Now that we have the drywall up in the studio building project, I'm anxious to pick out a paint color and get going on the walls. But since the appearance of the paint color is so dependant on the quality of light you have in your space, I've decided I'll need to tackle the lighting requirements first. I have spent waaay too much time reading about "full spectrum" lighting, color rendering index (CRI), foot candles, lumens, and Kelvin temperature, and I can't say that I'm that much clearer on any of it! I knew going into this project that I would not have the benefit of the full natural northern light that is said to be ideal for an artist's studio. But that's okay. I'm kind of used to working with different lighting conditions, and in any event no amount of northern exposure is going to help any artist on drab or stormy days or after sundown. But what I want for the new studio is as much diffused natural light as possible, and supplemental artificial light that comes as close as possible to the color and quality of daylight.
From my reading I have learned that the balanced color of natural daylight has a Kelvin temperature somewhere in the range of 5000K to 5900K. Kelvin temperatures numerically lower than 5000K turn towards the yellow and then red ends of the color spectrum, and higher numbers tend towards the white and then blue ends of the spectrum. As a point of reference, standard fluorescent lighting is fairly warm and yellow at 3500K, and standard halogen tending more toward the red at 3200K.
Keeping these things in mind, my aim is to light my studio (and especially my painting area) with a light that is as pure, balanced, and near to a clean white as possible in order to better see and mix accurate colors in the studio. (Paintings are always going to look a bit different under differentÂ lighting conditions, but I hope to avoid a massive color shift once my paintings leave the studio). I'd also like light that is non-directional so as not to cause a spotlighting effect or glare on the reflective surfaces of my oil paintings.
I have looked at a ton of options online (to the point of brain overload!) so I thought I'd share the leading options I'm considering below. Each have their pros and cons, so the answer will likely be to choose a combination solution that gives me enough light without breaking the bank!
Option 1: Install one or more Solatubes.
- Bright, evenly diffused and true natural daylight when it's at its best.
- Less expensive than skylights without the spotlighting and worry about "hot spots" sometimes associated with them.
- Uses solar energy, so there's a potential for lower overall electricity requirements.
- Costly to install, so even though they require no electrical power, it would likely take many years to recoup costs with energy savings.
- Just as with studios that have northern lit windows, an alternative light source is required for nighttime work, and even likely on cloudy days.
Option 2: Installing high bay, high output compact fluorescent fixtures. (Note: High bay fixtures are optimal in my case due to the cathedral ceiling height of my studio.)
- Offered by many manufacturers in a variety of styles and color temperatures, including "daylight" bulbs. (A few resources are listed here.)
- Availability is catching up to tungsten and halogen bulbs, and daylight versions are even being offered in the big box stores like Home Depot.
- Bulbs last much longer than incandescents, sometimes lasting for years.
- Much more energy efficient than incandescents and most halogens (fewer bulbs/energy required to achieve the same amount of lighting).
- Difficult to dispose of. While there are more and more recycling options being made available, these bulbs create a pollutant due to the toxic mercury within. It can also be dangerous if care isn't taken to handle the bulbs properly in the event of breakage. (The up side of this is that assuming the bulb realizes a natural life cycle, you won't go through as many bulbs as you might do with incandescents due to the extended bulb life of compact fluorescents.)
- I am not convinced that the fluorescent "daylight" bulbs can achieve the effects of full spectrum light, no matter what the packages say, though these newer bulbs certainly are an improvement with a much better CRI than the old "office" type fluorescents of the past.
- Cost: While the fixtures can be relatively inexpensive in comparison to Solatubes and some track lighting, if high bay fixtures are needed the cost quickly edges upwards. Bulbs touted as "full spectrum" are also on average typically priced much higher than incandescents, ranging from $8 to $15 a piece.
Option 3: Solux bulbs used in track or other fixtures.
- Chosen by a growing list of galleries, museums (including the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Musee d'Orsay in Paris) as well as artists for the clean natural quality of the lights.
- Versatile. Bulbs offered in a number of different Kelvin temperatures and can be used in low voltage track lighting to illuminate artwork or work area, or in task lamps that can be moved to different locations.
- Small bulbs are a lot easier to store than 4' long fluorescents!
- These are essentially "directional" lights, with limited spread. While they appear excellent for lighting artwork and even small focused tasks such as reading, they are not going to light up a room or achieve a diffused ambient light. And I'd likely have to focus a number of these lights on my painting area to blend the beams for a large enough spread.
- More potential for glare on my canvases, due to the directional focus, though I could purchase the optional diffusers which may help with this somewhat.
- Cost. These bulbs are relatively inexpensive if used selectively, but could be prohibitive if used widely, as bulbs range in price from around $8-up, and the fixtures are not cheap. Task lighting fixtures are also rather expensive.
- Halogens generate a lot more heat and use more energy than compact fluorescents to achieve similar lighting levels.
- I have heard reports that colors shift over time towards the warmer end of the spectrum as the bulb ages (but this is true of most halogens and fluorescents too.)
So there you have it. Okay so I may be overthinking this, but since lots of quality light was on the top of my "ideal studio" list from the get-go, it's pretty important to me. But even after all of the research, I'm not sure if I've really shed much decisive light on the subject! Ideally I'm leaning towards a combination of Options 1 and 2, with #3 reserved for the occaisional supplemental light, if I happen to install tracks down the road. But let's face it, I also have the very real consideration of a budget to deal with as well, so I'll have too see how well reality meets up with the ideal. I would really welcome any additional suggestions, thoughts, ideas or experiences on this topic, so please feel free to leave your comments on the blog.
P.S. This is part of a series of posts I have explored while building my new art studio. For my additional in-depth analysis on studio lighting for artists, go here and here.