How to Achieve Perfect Lighting in your Art Studio

By Nicole Tinkham


When rearranging or setting up your art studio for the first time, one of the main dilemmas you will run into is lighting. That’s because there are so many different factors to consider. There’s natural lighting, artificial lighting, light positioning, lighting color temperature, and more. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, you also have to consider your lighting needs. For example, the ideal lighting for hanging a picture is completely different than that used for painting a picture. As always, we’re here to help! Before getting too involved in the set up, make sure to read this blog for tips and tricks to achieving the perfect lighting in your art studio.

North Light

North light refers to the location of the sun in the sky. Painting in North light is ideal because it helps eliminate direct sunlight shining into the studio. This type of light is more constant than the ever-changing sunlight, making it the preferred studio light.

If you are striving for North light, you will want your window above your easel. This window should be at a 35° angle from your canvas. This will allow you to get great lighting without the glare. Beware of bounced light though. This happens when the window is too low and the light hits the top of the ceiling and reflects down into the studio.

Color Temperature

As you’re familiar with warm and cool paint colors, there are also warm and cool lighting environments. This is affected by the change in light throughout the day, the time of year, weather conditions, and your location. Natural light changes little by little throughout the day so chances are you won’t notice the change right away. To help with changing colors, you may want to use a combination of natural and artificial lighting.

With artificial lighting, you’ll be faced with choosing lamps that have their own color temperature. Lamp color temperature is measured on a scale with higher numbers resulting in cooler, bluer light. This scale came about through the heating of carbon. When carbon is heated at different temperatures, it produces different colors. To understand color temperature better, here’s a breakdown of warm and cool lighting and how to achieve each.


Types of Bulbs

If you decide to focus on artificial light, there are many different options. Here are the main lamps to keep an eye out for.

• Incandescent: These are your typical household lamps that aren’t a great choice in the studio. These will produce cooler paintings than what you probably care for. Incandescent lighting is becoming more and more a thing of the past with new energy-saving options.

• Compact Fluorescent: These are the energy-efficient replacements of the incandescent lamps mentioned above. They will fit in your standard light fixtures but save energy and last much longer.

• Halogen: We’re not going to get into the science of halogen lamps. Just remember that they are smaller than your ordinary household light bulbs (often used in track lighting) and will give you a warmer color temperature.

• Full Spectrum Halogen: Want museum style lighting to display your paintings? You will want to purchase some Solux bulbs (which may be a little pricey). While these bulbs are great for displaying purposes, you may not want to use them in the studio because of the “spot effect”.

• Full Spectrum Fluorescent Tubes: These will illuminate the whole space, being the next best thing to natural North light.


Above we talked about the science of light but something that you may overthink is how light affects the style of painting. For example, with Impressionistic painting, your main priority is illuminating the space so reflected light can work to your advantage. However, if dramatic lighting is something you want to achieve, this reflected light could cause problems. You may have to adjust your windows to get the ideal lighting for your style. For example, you can cover the bottom half of a large, low window. This way you’re getting a higher light, which will prevent shadows. We recommend experimenting with covering up windows (or parts of windows) until you are happy with the result.

Hanging Paintings

Have you ever hung a painting and thought it looked completely different when you were painting it on your easel? You’re not going crazy, this often happens when the lighting in which the painting is hung is different than the lighting in the studio. For example, if you paint in a bright studio, you’ll notice that when hung in an area with softer bulbs, subtle tones in the painting may disappear. The best way to avoid this surprise is to take note of where the painting will be hung before beginning.

After all that, would you agree that lighting in the studio is extremely important? Our intentions aren’t to stress you out but to inform you of things to consider before setting up your studio. To narrow it down, the main things you must think about are the positioning of natural light, lighting temperature (warm vs cool), and bulb choices. If you need any further help, feel free to stop in and visit our art department or give us a call (941-747-2995).

Please comment below (or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter) with any studio lighting tips you would like to share!

One thought on “How to Achieve Perfect Lighting in your Art Studio

  1. This articles are so good. This is the first time I’ve ever seen all this information in one place and the added photos of studios are interesting. This gives me more confidence in choosing light for my work.

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