Picture Lighting Makes Even Budget Wall Art Look Gallery-Worthy

Dedicated picture lighting will boost the elegance factor of any space—and new cordless or battery-powered picture lighting means everyone can try the look.

Large black and white artwork next to chair
Photo: Adam Albright

When you go to a museum, all eyes are on the art. These masterpieces captivate your imagination and draw you in. But it isn’t just the beauty of the art that makes it a focal point—the way it’s hung and lit makes a huge difference. Beautiful frames and dedicated lighting display stunning paintings to their full potential—and they’re the keys to bringing gallery-style ambiance into your home, even if your wall art isn’t exactly museum-worthy.

Lighting is one of the most underutilized ways to establish a particular mood in any space, and it’s often neglected when displaying art in residential settings. But picture lighting is one of the best ways you can make the most of the art you have (and yes, family photos and children’s drawings count!).

If you think installing lighting for your pictures at home is just too big of a task, think again. Creators on TikTok have found an excellent DIY hack for getting art lighting at home using cordless or battery-powered lights. In just an afternoon, you can revamp all of your paintings and significantly impact the overall look of your home—here’s how.

Living room nook with shelves and picture lighting

Edmund Barr

Why Picture Lighting Is Everywhere Right Now

Art is always popular, but as people look for ways to create unique and memorable spaces, dedicated picture lighting is truly one of those things that can differentiate your rooms and elevate them to a whole new level, particularly if you’re going for a sophisticated or traditional look like the bibliophile aesthetic or dark or light academia.

“One of our favorite ways to add style and personality in a room is with art. Battery-operated picture lighting makes highlighting your favorite family photo or the art you purchased when traveling overseas easy!” says Kerry Whippee, founder and creative director of Shamrock Hill Designs.

And not only do these wall-mounted lights work well for paintings, but you can also use them to showcase sculptures and highlight your book collection or install them above open shelving in your kitchen to celebrate your stemware. In other words, these multi-use lights are a wonderful addition to all sorts of settings where you want to spotlight a display.

The rise of battery-powered or cordless picture lighting—which, in addition to not requiring any electrical work, also don’t need to be attached to walls with nails—has simply made this elevated look more accessible for everyone.

“[Cordless or battery-powered] picture lighting has become popular with decorators and DIYers because of its ease of use,” Whippee says. “Not having to spend hundreds of dollars on an electrician makes it so that anyone can incorporate it into their homes. And with an installation time of 30 minutes or less, why wouldn’t you add this decorative detail into your home?”

The lack of permanent connections also means these lights can be rearranged at will.

“Another benefit of battery-operated picture lighting is that it’s temporary,” Whippee says. “There’s no long-term commitment, since there’s no electricity run. This is a huge plus for design lovers like me who change home decor around frequently.” And it also makes these battery-powered picture lights a great option for renters.

picture on the wall gallery
Luso / Getty Images

What to Know Before You Install Cordless Picture Lighting

“Picture lighting is an incredible way to add focal lighting without the expense of hiring an electrician,” Whippee says. You can purchase these lights at a variety of different places and price points, she says. Some of the lights can also be controlled by a remote (vital if you’re going to hang the lights above arm’s reach) and have the option to dim the lighting and change it between warm and cool colors. You should consider which features are important to you before you make your purchase.

The physical process of installing cordless or battery-powered picture lighting is relatively simple. The lights typically come with the hardware to mount them, so it’s similar to hanging a piece of art, though it might be helpful to have a friend hang these with you, so you can see how the light falls on the art before you complete your installation.

One thing to keep in mind before you commit to this project is that most of the batteries last between 30 and 60 hours, so if you’re planning on using these lights daily, you may want to look into hard-wired lights, or you will be changing batteries a lot.

You have more options for making the most of your artwork in harmony with picture lighting, as well. 

Consider using a matted frame to highlight your artwork and give it a more upscale style. These frames don’t have to be costly; you can find budget options online and in big box stores. Also, hanging your art in groupings can increase its impact. While three small, scattered paintings might be lost on a large wall, creating a tryptic with them can give them the gravitas to command a room, and pairing each image with picture lighting will amplify them further.

By the time you’ve finished upgrading your lighting, you may be in the market for more art to add to your newly museum-worthy display!

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles