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Choosing the Perfect Lighting for Art Décor

Lighting - by Alex Schoenbeck - updated on 5/20/2016

If you're confused about what lighting to choose to highlight your artwork in the home, you wouldn't be the first. Perusing the array of lighting options available can be overwhelming, and we're guessing you probably have a few questions about what to get. Reflector light bulbs are an excellent choice to draw attention to the artwork in your home.

Reflector bulbs are great for lighting artwork as they offer controlled distribution of light into a desired direction, as opposed to losing light within a recessed socket or directing light upwards to the ceiling. The focused beams these bulbs offer are perfect for directing eyes to your favorite painting or piece of photography. There are three main types of reflector bulbs:

Bulged Reflector (BR) – BR lamps are version of reflector lamps featuring a reflective surface within the bulb to direct light in one direction. In most cases, downward. BR lamps feature a bulge near the base of the lamp, which helps focus light outside of recessed cans more effectively.

Mirrored Reflector (MR) – MR lamps feature a reflective inner surface that is blanketed in tiny facets. These facets gather and shape light into a tightly controlled beam, which works excellent for spotlighting paintings. MR bulbs are primarily available in smaller sizes.

Parabolic Aluminized Reflector (PAR) – PAR lamps use a parabolic reflective surface leveraging its unique shape to produce a tight, controlled beam. While the beam is not as controlled as a MR reflector, PAR lighting is often used as accent lighting for artwork.

Picking out the right size light bulb can be confusing, as well, if you don't understand the numbering system used for these bulbs. The number following the letters in a recessed light bulb indicates size: it's the diameter of the light bulb in eighths of an inch. Some examples; a BR30 is 30/8 inches, or three and 3/4 inches. An MR11 is 11/8 inches, or one and 3/8 inches. In a real world setting, a PAR30 can be interchanged with a BR30, as they are all the same size.

Now that you have a basic understanding of reflector bulbs, there are a couple other things to take into consideration before making a final decision. The finer points of color temperature and beam spread are crucial components to consider when lighting artwork in the home:

Color Temperature – This aspect deals with the color of the light produced by a bulb, which is rated in degrees Kelvin ranging from 1000K to as high as 10,000K. On the lower end of the spectrum, like 2700K, the color of the light is a warm orange/yellow. At the higher end of the spectrum, around 7000K, the light takes on a bluish tint. For lighting artwork, we suggest somewhere on the lower end of the spectrum, around 3000K, which gives the artwork a warm glow.

Beam Spread – Spread relates to the width of the light beam emitting from the bulb. Beam spreads range from flood lights, which offer a wide wash of light, to focused “spot” beams of light, which are ideal for highlighting artwork.

Finally, it's important to understand there are varying light sources available, including LED, incandescent, halogen, and compact fluorescent. LEDs are increasingly being used in many galleries and museums due to their incredible efficiency, wide range of color temperatures, and long-term affordability, saving thousands of dollars over the lifespan of the bulb.

To learn more about color temperature, beam angles, and the variety of bulbs and lamps for your home or business, check out our Lighting Purchasing Guide, or visit the experts at Batteries Plus to find exactly what you need.

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