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I've built a black tent in my living room

Glare has been a real problem in the past. Finally a few weeks ago I threw about 20 metres of black poplin over the walls etc. in an effort to beat it. However, it was ugly and I couldn’t live with it.

Gave it some thought and decided to build a kind of black tent.  I decided to build it out of 16 mm dowling and got a friend to make a total of 8 angle joints for it out of little blocks of timber. I used 12 lengths of dowling altogether, and another 20 metres or so of black poplin.  Today I constructed it. It can be moved anywhere in the room because it’s portable. It can also be dismantled in only an hour or so.

I will have to put black poplin over the top as well because there is quite a bit of glare from the ceiling and from over the top of the curtains. Good idea about the pelmets, Denis @dencal , but shouldn’t need them now. And I will get a piece of carpet to cut the glare from the shiny white tiles.

My only last problem is how to deal with the lighting. Denis @dencal , you suggested a conical light fitting, but I can’t quite work out how to achieve this in real life, because the actual light fitting is now in the wrong place.

I must be honest, the way the lighting is at present, I cannot see detail in the painting very well. This is worrying. I’m hoping that I am interpreting Mark’s advice correctly and that it will all be OK when I get the lighting issue resolved and I will be able to paint without the stress of glare.  What do you think?  Am I completely mad?  Am I going too far?  Is this going to work?  I would really appreciate some feedback……




  • Dianna

    Yep. This should work ok. 

    Lighting: The best, flexible option now is a pair of Arlec led tube lights. These are $52.50 at Bunnings.
    Mount on a timber stand, or straddle your tent. Easy to fix to ceiling with two plaster screws. Plugs in to wall socket.

    So, 7200 lumens at five foot will give 360 lumens on the canvas, at four foot 432 lumens.
    consider this a minimum recommendation, double this brightness around 1000 lumens is the architectural standard for detail work areas.

    BTW Bunnings also have black floor mats.

  • @dencal ;   Thank you Denis. I would like the maximum amount of light possible. I would be very happy to have the whole 1000 lumens.  I will go to Bunnings tomorrow and talk to the guy in the Electrical Department.  I'm not quite clear how I get to the 1000 lumens mark. Do I need to buy two of the above?
  • Dianna

    I based the calculations of the light level on two units. I suggest you try this for your painting comfort.

    Much depends on the distance from the light units to your canvas and palette. 
    On the assumption that there is 4 feet between lights and canvas five units will get you to 1080 lumens.
    At five feet, seven units will get you to 1008 lumens.

    I doubt the Bunnings person will be much help, but interested to hear his/her advice.


  • @Dianna, I second @dencal's suggestion. I use Arlec LED lights bought from Bunnings - they are brilliant (pun intended). I wrote a bit about them here: 

    I have three of them (each 3500 lumens, 5000k neutral daylight) arranged in various positions behind me. I did not get the long skinny batten ones shown above, only because my setup didn't really suit them as I wanted them portable. Note the battens are also slightly bluer in colour temperature (at 6000k), but still within the range considered 'daylight'.

    Compared to my previous setup, when I turned them on the extra detail and colour discrimination I was able to see was a revelation. 
  • If you don't want to put the lights directly on the wall or ceiling, you can mount them to a board that spans the top horizontals of your tent frame. make the boards extra long and you'll have better flexibility for placing the lights.
  • @dencal ; @Roxy ; @BOB73 ;  Thank you all. I read your post, @Roxy.  I will go to Bunnings so that I can see what they have in stock. I need to see how large the units are, how to affix them for optimal results. Not sure I can mount them to a board across the top of the tent frame because the 15 mm dowlings are probably not strong enough to take the weight. However, will check it out. I might be able to use a mix of battens and the portable ones.

    I was very heartened by @Roxy comment that being able to see extra detail and color so clearly was a revelation. I have been short-sighted all of my life and have worn glasses since the age of five. I have seen through plastic my whole life. Seeing clearly is terribly important to me. Then I had my cataracts done about nine months ago and suddenly I had a clarity of vision that I had never had in my entire life. Now the only thing standing in my way is that damn glare. I'm really looking forward to my own revelation!   Thank you all, and maybe this can help someone else.
  • Dianna

    Are you going to keep us all in the dark about your lights?


  • Welcome to Diana’s Casbah!
  • @dencal ;    =) =)   I have been working on it.  The Ashmore Bunnings did not have the LED 3600 battens unfortunately, only the fluorescent battens. I will make some phone calls.

    Battens:  (your estimate) To get 1000 lumens on canvas at 5ft I would need 7 units. Cost $55 per pair, $220 total.

    Tripod combo:  To get 875 lumens on canvas at 5ft I would need 2.5 units. Cost $160 per tripod (2 lights) and $80 for single worklight. Total $400.  (No real advantage to buying a tripod because it's not tall enough)

    Not sure what to do for the best.

  • @Boudicca ;   Hilarious!!!!  I was smiling at Denis' remark and then I saw yours!  I almost choked!  Well, not quite, but I truly did laugh out loud.
  • @dencal ;    I've called another Bunnings. Was informed the only one they have in stock is a 3500 lumens Led tube, one only, for $84.  That would cost total $588.  I think I might have mentioned something to him about "bait and switch" when he told me the one I asked for was possibly only a short-term promotional item. I don't think he knew what "bait and switch" meant!  Which is perhaps just as well.
  • Dianna

    Yep, specials come and go,  prices up and down.

    Suggest you start with two Arlec 36 or 40 watt LED around 5000k and see how you go.
    If you need it brighter adding more units is easy.

    Here is today’s offering in the West. (Perth)

    This unit is not DIY plug in though. Probably need a sparky to install.
    The 40 watt unit now seems to be weatherproof and has an infra red sensor for a security light at $95.

    Keep your eye open for Xmas specials.


  • @dencal ;   Why is it never easy!  Thank you for your suggestion.  Guess I just need to mull over the lighting situation until I end up with the right answer.  Now I'm going to go online and find out just exactly what a casbah is.
  • @dencal how do you feel about cfl bulbs 85 watt, 5000K. I have 2 but one by itself is almost too bright. They cost about $35 US they have E26/27 bases and will work in any standard light fixture. I've been considering this (below  link) as an option even though I don't need soft-boxes for painting they can be used for photographing my wips and with out the face they might keep the light from creating too much back glare from walls and ceiling. The only draw-back is, I want the lights higher than the extended height of these stands.

  • PS the above outfit cost $52. that's less than what I paid for 2 bulbs. 
  • BOB73

    Yes. Compact Fluorescent lights are fine for painting and photography and is the bulb type recommended on the supply list. However, for cool running, even spectrum performance and availability LEDs outshine CFL.


  • @BOB73 ; and @dencal ; ----   Well, that answers that!  It's bloody hot here, and it might be even hotter still in my little casbah (whatever that is) so i'm definitely going for the LED's.  Thank you Bob and thank you also Denis. I'm going to start with four of the 3500 lumen lights and see how I go. That will give me about 7000 lumens on the canvas. I'm having them installed tomorrow morning.
  • Dianna

    4x3500=14000. Say 5 foot ceiling to canvas. Only 4% of the emitted light will reach the canvas. That is 560 lumens. The inverse square law of light applies.

    Even this will be a huge improvement on your existing setup.


  • dencal said:
    ... outshine ...
    Please no.
  • @dencal ;   Inverse square law of light ... it's quite mind-boggling.  However, I am glad you are teaching me.  If it weren't for the fact that you also said that it's a huge improvement on my existing setup, I might be worried. OK, so if I - in an alternative universe - wanted to get to the optimal 1000 (actually 1120) lumens on canvas, I would have to DOUBLE the lighting to 28,000 lumens. Yes, well, I think you are quite right when you suggest I wait and see what it's like with 14,000 before making any more decisions. (I find the idea of having EIGHT of those powerful lights in my little 8ft by 8ft black studio a touch terrifying)  ....   Thank you for your help.  Can't wait until tomorrow.  (I didn't get the "...outshine..." bit) or why @PaulB said No.  Guess there's some history there.
  • Dianna

    PaulB just has a limited tolerance for puns.


  • @dencal, I didn't know PaulB doesn't like em.

    thanks for shedding some light on that 

  • All I can say is you're all as bad as each other!
  • MichaelD said:
    @dencal, I didn't know PaulB doesn't like em.

    thanks for shedding some light on that 

    Yes, very ILLUMINATING
  • Folks

    l’m getting the impression I have LED you to enlightenment.


  • Well at least no one has been left in the dark on the subject.

  • I say you can do all the mathematics required to adjust your workspace brightness with someone’s recommendation, but it all comes down to something like this:

    Using 5000K lighting, make your workspace bright, but still comfortable.  There is such a thing as too bright.

    Either way, it can mess with your sleep cycle if you paint at night.

    Pun-free.  You’re welcome.
  • Do they have tutors in punning? Can I acquire some skills in this area too? Or is it something you are born with?   @PaulB ;  Thank you for your down-to-earth advice.  Of course I would not seriously consider having EIGHT lights in my new Black Studio.  And even four might be too many.  But at least I can get the four up on the ceiling, following the guidelines set down by Denis which I appreciate enormously, and then make up my own mind. And good point about painting at night, too.  All that light would knock the Circadian Rhythm right off its perch. Now what puns could possibly come from this?  Anything to do with Circadian.......?  I will wait with bated breath.
  • Dianna said:
    Do they have tutors in punning? Can I acquire some skills in this area too?
    You don't so much acquire punning skills, as simply lose every other skill.

    I am biased - I think puns are a miserable excuse for humor.  Except when I make them.
  • I give up.  I just don't know how you do it.  Once again I laughed out loud.  Seriously!  :) :) :) :)
  • Circadian Rhythm? Sounds like a calypso band. But the inverse square law of lighting can not be circumvented without Murphy's Law but I'm pretty sure he didn't have a sense of rhythm.

    You don't learn puns, they are unteachable and just slip out when you aren't looking: Murphy's Law.
  • You've excelled yourself, Denis!
  • dencaldencal -
    edited December 2018

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  • Now I'm really in the dark.
  • Yeah, me too!  All I know is that I'm scared!.........
  • I have now had the 4 x 3500 lumen lights mounted on the ceiling.  However, I found that I still have a large amount of glare on the upper portion of the canvas. Then I realised that it's because of the large amount of light bouncing off the ceiling - 14,000 lumens -- less whatever the inverse square law of light is, of course, which means there would only be 12,367.30 of light hitting the ceiling. More than enough to create glare of course.  So now I have to get someone to come and cover the ceiling with black fabric.
  • Oh, come on @dencal ;  I'm dying for you to take the bait......
  • dencaldencal -
    edited December 2018

    Make your easel and canvas vertical.
    Adjust the angle of the light units.
    Ensure the beam centres are centred on the canvas.
    Equal as possible lumens on the palette and easel.


  • Thank you @dencal ; -- that's not what I meant although your guidelines are very useful and I will make sure I follow them -- what I meant was how surprised you might be at the figure of 12,367.3 that I worked out from the primary 14,000 as being the amount of light hitting the ceiling. This figure is pure hogwash. I just made the figure up, pretending to be as smart as you.........  and you fell for it?????  Don't worry, just my weird sense of humour. At least I keep myself happy! :)
  • Don't worry Dianna, I've never been able to fool him either.
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