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Best lighting for an artist's studio

How to improve your lighting to obtain true colors in your art work.

Is your sky too blue? Have you managed to match real colors?

Have you ever finished a canvas, the sky is to your liking, and when you bring your canvas to a window, in daylight, your blue sky is darker, in fact too blue… Also, your colors in general on your canvas seem too dark, less luminous than on your easel…

If so, you probably have a lighting problem in the room where you paint.

In this example, it is the type of lightbulb that is the problem. More precisely the temperature of the light (in units Kelvin) emitted by this bulb, as well as the intensity of light (in lumens). Your light may be too bright and of the wrong temperature, giving you the impression that the colors are paler than in reality.

Here are important factors to know about lighting to help eliminate this problem:

1.  A bulb between 5000 and 5500 kelvins is necessary to reproduce the lighting of daylight (noon) or 4000 kelvins to obtain a neutral white.


2.  A bulb with an intensity between 450 and 1600 lumens depending on the organization of your workshop according to the distance from the light source, the type of lamp, etc. It is advisable to do a test with a reference gray card to help you determine the correct intensity.


3.  A bulb with a CRI rating of 80% or more, to ensure the quality of the light, that is to say, how this bulb faithfully reproduces the colors.


4.  The angle of your light source should be between 30 and 45 degrees from your canvas to avoid glare and eye strain.

For further details, read on…

Light temperature (kelvin):

To measure the temperature of light, we use kelvins, which range from 1000 kelvins (yellow) to 12,000 kelvins (blue).

Quel est la meilleur température de lumière pour un atelier d'artiste

In general, “soft white” type bulbs are used in a home. The temperature of the light from such a bulb is about 2700 Kelvin, i.e. a yellow light. If you use such a bulb, you will have to somehow compensate for your blues when you paint, because your colors are influenced by yellow light. This is easier said than done!

So what kind of bulb do you need?

You have two options.

1.  If your reference is natural lighting, it’s recommended to use a light whose temperature is between 5000 and 5500 kelvins, the same brightness as you have with daylight around noon. This luminosity is slightly bluish and it is the preferred option if your works are displayed in a room well lit by natural light.


2.  If you prefer a reference on a neutral white, it is advisable to use bulbs with a temperature of 4000 kelvins. This is the option that we chose for our Mixarts workshop.


To give you an idea of ​​the importance that the temperature of light has on the perception of your colors, here is a short video that demonstrates it well: Watch video

It should be noted that the differences are less obvious between 4000 and 5000 kelvins than in the photo below.

Light Bulb color affects perceived colors
Light Bulb color affects perceived colors

CRI (Color Rendering Index):

This index, with its range from 1 to 100, lets you know the quality of the light source to restore the colors. It is recommended to use a bulb with a minimum color rendering index of 80%. This index is not always provided by bulb manufacturers, however.

Intensity (lumens)

For years, our reference for talking about the intensity of lighting was wattage, i.e. a 60 or 100 watt incandescent bulb, but with the advent of new technologies that use less power, we can no longer use this reference. For example, an 800 lumen LED bulb uses 10 watts, which is the equivalent of a 60 watt incandescent bulb.

To familiarize yourself with lumens, here is a nice little tool: See tools

There isn’t really a strictly recommended lumen level, because it all depends on the layout of your workshop. It is better to do tests according to the lighting of this room, the distance of this lighting, the type of lamp, etc.

Make sure your lighting isn't too strong or you risk offsetting the colors of your canvas by using darker colors than necessary. The result will be different in daylight and you will find that your canvas lacks luminosity, with the colors being too dark.

Best to test!

Use a gray reference sheet. Check to see if the tones are the same between a location with natural light and your studio where your canvas is placed. Here is an example of a reference gray sheet, the image on the left being the original under daylight, the one in the center being dimly lit and the one on the right being too bright.

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