How to Determine Which Light is the Best Light for Painting

by DTC Thrasio

We live in a colorful world. From the vibrant hues of fall to the deep blues of the sea, color is everywhere. But did you ever stop to wonder why? Without getting too scientific, color is caused by the amount of light reflected or emitted by an object. In other words, to see color, you need light. 

But not all light is equal especially when it comes to painting. Because color perception is altered by the temperature of the light provided, it is important to understand how to find the best light for your work. Below are some ways that different light sources impact color and how you can select the best light for painting.

How does natural light affect paint colors? 

Natural light is the type of light that comes through your windows. This kind of light can affect the way paint colors appear in the room. The effect of natural light depends on the direction in which the light comes in through the window and based on the position of the sun. 

If your room is north facing, the light will be softer with a warming effect. On the other hand, if your room is south facing, there will be more intense lighting coming in. 

How do paint and light differ from each other? 

Paint and light vary based on how you mix colors. With light, mixing is about simple addition. The light doesn’t get absorbed as you add different colors, but rather is layered on top of other lights. That's why when you add green light and red light, you get yellow light instead of a murky color. 

With paint, mixing is about absorption and reflection. When you mix, you can’t separate the colors again like you can with light. For example, red and blue absorb each other to reflect back and make purple. 

What are the best light bulbs to activate glow-in-the-dark paint? 

Phosphorescent bulbs share similar glowing properties with fluorescent bulbs, but their beams of light are much more easily absorbed by color. Once absorbed, they bump up the energy state of the paint, which leaves a glow that lasts for an extended period of time, even after the light has been turned off. This makes phosphorescent bulbs the best to make glow in the dark paint pop.

What is the best light bulb to use when painting on canvas? 

A fluorescent bulb is the best light for painting on canvas when you’re simply using it to see. Fluorescent light is the closest you’ll get to actual daylight, which is considered the purest form of illumination. This helps you to obtain color accuracy in your painting. 

What are the benefits of painting with neon lights? 

Neon bulbs are capable of emitting colored light that can be seen in the daylight or in darkness. Painting with neon light is a great way to add some special effects to your artwork and studio space. If you’re aiming for a very dramatic painting that instantly captures the eye, neon light is a strong choice. 

How do you incorporate UV lights into paintings?

UV light or black light produces ultraviolet (UV) light that is invisible to the human eye. Your eye is able to see how the paint reacts with the ultraviolet rays that are being converted into visible light called phosphors. 

UV light is a great form of illumination to use when artists want to give their pieces a life of their own! If you want your work to say one thing, and then something completely different with the flick of a switch, then UV light makes for a shining selection.

Put Your Art into Action

From the natural radiance of the sun to the vibrant luster of neon and UV, all light plays a major role in our color perception. Without it, we couldn’t see color at all. When it comes to creating artwork, it is imperative to understand which light will enhance your paintings and give it the qualities you’re looking for. With all that in mind, what will you create next? 


Contributing Writer: Jamie Hurt