How to Light Your Space


Tutorial: How to Light your Space, by Carole Gray-Weihman

The winters are a common time for us plein air painters to head indoors and work on studio pieces based on sketches we’ve created during the warmer months. But many of us have had a difficult time creating the perfect lighting environment in which to work in our studios. Painting indoors may seem easy in comparison to weathering the elements en plein air. But, we’re so used to painting in natural daylight conditions that when we come inside, we have a whole new set of issues to work with.
The most ideal studio lighting is a condition where the light is not too warm and not too cool in color temperature. Creating that can be done in a number of ways and sometimes it takes trial and error. Suppose we have a working studio space where we want to create an even distribution of light without the aid of ambient light from north facing widows or other light sources—lighting that would particularly come in handy during evening painting sessions.
It makes common sense that the color of your light will influence the colors on your palette and your painting. The hues will shift warm or cool directly proportional to how warm or cool the lighting is. The quality of the light even effects how intense or how light or dark your pigments appear.
How do we choose the right color temperature of our source light?
Below is a Kelvin chart that illustrates that lower color temperatures are warm colors and high color temperatures are cool colors. Ideally, I’d shoot for 5000-6000 K for color temperature as it best represents daylight conditions. Generally, professional galleries will use 6000K to light the artwork.


Tutorial: How to Light your Space, by Carole Gray-Weihman

A standard incandescent light bulb illuminates objects with a warm light. So, if you are using this type of a light bulb, you can place a bluer light (IE. 7000 K) next to it to compensate. But, incandescent lighting isn’t really ideal. The bulbs are more expensive and not very energy efficient.
Compact florescent bulbs (CFLs) come in many different color ranges, so you can pick and choose depending on what other lighting influence you have in the room. CFLs are more energy efficient and illuminate objects more brightly than incandescent bulbs.
When purchasing CFLs, check the Color rendering Index (CRI). The CRI indicates how much an object’s color is effected by the light. You’ll want to select a CRI within the 80-100 range for an ideal brightness. Higher CRI numbers are important where true color is important .
Next, you’ll want to judge how much lighting you’ll need. This is a little trickier to estimate. The size of your room, the height of your ceiling, and the colors of the floors and walls will all influence the color and the quality of the light.
To get a pretty good estimate, we need to figure out what Lumen output to shoot for. A Lumen is the measurement of light that’s emitted from a source. With LED lights, Lumens are directed forward. With incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, Lumens emit in all directions. Note: Lumen output can be reduced as much as 30% when bulbs are placed behind a glass fixture. 
Let’s do some math!
A 32 Watt Compact Fluorescent bulb emits 2000 Lumens
First, determine your square footage. My studio is huge, but the area where my studio mates and I hold our classes is only about 600 sq ft. Having a set up where you can adjust the lighting for the work area versus the gallery area of your studio will not only lower your utility bill, but it will create a more functional environment for everyone.
Determine the foot-candle needed. A foot-candle is the measurement of how bright the light is one foot away from the source. For a studio situation, I recommend a foot-candle of 70-80. This range is also the equivalent to what many home builders use to create the ideal lighting for a bathroom or a kitchen area.
To determine the amount of Lumens, multiply your square footage by your foot-candle requirement. IE. A 600 sq ft working studio space which needs a foot-candle of 70-80, will require a 42,000-48,000 Lumen output total. That sounds like a lot of Lumens! But, when you think about spacing lighting across a ceiling hanging over a 600 sq ft work area where you want an even distribution of light, it makes sense. You may need to make an adjustment on your Lumen output if your ceilings are low. I recommend shooting for the lower Lumen output of the range you determined, just to try it out, and then add more lighting if you need it.
To completely control the light in the room, use blackout drapes on any windows.
Here is a link to a website that has great prices for CFLs: http://www.warehouse-lighting.com


Carole Gray-Weihman
Carole Gray-Weihman
Painter, Instructor and Founder-CEO of Plein Air Liaison, Carole loves engaging with other plein air painters, teaching and painting the landscape. She also enjoys web design and social media. You can also find her here: www.gray-weihman.com       READ MORE
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