Picture lights - how to illuminate your paintings and artworks


Here’s everything you need to know about using picture lights to illuminate your artworks...

Picture lights aren’t just for museums and galleries – you can bring a splendid sense of drama to a room by illuminating a favourite painting or photograph with its own special spotlight. If you’ve invested in a valuable artwork you’ll naturally want to highlight it – but any striking print or photo will look even more so under a picture light. However, there are some dos and don’ts. You need to make sure you protect original paintings from light damage, and there are some rules of thumb for correct positioning will give your masterpieces the maximum impact and wow factor. Here’s our handy 7-point guide to everything you need to know about picture lights...

1) Choose the right size picture light

Obviously, the bigger the picture, the more light you’ll need to illuminate it, but it also depends on whether the artwork is in a portrait or landscape format. There are a couple of rules of thumb for getting the size right:
  • For portrait pictures, choose a picture light that’s about half the width of the picture.
  • For landscape pictures, choose a picture light that’s between a third and a half of the picture width.


2) Use a picture light with an LED bulb

The days when energy-efficient bulbs were inferior to incandescent bulbs are thankfully behind us. Museums and galleries now routinely use modern LED bulbs - and with good reason. They don’t give off heat, they are extremely cheap to run and they last for ages. Good LED bulbs also provide a clear, white or warm white light that’s perfect for pictures. As for how much light you need from the bulb, there’s another rule of thumb: you want to illuminate the artwork with about three times more brightly than the rest of the room. 


3) Use a picture light with a high Colour Rendering Index (CRI)

The Colour Rendering Index (CRI) indicates how ‘accurate’ a light source is at rendering colours. It’s a percentage scale from 0 to 100, with 100 being perfect. For most bulbs around the house the CRI isn’t all that important - brightness and warmth tend to matter more. But for illuminating artworks it can make all the difference. A CRI of 80 and upwards is what you’re looking for. (Pooky's picture lights all come with light sources with a CRI of 80+.)

4) Position the picture light correctly over the artwork

The goal when positioning a picture light over an artwork is an even spread of light over the whole of the picture, avoiding as far as possible a ‘hot spot’ on the top half. You can achieve this by placing the picture light centrally above the picture, and at a 30 to 35 degree angle to minimise glare.


5) Hang artworks at the right height

According to Michelle and Melissa, the art and interiors experts at AttikoArt, the number one mistake people make when hanging artworks in their homes is to position them too high. The centre of a picture should be at eye level, or even lower in a sitting room where most of your time is spent low down on sofas. Not too high (see AttikoArt) - centre of pic at eye level, or even lower in a sitting room when most people are sitting on sofas

6) ‘Tie’ artworks to furniture

Another top tip from AttikoArt is to ‘tie’ artworks to accompanying furniture beneath them - whether chairs, tables or sideboards and cabinets. As Michelle explains it: “think of your furniture and art as one single block, not as two separate, unrelated, objects. They have to ‘hang together’ spatially – and you won’t get that if the canvas is closer to the ceiling than it is to the furniture below it. Voila!”

7) Protect your pictures from direct sunlight

A final, very important tip: keep artworks, especially paintings, away from direct sunlight to avoid damage. Picture lights are great for rooms or corners with limited natural light - which is just how you want it if you’ve got a masterpiece to show off.

Pooky’s picture lights

We’ve introduced two new styles of picture light into our range. The Turner picture light comes in two sizes and two finishes (antique brass and brushed chrome). The Blake comes in the same two finishes but in three sizes. They’re lovely and unobtrusive, meaning that your artworks enjoy all the limelight... Browse Pooky's full range of affordable designer wall lights here.