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Challenges of lightning a tiny studio with low angled ceiling


I'm in the process how to set up the studio in my tiny room, which is the only possible space in my appartment. Since there are many limitations in it – like very low and angled ceiling, 2 east windows and a narrow shape of the room, I struggled quite a long time to figure it out how to place everything in it. And I'm left hended too, so it is all reversed of Carder's furniture placement. I think that maybe it would be best for me, to rotate the easel as shown in the attached photo and that way I would have a flexible studio with functional art zones.

The crutial part here is lightning for avoiding glare on canvas so I'll go with 3 spotlights on the ceiling in total of 90w cfl bulbs (equivalent of 390w) 5000K. I hope this would be enough. Or would fluorescent tubes (2x36w 5400K) be a better choice in diffusing the light, but maybe to weak and difficult to calculate the beam angle from the easel?

I wonder why most of the well known artists use and recomend fluorescent tubes for their main lighting instead of cfl bulbs?

I'm missing how strong light do I have to place in my shadow box for nice dramatic effects? Would 30w cfl bulb (equivalent of 130w) 5000K be enough or do I have to buy a stronger spot light of 85w (equivalent of 450w) 5400K?

Another question is the color of the walls and the furniture. I feel best in light colors and I'm intimidated of being in a black small room. Does the color of the furniture matter for color judging and does it reflect around since it is lower than the canvas? Would be a soft cream white for wood and wall paint a good choice?

Thank you truly for help!


  • I think you just need to experiment. You do not have to depend on the existing overhead light fixture. Have look through the attached discussion.

    Also have look at Mark Carder's "Setting up a Studio"

    I hope by then more folks will comment with helpful information.
  • Lucy

    Welcome to the Forum.

    Thank you for such a careful and graphic depiction. This should make a good studio.

    Firstly consider LED fittings for lighting. Much better color rendering than CFL or standard fluoro.

    Best to talk in terms of lumens - light level and lux - amount of light falling at some distance from the source. Watts are the measure of the heat a lamp produces and LEDs produce light not heat.

    Aim for about 1500 lux at your work level. This is quite bright but 1500 to 2000 is recommended for detailed drawing. You will need a lot of lumen output at the source to get this level. Once your studio light is sorted you can then adjust the shadow box with multiple small units, varied by neutral filters and dimmers to balance with the studio. Roughly, the shadow box gets about 10% of the studio lumens. Every setup is different.

    The walls are fine. Wear dark clothes and hang a black curtain behind you to prevent glare on the easel.


  • @Kaustav @rautchetan This is a very helpful post. It also points out how you can set up a studio even with very limited room. Question: how high up are the lights? I am in a temporary situation in the dining room and I'm afraid I would have to drill holes in the ceiling to get the proper lighting. But it I pull the light too close, it's at the wrong angle. I tried using a ladder, but it just wasn't tall enough. Suggestions on how to correct are welcomed.
  • @Renoir if you see glare on a decent size canvas then you have to move a little forward. My light is about 10 feet above the ground
  • Thanks a lot to everyone for the comments - it will take me some time to apply your suggestions. I was searching for options about bulbs these last few days.


    dencal said: »Aim for about 1500 lux at your work level. This is quite bright but 1500 to 2000 is recommended for detailed drawing. You will need a lot of lumen output at the source to get this level.«

    Thank you for details about lumens / lux vs watt importance – this was new for me. Now in my situation with a lower ceiling do you think that 10.000 lumens with 6 led bulbs be enough?  

    dencal said: »Once your studio light is sorted you can then adjust the shadow box with multiple small units, varied by neutral filters and dimmers to balance with the studio. Roughly, the shadow box gets about 10% of the studio lumens.«

    What kind of units you had on your mind? Did you mean several small spot lights at different angles to get effects or just 1 spotlight but several bulbs to switch? Can you share some photos?

    How much CRI bulbs you guys use?

    Thank you for your help.

  • The studio Im setting up will be 6 x 9' this post is helpful and hopeful!
  • dencaldencal -
    edited September 2017

    Didn't want to get too technical with this but 10,000 lumens is way too much.

    The inverse square law applies - The inverse square law explains the dramatic drop-off in light over distance. We can use this information to better understand how our lights are affecting our subject and by that measure, how to control them better.

    So, at two metres from the light source there is only 25% of the light falling on the easel.
    If we want 1500 lumens we should start with 6000 lumens. Go to a large lighting store and get a demonstration of this light level and decide if it is right for you. Much depends on the reflector housing and lens if any on the light source.

    I suggest this will require two 3000 lumen or 50 watt LEDs

    Two 300 lumen, say 11 watt LEDs for the shadow box.

    I am waiting for my CFLs to fail before going over to LEDs. CFLs are hopeless for color rendering index (CRI)
    Suggest you aim for the highest CRI value at about 95.

    Reluctant to post pictures as the market is flooded with brands and models and no two shops seem to have the same range.

    I recently, last month installed three long (fluoro) style LED light fittings in my garage - bright, even and instant.
    If I can find my light meter I'll measure the lumen level.


  • If you can't attach fixtures to the wall or ceiling you will have to make a free standing one. An old Christmas tree stand and a 1-1/4" diam. Closet rod and a clamp on light bulb holder will work very well. These lamp fixtures are sometimes called Brooder lamps. The bulb I use is a CFL 85w 5000K I got it at a store called "Batteries & Bulbs" if they have one in your area you will find all the types mentioned here in that store. 
  • edited September 2017
    I use 2x 150w bulbs that mark carder recommended. Lights are 7.5 feet up. No glare on canvas at all, even when the lights are closer to 50 degree angle than 35 degree. It was surprisingly easy to get glare free. My canvas/easel might be slightly tilted forward too. Light is usually right above my head while sitting

    And even when there is a tiny bit of glare it hasnt annoyed me or been a problem at all. I do get a bit on the laminated prints i have adjacent the camvas though. I think thats from the plastic
  • lucylucy -
    edited September 2017

    Thanks again to everyone for the coments. I measured my distance at 35 degree from the canvas (when sitting) to the light source on the celing and it's app. 1 m.  So I think that 4500 lumens could be enough, since I found LED bulbs with 1500lm each, 5000K, 15W (equvalent 120W) and 90+ CRI, dimmable.

    In addition I'm considering another more mobile alternative. A photographic tripod stand that can be adjusted in hight with an adapter of three heads with adjustable angle of lighting (as shown above in 1st photo). I'm considering this type of lightning also for the shadow box, but with one head source with reflector (photo 2 and 3).

    So now I think that 3 of mentioned bulbs on the ceiling or 3 on the stand should work fine. And for the shadow box one such a bulb would be ok.

    Thanks to anyone for sharing your thoughts.

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