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How to Shop for Picture Lights

Buyer's Guide: Picture Lights
House of Troy Picture Light

What Is A Picture Light?

A picture light is a shaded metal light fixture that projects over and illuminates a painting or other wall art. It provides optimal viewing conditions for paintings in both galleries and homes. A perfect picture light will never obstruct the observer’s view of the art. Its sleek and low-profile design is aimed to focus the viewer’s attention on the picture alone and not on the fixture itself.

A state-of-the-art projection light not only accents your artwork, but can cast a square, rectangle, or any four-sided polygon-shaped illumination that stops at the edges of your picture, giving paintings and drawings a self-luminating effect.

Mounting Options/Types

Wall or ceiling mounted picture lights are more professional in appearance and function than their clamp-on counterparts. Since they are mounted directly to the wall, you can choose the height that is exactly right for your artwork.

Clamp on picture lights come with one or two variable clamps or spring clamps. Their main benefit is their portability. They usually clip onto the frame of the picture, or they can be attached to a table, desk, shelf, bar, or pole. Clamp on picture lights can also be fastened to an easel, allowing the artist get the best focused light and see every brushstroke clearly.

Freestanding picture lights offer convenience by having the ability to stand on their own.

Plug in picture lights can be plugged directly into a standard power outlet but will have an exposed cord. Hardwire picture lights may be more difficult to install because they are hardwired directly into an electrical box. You will need to have an electrical box in place to install this type of picture light.Battery operated picture lights do not have cords to worry about and do not need to be wired to anything. They will be easily installed, but require batteries to work.

Adjustability and Flexibility

When choosing a picture light, you should consider fixtures with one or more of the following features: adjustable arm, adjustable diffuser, multi-position joint, telescoping arm, barn door, or projection lens. These options can all help you direct the light exactly where you need it. Highly adjustable picture lights can twist, turn, swivel, and bend.

A dimming control is another feature worth having. Whether the sun is shining or it’s gray and drizzling, whatever the time of day or night, you can adjust the light to always bring out the best of your artwork. Some picture lights even include a remote dimmer control for added convenience.

Details and Decisions

A picture light should always be directed toward the picture in such a manner that the bulb remains invisible to the viewer. It should be positioned so glare and reflection are minimized or avoided completely.

The use of true daylight bulbs with color temperatures between 3500K and 4100K is generally recommended by major museums for lighting artwork. Potentially harmful ultraviolet and infrared lights should be avoided, and paintings should always be hung out of direct sunlight.

Choose the details that matter to you, and purchase the picture lights that best suit your needs while beautifully displaying your personal art collection!

Measure the width of your art and use the following rules to determine the length of your picture light.

  •            - For a frame 8 to 14 inches wide, use a 4 1/2 inch light.
  •            - For a frame 12 to 18 inches wide, use a 5 1/2 inch light.
  •            - For a frame 16 to 24 inches wide, use a 7 to 9 inch light.
  •            - For a frame 25 to 37 inches wide, use a 14 1/2 to 16 inch light.
  •            - For a frame more than 35 inches wide, find a 30 inch light.
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