how to set up an artists’ studio


WARNING! Artists’ materials are very dangerous and can cause
injury or death! Use in a well-ventilated area, read all warning labels, and keep out of
reach of children! Use at your own risk! I want to show you how to set up an artist’s studio so that you don’t have glare all over
your painting when you’re trying to work, and that you have good quality light. That’s the essential thing. The first thing is, you want to mount
your light as high as possible. If your light is down low, you’re going to get uneven distribution
of light on your painting. Especially if you are doing a large painting. You can imagine, if your light was here, now the top of your painting is getting
twice as much light as the bottom. And that is going to be exaggerated
if you have low ceilings, and if you’re working on large paintings. We want the light as high as possible. If you’ve got a fixture that hangs down into the room, you need to get rid of the fixture,
and mount your lights way up high. The higher the better. Next, you need need to have
your easel relative to your light at 35 degrees.
Let me show you how to measure that. What I’m doing is I’m holding this right angle right on a painting on my easel. I’m putting it right at my line of sight. In other words, this part right here should be right where your eyes are
as you’re sitting at your easel. That’s where I’m measuring the angle from. I’m going to put this here. You could use a piece of paper with one corner folded down to create a 45-degree angle. What we’re going to do is find 45 degrees, which is right in the middle. So, there is 45 degrees. And there is 35 degrees. Notice my stick is pointing straight at my light. OK. So, this is good, or this is good. It doesn’t have to be exact. Thirty degrees is probably OK. And 40 degrees is getting… If it gets too far behind you, if you’re down at 45, then your light is too far behind you as you sit at your easel. The main reason you don’t want your studio light too far back behind you, is because if it’s too far back you’re going to get glare
up at the top of your painting. If it is too far above you, straight up, then you’re not going to get
enough light on your paintings. So, 35 degrees is about right. The other thing you have to consider is you don’t want a big bright wall behind you, or bright window behind you, because that is also going to put glare
all over your painting. If there’s glare all over your painting, you’re not going to be able to see into the dark shadows and be able to see any detail. If I’m trying to paint in this dark area here, and there is glare, I’m not going to be able to see this dark green leaf. That’s why it is so important. The difference between that and looking at this with glare is huge. That’s why it is so important to eliminate all the glare. The only other thing to consider is that you don’t want a big, bright window behind your easel just because it’s distracting. It doesn’t necessarily have to be black. No glare is going to come from
the other side of your painting. You just don’t want a big, bright window. The other thing, and this is really important, is you want your lights to be 5,000K. That is a color temperature. 2,000K is very orange, very yellow. 3,000K is more toward the yellow spectrum. 6,000K is more toward the blue. But 5,000K to 5,200K (5,000 Kelvin) is just about white, balanced light. You have to make sure that your bulbs are white,
balanced light or you’re not going to be able to see
all the color that you need to. The reason for all of this is that the old masters, when they painted, they typically would have a northern light, which was daylight coming through a ceiling light, or real high up, and the rest of their room was dark, and the light source was on the outside. Today, we have our lights inside the room lighting up all the walls and creating glare. That’s why we have to take some measures in order to make sure that we’re not
getting glare all over our paint. The very last thing to consider, and this is not as critical, is if you’re looking at a wet palette
sitting in front of you, if you’re getting a whole bunch of glare
on your palette, it is coming from just on the other side. It’s reflecting, so if you have a window or bright wall on the other side of your palette table, then you’re going to get some glare on your palette table. That’s not as big of a deal as on your painting, but it is just something to consider. You may want to consider hanging some dark fabric on the other side of your palette table.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. my ceiling is really low and studio light was hitting into my shadow box,also my shadow was visible on canvas, so somehow I positioned my studio light more on behind left side. Is that ok?

  2. Yes, that may be the only solution in a small studio. There is a bit more on this in the shadow box video, even if you don't want to make one.

    Let me know if you have any more questions.

  3. I've found the 80w 5000k bulbs but no luck in finding a lighting fixture for it short of a 500$ one I found in a photo store. Any suggestions? Also what kind of bulb for the light box?

  4. Old masters used only candles to illuminate their studios when painting at night.They also took advantage from the lights coming from the dawn. I havent heard or read Northern lights or aurora borealis can be useful or not in a painting process. Why dont you just use a low bulb and put it where you cant get glare rather than powering a high consuming electricity bulb and move away from it? Advice from this video is impractical and its almost like Mr. Monk.

  5. this practical info suits my thinking. Im really anal about light and colour and what is going on around the work place. Be it outside or inside. I work my sketchbook when on location and bring it back to the studio. Location artists choose the light conditions outside and your vid took this further by the correct light conditions back in the studio. Inside / outside equally important thankyou.

  6. Great info, I had most of this wrong and was actually trying to paint with no light except the glow through the curtains, to avoid the glares.  Now I know how to fix most of my problem, thanks.

  7. I've been painting for years now and had to learn all of this information through trial and error…. Bless you for sharing your pearls of wisdom! This makes me feel a lot better about what I'm doing

  8. Mark Carder has done more to help artists, both novices and advanced, than any other 10 artists combined that I can think of. Solid technical info and essential issues presented clearly and freely given. Thanks, Mark.

  9. Do you have some recommendations for people who have a low ceiling.  In my case my ceiling is only 8 feet high, so I have trouble figuring out where the best position for my studiolight should be.

  10. Very useful information! Glare has been a constant problem for me over the years, and now that I'm in a position to set up my new studio from scratch I will definitely be implementing these strategies. Thanks!

  11. How much watt should have the 5000 k light bulb? And should it be a fuoresent-, incandescent-, LED-, or Halogen light bulb?
    There are all these option and I am not familiar with the differences. Can you please clarify? Thank you!

  12. Hi Mark. Hope you are doing well. I have gained a lot of knowledge from your videos, good information of how to become an artist.
    My question is how to focus a light to our still life subject to paint from live.What bulb should I prefer and of wat Wattage.

    Thanks and Regards
    Syed Shahbaz Hussain.

  13. Hi Mark. I am so glad I stumbled across you. I'm passing you along to my other artist friends. I live in Puerto Rico and it's difficult to find classical oil painting classes down here that are not taught in Spanish. With my Spanish I am able to order from menus but not get in to technical details about much of anything. BUT, I digress. My studio is a good size space in my home. I love it because it has floor to ceiling jalousy windows on 3 side of the room, which makes for great ventilation and I'm protected from the elements. However, it's also located in the mountains, very close to the borders of the national rain forest park so along with all the light, there's also a lot LOT of green on 3 sides of the room. The fourth side faces off this little mountain so it's basically sky and ocean. As much as I hate to do it, I'm guessing it's best if I hang curtains in order to eliminate glare. I'm not a particularly realistic painter so the glare issue hasn't proven to be a big deal for me while working. Heat and light, however, are but my light is pretty much green because of all the tropical foliage that surrounds the house. Any thoughts?

    Another issue I have is perception. I have always had a problem trusting what I am seeing…. color or value. I had serious brain surgery about a year ago and it still impacts the way I see and think. Spacial relationships are hard for me to figure out and trusting my judgement is also impaired. I've ordered a proportional tool which I think will be helpful with my spacial relationship problems. I haven't really painted much for over 2 years because of my health problems but I feel that I'm ready to get back in to it. It's pretty much how I make my living so it's critical to become productive again. I'm hoping that by reinventing myself and learning a new painting method I'll find the focus I used to have on my work.

    I was disappointed to see that Geneva Fine Art will only ship to the continguous US states so ordering your paints isn't an option. However, I'm still going to give your limited palette a try. Actually, that's how I stumbled upon you. I wasn't happy with my colors in the landscapes I was doing so I googled "how to get realistic color in oil paints"and you surfaced. I imagine Youtube has been huge for you and gaining a bigger audience. I feel like I've gone back to school with the amount of time I spend watching your videos. Thank you so much for your generosity in making them free of charge on your website. What I love about your teaching method is that you obviously teach what you know from experience. I'd much rather that than a regular scholastic approach.

    I guess I haven't really asked a question, have I? Well, there's a question right there! If you can think of a way that I can get the Geneva paint down to me in the Caribbean, that would be great. If there's something I should be considering regarding the quality of light I described in my studio, I'm happy to listen. In the mean time, whenever you're preparing a video, know that there's a little lady artist sitting on top of a little mountain on a little island in the middle of a great big sea listening and watching intently.

    Blessings to you and your family.

  14. Many thanks Mark for the advice. What do you think about having a neon light in the studio? I don't know what is the equivalent to 5000 K in The Uk. We have 100 watts, etc. Please advise.

  15. Mark I am so thankful for your casual, cut to the chase videos. no artsy fartsy attitude or anything love it.

  16. could you not put the ligth from the side instead of from above and get the same effect? As long as the angle relative to canvas is the same. Is that right?

  17. I am constantly drawn to this site for learning and application. I am about to paint the Savior and wanted to use the best paints possible… But 255.00 is way out of my range. Do you ever have give aways or contests? If not I will just use my Georgians. Thank you so much for this site! I am self taught and am going to set up a serious studio space, with the lighting and color checker and mixing tutorial suggestions.

  18. I just wanted to thank you for doing this video Mark. I'm in the process of building my dream studio, and by far, the question of lighting, especially the placement of the lights, has been my biggest challenge. You've just answered all my questions and I can now do the set up with confidence.

  19. Thank you so much for your lighting tips. I've never had decent lighting. I got a 3 head track light for Christmas, with (3) 7 watt LED's (each 50 watt equivalent/ clear daylight 5000k) and got them mounted 35 degrees from where I look at my easel. It is fantastic! I got it thru Lowes, not an expensive model. Thanks again.

  20. Watch out on the kinds of light bulbs you choose. After painting under a CFL 85 Watt light for 1-3 hours a day, I have noticed dry eyes, insomnia and fatigue. There are lots of articles about the harms can be done by using LED and CFL light bubs. This is one article for your reference: https://www.naturaleyecare.com/blog/reason-lightbulb-choices-matter/

  21. Great video, really informative.

    I am leery of what was done to the Warren truss in the photo, to give the light source an unimpeded path to the canvas. The cut truss was shored up to spread the load to the tension members of the adjacent trusses, which has obviously worked at some level, so far. The basic issue there is that the loads are being increased on those trusses in ways they may not have been designed for. Trusses are a lot stronger in compression, than tension so adding to the tensile loads is an issue. But maybe they were vastly over-speced, though trusses are normally pretty economically fabricated.

    All to say that one option is to replace the cord with some wire rope, or use the wire rope and the shoring. Maybe a wire rope could be thin enough not to mess with the light, particularly if the light was multi source. But I don't know about that, maybe the wire would have made a bad shadow.

    Another option would be to have built the two remaining truss elements so they cary on down to the floor like an a-frame, braced against the floor and wall, particularly if stone. the a-frame could be sistered to the existing pieces, or it could be at whatever angle is required to drop down to the correct point on the foundation or plate. Of course that would intrude into the space, and might be a problem if it is multi use. It would not affect the utility of the studio function illustrated, but that sure doesn't make it the right idea.

  22. Hi Mark-I live in a standard 8' high drywall ceilng 1 bedroom apt.I am NOT allowed to cut through drywall to mount a smaller 5000k circular light into my livingroom area where art studio is located.How can I mount(could you give best recommedation)a bulb with fixture of 'best possible scenerio' under these circumstances?Thankyou,Ron McNally

  23. Clear and to the point. You do not speak, to hear yourself and throw in a bunch of unnecessary words of mumbo jumbo! Thanks.

  24. Also, light pointed directly into your eyes (window shining in your eyes even indirectly) will create/worsen the development of cataracts. It also causes your pupils to stay contricted = you see less

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