Since my work is normally hung on walls, either framed or not framed, this post addresses the many issues one should consider to properly light a piece of art. The information can apply to prints as well as original works.
Incandescent bulbs used in ceiling spot lights, especially the natural sunlight variety, are good but are a vanishing breed thanks to Uncle Sam. I’m not a fan of the fluorescent bulbs as they do strange things to colors. If fluorescent bulbs are all you can find when replacing a burned-out bulb in a fixture that has a regular sized socket, then look for a full spectrum bulb or natural sunlight type. Perhaps this might be a good time to switch out the light fixture and replace it with one that can use LED lights.
Please avoid halogen bulbs at all costs because they produce a lot of heat and UV rays and can actually damage many original works as well as prints. Xenon bulbs are a good choice since they are cooler in temperature and provide a nice full spectrum light. The absolute best would be LED lighting as it is free of UV light that causes so much damage. Both the LED and Xenon bulbs are cool and inexpensive to operate!
The Xenon bulbs and LED bulbs are much more expensive to purchase than the other choices, however, you’ll be better off in the long run knowing you haven’t damaged your art.
If you are installing something new you have the opportunity to get a good lighting source that you’ll be happy with for years. There are some nice small ceiling mount fixtures now available that are very energy efficient as well as decorative exterior mount ceiling fixtures. Just remember, placement of the fixture is also important.
When positioning your lighting in relation to the piece of artwork consider several variables. To help reduce glare, place the light at a 30-degree angle from the piece. Add 5 degrees to the angle for a larger frame, which helps to avoid casting a shadow. Reduce 5 degrees from the position if you are trying to accent the texture of a painting (see figure 1).Museums advise the lighting be 30 percent brighter than the ambient light in your room. Hmmmmm what exactly does this mean?!? Too much light is just as bad as too little light. Have you ever sat somewhere and you ended up being “spotlighted”? Nasty shadows, too bright reflections, and heat. Your art will experience all of these so play around with different bulb wattages and think about using a dimmer switch.I hope this has been helpful!Happy Thanksgiving everyone and remember to tell someone you are thankful for them!