A few weeks ago, I talked about ways to light your art studio. One thing I didn’t mention in that post was the brightness of the lights you use. So today I want to answer the question, can studio lighting be too bright, and share some of the reasons that’s important.
How the Brightness of Light is Measured
The brightness of light is measured by something called the Kelvin Color Temperature rating. The color rating is a four-digit number ending in the letter K, and ranging from low to high. The higher the number, the brighter the light.
Natural sunlight on a clear day is about 5,000K and is about as bright as light gets.
The Kelvin scale also reflects the color of the light. The higher the rating, the whiter the light. Light rated lower on the Kelvin scale is more yellow. A 5000K bulb produces whiter light than a 2700K bulb.
So those sulfur street lights that used to be so popular are quite low on the Kelvin scale, while the white LED street lights now in popular use have a higher rating.
As a point of reference, a standard household fluorescent is 3500K.
Can Studio Lighting be Too Bright?
The brightness of your lighting affects the look of your work. Yes, bright is good, but it turns out there is such a thing as too bright. Here are a couple of reasons why.
The Brightness of Your Lighting Affects Your Color Choices.
When studio lighting is too bright, it makes your paper look brighter, and that makes all the colors you put on the paper look brighter. The natural response is choosing darker colors so they look right as you work on them.
The problem is that when you see the artwork in normal lighting, then all those colors appear as they really are. That medium blue that looked perfect under bright light is suddenly a bit drab in normal lighting.
Of course that applies to all the colors you chose, with the end result that your drawings look subdued.
And all because your studio light was too bright.
Lighting that’s Too Bright Also Affects How You See and Draw Values
What applies to color applies to values, too. Even for under drawings drawn in a single color, working under light that’s too bright influences the darkness of the values. Shadows become too dark and highlights may disappear altogether.
It’s very difficult to make dark values lighter with colored pencil. It’s also difficult to replace highlights once you’ve lost them, so getting too dark early in a drawing makes making adjustments later on difficult.
Is Your Studio Lighting Too Bright?
It’s easy to tell. Display several finished pieces so you can see them all together. Are they darker than you intended? If most of those pieces look darker than you prefer, then it’s possible your studio lighting is too bright.
Comparing finished pieces seen in normal lighting to the original reference photo is also helpful. If the finished piece is drab or dark when compared to the reference photo when you view both in normal lighting, then chances are your studio is too brightly lighted.
There’s a lot more to consider when it comes to properly lighting your studio.
You also need to consider the color of the lighting, as well as the position and angle of the lighting relative to your drawing surface.
But most of us think first about brightness and most of us think that brighter is better.
So I hope I’ve given you helpful information before you rush out and buy the brightest light you can find!