“There’s nothing better than a beautifully lit piece of art,” says Richard Mishaan, an Architectural Digest 100 designer known for incorporating artworks into his projects. Oftentimes, incorrect lighting techniques take away from the beauty of the artwork — the glory is in highlighting the desired facets and intricate details in the best way possible.
Although there are multiple products and techniques for lighting art, this blog will discuss two broad categories of lights that can be appropriately used to light wall art. Every light provides varying light effects based on the space and artwork, and no option is better than the other, but rather depends on the user’s preferences.
1. Recessed Adjustable Downlights
When spaces have a false ceiling, these lights can be recessed into the ceiling, providing light from a discrete source. There are two types of these fixtures:
- Adjustable / tiltable downlights
In these fixtures, the source of the light is tilted to give an asymmetric beam of light. They are recommended when an artwork can be lit from close proximity. They also create a pronounced arch of light, which is called a scallop, as seen in the image below.
- Wall washer downlights
Unlike the adjustable downlights, wall washers are fixed asymmetric lights. In order to avoid scallop formation on the wall art, these products are fitted with a spreader lens — it provides consistent and saturated illumination across the entire surface being lit, washing it with light uniformly, exemplified in the image below. This uniform wash across the entire wall makes them useful when wall art is changing — there’s no need to alter the lights.
When false ceilings are unavailable or the space requires special flexibility with light, these surface-mounted lights called projectors can be used. They can be mounted on tracks, thus providing flexibility of relocation, or can be mounted on the ceiling. The track-mounted version offers additional flexibility for the movement of these lights and can be an efficient solution for projects where wall art is changing. Based on the preferred lighting for each artwork, these lights can be installed at differing offset distances. There are three types of such fixtures:
- Adjustable projectors
These fixtures provide a conical beam of light, making their effect very similar to that of the adjustable downlights discussed above. The additional advantage is that they can tilt and pan, providing extra flexibility towards aiming. These projectors also cast a scallop on the surface being lit.
- Wall wash projector
As the name suggests, these projectors have a similar lighting effect as that of the recessed wall washers — a spreader lens is used to provide an even saturated light on the wall with soft edges. They provide additional flexibility since they too can tilt and pan.
- Framing Projector or Beam Shapers
These products allow wall art to be highlighted extremely well by playing with high and low contrasts on the wall — it casts a hard-edged beam of light that is framed to the edges of the artwork with no light spill-out, as seen in the photo below. Circular and four-sided artworks are framed using adjustable fins external to the spotlight, and 100% of the light is restricted within that shape, illuminating the wall art without light spilling onto the wall behind.
The aforementioned lights have unique benefits, but there are technical factors that should be considered when choosing the best product to light your wall art. One such factor is the offset distance possible in the space and the corresponding offset distance recommended for each product category. The offset distance is the distance between the wall and the light, measured in orange in the image below. It is different for each light depending on the size of the artwork and the height of the wall.
When using recessed adjustable lights in a room of height 2.4–3.0 meters, an offset of 450 mm is recommended, while a recessed wall washer used in the same room would require an offset and interspacing of 900 x 900 mm. Projectors offer the highest amount of flexibility when it comes to light installations. They can be installed as close as 600mm from the wall up to any distance required for the desired aim. It is also recommended to use specific angles and offsets to prevent human intervention between the beam of light and the artwork.
There are a variety of options available to light up wall art, and following good lighting practices will enable you to enhance your everyday visual experience. LSI offers multidimensional lighting tools and support to aid your desired design and bring it to life.