How to Choose a Picture Lighting

Jun 27


Igor Grand

Igor Grand

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In a beautiful and expensive repair, there is always a place for various interior decorations. A significant role in decorating the premises is played by artworks. However, the beauty of the painting often fades with the onset of the evening or simply because the canvas does not receive proper lighting. We will discuss in this article how to fix this.


It is easy to understand that the presence of the picture itself is a certain accent in the design of the room,How to Choose a Picture Lighting Articles and therefore its visual tonality should be easily perceived. People often underestimate the importance of lighting fixtures, considering them only luxury and a tribute to fashion. In fact, they allow the most profitable presentation of everything that is worthy of the attention of the viewer but often remains undeservedly ignored. In addition, the skillful illumination of works of art, even if the authorship of little-known masters, always makes the interior more interesting, deeper, and richer in every sense.


Influencing factors


When illuminating a picture, the following five factors are important:

  • placement of the canvas relative to window openings and sources of artificial light;
  • the color scheme of the work of art and the presence of small details in the image;
  • the type of lamp that will address the picture;
  • the level of color rendering of the light bulb installed in the lighting device;
  • the angle of incidence of the rays on the canvas, comfortable for the perception of the picture.

Of course, these are far from all the nuances that need to be taken into account when setting up your picture light, however, most things to consider are rather technical. For example, this category should include the laying of communications. It is highly desirable, long before the start of finishing work, to decide which walls will be set aside for canvases, and at what height each of them will hang. With this information, it is possible to lay all the cables and wires on the walls in advance in such a way that later the craftsmen only have to fix the backlights in their places. It is unlikely that anyone will like to watch the electric wires stretching along the walls right between the elegant canvases.


Depending on the size, color scheme, and plot, the paintings can solve many situational aesthetic problems. In some situations, they perfectly help zone the space, in others, they determine the functional purpose of objects standing nearby, in the third, they help to decorate the empty area of the room. We also should not forget that professional designers think through the compatibility of canvases with colors in the interior - with pillows, a shade of cabinet furniture, wall decoration, etc. That is, the role of the picture and its dimensions should also be known in advance in order to understand which picture lighting fixtures best to help complement the situation. For example, for a large canvas or a huge wall-sized work, it makes no sense to try to organize a directional spotlight - it will not only be ineffective, but even comical in its own way. Much more appropriate in such a situation is a large art light with a sufficient number of cartridges and bright lamps that give a soft uniform illumination of the room.


In turn, small paintings, photographs or entire groups of small canvases just makes sense to try to illuminate purposefully. For this, track lights are perfect, which can take up not very much space on the ceiling and do not look bulky, but at the same time provide a sufficient number of directional sources within the same design. In some cases, general light from a chandelier is also allowed to illuminate groups of works, but this most often applies to still lifes, where up to 80% of the canvas is occupied by only one or two large objects in the foreground.


Of course, we have not forgotten about the special lights on the arm, which are made from the very beginning to illuminate works of fine art. They are suitable for the vast majority of paintings ranging in size from 30x50 to 50x90 cm - and canvases with a similar form factor are the most common. However, it must be remembered that each lighting requires its own power line, pre-laid in the wall.




Picture Lights Color Rendering


Next, let's talk about color rendering. It will hardly surprise anyone that for maximum effect, LED bulbs should only be used with the highest available CRI index. For example, 80 units is considered the minimum allowable limit, but the recommended figure is 90 units and above. Agree, that it is stupid to illuminate a bright interesting canvas, embodying the original ideas of the author, with faded rays that only harm the perception of the image. Moreover, an incorrect transfer of the original colors can generally distort the idea of the master, which is completely unacceptable.


In the same context, I should mention the recommended color temperature. Often, artists try to work in daylight or even outdoors, which leads to only one “correct” lighting range - close to natural daylight. Light bulbs with a neutral glow color can have a fairly large variation in color temperature (more than two thousand degrees), and therefore it is better to select a specific shade already in place, experimentally. In addition, depending on the volume of the room, the allowable interval may shift slightly. So, for a large canvas in a large hall, a temperature of 4000-4500 K is usually suitable, for a medium canvas in a spacious room - 3500-4000 K, and for a medium or small canvas in a small apartment - 3000-3500 K. All these changes are related to how the volume of rooms is perceived and what is the possible reflected illumination from surrounding objects.


Of course, a critical analysis of the situation should also be made. Blindly following the instructions from the Internet, which are given by people who have never seen your picture in their lives, is pointless. Not a single, even the most highly qualified specialist, lighting designer or interior designer can give a universal remote answer, which shade is best to illuminate the canvas in your home. It is wiser to look for the optimal combination, taking as a basis some of the most common values and balancing them in accordance with the situation. Properly selected interior lighting must form the correct perception of the picture from the observer, correctly convey the color gamut and at the same time not overstrain the organs of vision. This is the only way to enjoy the image and the very idea invested by the master in his canvas.


Separately, it should be clearly indicated that in modern times the use of incandescent bulbs for the purposes under consideration is not just bad manners, but the potential damage to the paintings themselves. Thermal radiation from such models leads to cracking of the paint and fading of the canvas. The so-called energy-saving CFL models are a good, but still, far from ideal alternative, they also heat up significantly: however, not so much with the bulb as with the cartridge itself. In turn, halogen lamps, in which things are better with heat dissipation, suffer from color rendering that is uncomfortable for the eyes, certain cyanosis of the glow - is completely eliminated only in the most expensive models. However, why overpay if semiconductor products have long been invented? Today, there are LED light bulbs with warm, cold and neutral glow color, which practically do not heat up during operation, have high color rendering and are extremely energy efficient.


When choosing a light source for a picture, you definitely should not be stingy. Such products are purchased for many years, they do not undergo any non-standard wear and tear and are able to serve for decades if they initially had decent quality. In addition, in this context, models are needed, albeit from well-known brands, but with an extremely simple design - and therefore the prices for them will not be exorbitant.


Variety of lighting options


Although for a very long time picture lighting itself was considered a rather classic element, lately more and more designers have resorted to bold experiments with it. For example, a thin LED strip is built into the picture frame, which provides illumination from the inside, or the entire canvas is illuminated not from above, but from below, forming a non-standard vision of the image. It is extremely difficult to talk about technical or visual advantages in such a context since the lines between what is allowed and what is prohibited are blurred.


Among the worthy variations on a well-known theme, one can name, first of all, the use of track lights when illuminating one canvas from different sides, a group of small paintings, or flood lighting for a full-wall panel. Perhaps it is these devices that give the lighting system maximum flexibility and allow you to achieve different perceptions of the work with a minimum of effort. They are equally well suited for narrow and wide rooms, and for small and large rooms, which should be attributed to the advantages of such models.


For abstract paintings or simply decorative images, where the correct color reproduction is not so important, and the main impression is formed not by the content, but by the surroundings, in general, you can come up with countless lighting options. For example, the use of small LED strips looks quite interesting, which are fixed on the outside of the frame and illuminate not the picture itself, but the space around it. This forms an atmosphere of mystery, makes the art lighting unlike anything familiar, and at the same time looks equally good both day and night.


In futuristic and loft interiors, another solution with indirect lighting is used. The lighting sources are sconce lamps with a minimalist appearance, which are placed on both sides of the frame. Thus, the picture turns out to be formally illuminated, but only side rays will fall on it. Such solutions look extremely stylish in combination with works in black and white graphic design or simply with pencil portraits.


There are situations when on a long wall along the passage zone where furniture cannot be placed, a whole group of paintings is hung, interspersed with lamps. Faced with a similar task, it is important to correctly calculate the height of the fixtures. On the one hand, they cannot be hung low so that there is no danger of catching the device when walking around the house, and on the other hand, the light bulb level should fall in the middle of the picture or be slightly higher than it. Some people recklessly raise the light source above the frame and get a frankly stupid situation. It can be saved only by the fact that another one is placed above the upper tier of canvases, and a decorative baguette shelf is invented under the lower one, which is equipped with a bright LED strip for hidden illumination, shining from bottom to top.


Another aspect is the correct combination of the geometry of the room, the paintings in it, and the way of lighting. The canvases should be placed symmetrically with respect to the center line of the room and hung so that the center of the plot is just above the eyes. You can lower the works a little lower only if we are talking about a panel consisting of several interconnected paintings. At the ends of long and narrow rooms, it is worth hanging canvases that visually expand them, and in a room with low ceilings - vertically oriented canvases. Moreover, in both cases, the works should be illuminated not from below or from the sides, but from above, so that at first glance we perceive the volume as more balanced. Remember that paintings hanging too low always look bad - there are simply no good situations for this. Weigh all the pros and cons for each possible option - and feel free to start decorating your home.