Insider 1-20-2012


The questions I receive from painters are usually regarding paint, brushes, palettes, and other supplies. Rarely do I receive a question about one of the most important and often overlooked aspects of painting: light source! Recently, I went on a quest for a new lamp to use at home. These are things to take into consideration when shopping for a painting lamp and replacement bulbs.

There are many different types of bulbs on the market today. I’m going to discuss the pros and cons of the most common bulbs found in the store and what I believe are the best options.

First up is the old reliable incandescent bulb. This is the bulb many of us had in our homes growing up. What many people don’t realize is that when this bulb was developed it was designed to replace candle and fire light. That means it was designed to cast a warm, golden light. This can be a problem for painters. If you paint under a more golden light, your color choices and the way you paint will be affected. Everything you are looking at will be affected by a warm glow and you will likely try to compensate for that color shift. You may end up painting with a lot cooler colors on your figure. You may have problems seeing warm colors while you're painting the mini and thus overcompensate on contrast. Another problem is incandescent bulbs also get very warm. Your lamp can become very hot and your paint will dry faster under the heat. This can make two-brush blending very difficult.

The light I’ve heard most people recommend is the daylight light bulb. Most bulbs called daylight bulbs are compact fluorescent lights. Instead of having the warm glow of the incandescent bulb, it casts a cooler light. However, this can also be problematic because the light will give a blue cast to everything, and you might get a washed out look to your mini. I’ve used some daylight bulbs that weren’t too bad; they definitely shed whiter light than bulbs used in table lamps.

Another option is the LED lamp. These can be great because LED lasts longer. I saw a few inexpensive, high-rated lamps and even bought one to try out. I found that it’s just too blue! Oh man was it blue! I felt like I had blue sunglasses on while trying to paint. I’ve noticed a lot of glare on my minis while painting under this light, it’s harder to see my work, and warm colors just look funky! This type of light was way more blue than the daylight bulb discussed above, and it was advertised as a daylight LED.

So, you may be wondering what is the best light to paint under? The best option is to have a lamp that can hold two bulbs, one that is warm and one that is cool. When that lamp is turned on and the two different spectrums mingle, you will get a more natural, white light. This is what we use at the studio. Matt has a few for his home studio, and I’m currently in the process of hunting them down for my studio. They are fluorescent lamps, so the bulbs stay cool to the touch even when on all day. The light does not interfere with the paint color, and it’s a lot easier on the eyes than the cooler bulbs.