attempt to bring out the same compelling effect while displaying the artwork that moved you to purchase it.

Indeed, there’s nothing better than a beautifully (and even too) lit piece of art. But make sure that in the search for the right lighting system for your artwork, you don’t get overindulged — don’t forget that all you want is people to see the artwork, not what’s lighting it.