How to Light Your Art Studio

Today’s post comes in response to a reader question that asks one of the most important questions any artist can ask: How to Light Your Art Studio.

Hi Carrie,

I reviewed some of your newsletters I get but didn’t see any thing on lighting. I’m curious about desktop lighting and whether your have any recommendations on the best way to go for desktop lamps.

If you have any adviceā€”or even resources you can point me too, I’d appreciate it.

Thanks so much.

Tom

How to Light Your Art Studio

First of all, I want to thank Tom for his question. It’s a fantastic question.

And he was right. As long as I’ve been writing about art in general and colored pencils specifically, I’ve never talked about lighting. It’s such a vital part of the art equation that I’m ashamed I didn’t think of it sooner.

So that’s the subject for today.

There are so many lighting options available, that the best way to answer Tom’s question is to share my lighting experiences.

How I’ve Lighted My Studios in the Past

For most of my studio life, I’ve worked with a combination of natural lighting through windows and standard overhead lighting. Usually 60 watt or higher incandescent bulbs in ceiling fixtures. To be perfectly frank, I just didn’t think about lighting. It was necessary, but not vital to what I was doing.

I worked that way for decades. The only variations were the clip lamps I used at horse shows and the floor lamp beside my favorite drawing couch at home. Those also used ordinary incandescent bulbs. Usually 60W or higher.

Then my husband and I were wandering through a local furniture store that sells new and used furniture, and came across a floor model OTT light. My husband (an engineer and someone always looking for the best ways to do things) said, “Would you like that?”

I’d heard of OTT lights, of course, and knew a lot of artists swore by them, and this one was inexpensive. So I said, “Yes.” It replaced the floor lamp beside my favorite drawing couch and I used it for years.

At some point, however, I noticed it was no longer seemed bright enough. The problem was no doubt aging eyes, but I gave the lamp to hubby and looked for other options.

How I Currently Light my Art Studio

I’m back to ceiling fixtures but now they have daylight LEDs in them. The rooms where I usually work also have large windows nearby, and during daylight hours, I make use of natural light. Natural light is my favorite way to light my work while I’m drawing, by the way.

I tend to look for inexpensive, easy to implement solutions to everything, so the current setup is perfect.

But there are other options.

What Other Artists Are Doing

Clamp Lamps

Some time ago, I heard an artist comment that his lighting solution was a couple of clamp lights of the type mechanics use. They are inexpensive (under $10 usually) and you can put whatever type of bulb in them you want.

I bought a clamp lamp for my H-frame easel. It has a 65W A1 flood light in it and it’s nearly perfect. I can move it from one side of the easel to the other as needed, or clip it to something else if I need to position it further from the easel. The only way it would be better would be to have another!

This clamp light lives on my H-frame easel. The lamp part swivels almost 180 degrees and it also moves up and down. The bulb shown here is a small flood, but it will take other types of bulbs with a similar base. The entire outfit cost about $15.

Goose Neck Lamps

I also recently heard an oil painter Andrew Tischler talking about his studio lighting. He uses several light sources for his painting area, including two goose neck desk lamps. They can be positioned side-to-side, up-and-down, and various distances from the painting he’s working on.

In addition, he puts a cool bulb in one and a warm bulb in the other so that the combined light is nearly white.

He talks about lighting in a couple of videos on his YouTube channel, including a couple that focus on budget as well as lighting. I recommend both.

The video I suggest first is Studio Lighting/How to Light Your Art Studio on a Budget. It even includes a shopping list! What could be better?

The other video is My Studio Setup – How to Create an Amazing Art Space (on a Budget). This video is geared more toward general studio setups, but it includes lighting.

NOTE: The big bonus with the second video is storage! I especially like Andrew’s comments on artistic hoarding. (Anybody else subject to artistic hoarding?)

If I Were Setting Up a New Working Space

If I were setting up a new working area, I’d look for the following things.

Flexibility

Flexibility is important if you work in a lot of different sizes. Look for a light or lighting system that allows you to focus the light on small areas as well as larger areas for big drawings.

If you do more than draw in your workspace, then take into consideration a light or lighting system that lights those tasks, as well.

Portability

I don’t have a dedicated work space for art. There are places throughout the house where I like to draw, and I also like to draw outside. That’s why overhead lighting and natural lighting play such big roles in my “studio lighting.”

If you work in more than one place, look for lighting that’s easy to move and set up in as many of those areas as possible. That way, you’ll have the same lighting in every place you most like to work.

Affordability

The most important thing most of us need to consider is price. You can spend a lot of money for good studio lighting, but you don’t have to. Take time to look around and see what’s available. Talk to other artists and find out what they’re doing.

Then look for inexpensive alternatives. I’m not talking about cheap, here. Cheap will usually end up being more expensive in the long run.

Look for the best combination of quality and price to find the best value.

How to Light Your Art Studio: What Do You Think?

My thanks again to Tom for asking the question in the first place!

Do you have a question about lighting or anything else about colored pencils? I’d love the opportunity to answer it. Click here to send me your question. Who knows? You may ask about something I’ve never talked about before but need to.

9 Replies to “How to Light Your Art Studio”

  1. I work at a drafting table and use a drafting light when natural light is too dim. It uses 2 flourescent tube bulbs. I use a warm and a cool tube in it to balance the light.

  2. Carrie, you are correct in mentioning “our aging eyes”, and boy howdy, isn’t that the truth! I too, find that I need brighter light to do my artwork along with everything else, like model making and doing my puzzles.
    I purchased a couple of those “fan shaped” LED lights that simply
    screw into a regular light socket, and WOW!…what a difference.
    Most of them have a 3 or 4 light flanges that provides you with a fantastic light source. The blades on the lights are also adjustable and in my opinion, give you more than enough light…and a nice clean “daylight” source as well. It’s a pretty good deal for something
    like $18.00 CAN. and is reported to last for years.
    I picked mine up on Amazon. Thinking of swapping out my hard wired fluorescent Day Light fixtures for a couple more of these puppies.
    Thanks for the great topic!

        1. That’s quite likely correct, since they are the types of lights mechanics use in garages and builders use for other applications. What makes them so handy for artists is the price (they’re not very expensive) and the fact that you can move them around to suit whatever you’re working on. Since I don’t have one dedicated art space, the portability is just as important to me as the price is.

  3. For my desk top I have a small ott light, with a daylight LED bulb. It has 3 settings, low-med-hi, and a flexible arm so I can set it however I need to compliment the natural light from my windows.
    Also, I have always wanted a light box but they’re expensive. I work on a glass top drafting table, so I purchased a cheap undercounter light fixture from the hardware store. It plugs in to an outlet & can be set to daylight, warm, or soft light. It also has a hi or low light setting. I purchased a 1×4 pine board and laid it across the table legs under the glass top then I lay my counter top light on the board. Tada!!! I have a cheap light box that works great.

  4. I have an OTT LED craft lamp by my favorite chair and another small LED goose neck lamp by our main computer. These are my two main areas I work at for crafting. I too have the older eyes and need good lighting for embroidery, painting or drawing or whatever else I do which seems to involve small or detailed things.
    Thanks for the great article. Lighting is definitely important and it is nice to see what other artists use.

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