Notes on Studio Lighting

Extract from the Jewelry Workshop Safety Report book:

Notes on Studio Lighting, Lewton-Brain

Have lots of good lighting around, nice diffuse lighting overhead
and local lights (like desk lamps) other places where you need light.
In our teaching studio we have desk lamps mounted on the wall every
six feet or so, as well as over fixed tools like vises, drill press
etc. On my own bench I have two, one on each side, so that I can
position good localized light anywhere on the bench surface and can
also light an object on my bench pin from two sides at once, thus
eliminating shadows. I like daylight spectrum fluorescents overhead.
There has been a lot of research into appropriate lighting levels for
different tasks. In general, the lighting levels required for fine
bench work, measuring and the other activities that are standard for
the jewelry shop are about twice as high as for other fields such as
woodworking or working in a chemical laboratory. Some tips include:
keep the light sources themselves out of your field of vision, use
matte rather than shiny surfaces for bench tops, tools etc., and have
a contrast ratio of 10:3:1 for a given job: that is, ten units of
light for the task, 3 units for the local area and 1 unit of light
for the background lighting (Carson and Mumford 45). This means
really strong lighting right on the area where you are working on an
object, 30% value of that amount on the desktop itself and 10%
strength lighting in the background areas. This forces the eyes to
continually shift their receptivity to light as one glances into
darker areas from the glare of the actual working spot and back
again. I have heard from Professor Eickhorst (a lighting expert I
respect) that this helps the eyes to avoid fatigue but on the other
hand have read that this same shifting induces eyestrain and fatigue
(Tver and Anderson 161). Both do however agree on the principle of
the 10:3:1 contrast ratio. It helps if the strong lighting on the
working area is diffuse such as from a daylight spectrum fluorescent

Visual comfort and the ability to see an object being worked on well
depend upon a number of factors which include: brightness, light
spectrum type, glare, contrasts, shadows, reflections, uniformity of
light distribution, diffusion, color, the direction of the light onto
the work area, the size of the objects observed, how far they are
from the eyes, the precision needed, the time available to look at
the object and how frequently one is called on to concentrate and
look hard at an object (Tver and Anderson 161). It is accepted that
overall very bright light in a workplace or overall poor lighting can
cause damage to the eyes (Tver and Anderson 256). You might note
that, as one ages and presbyopia sets in, the need for more lighting
on work surfaces, as well as possibly magnification, increases
(Spandorfer et al 154).

Studio Colors

Your studio is an entire environment. Make it as comfortable for your
eyes as possible. Make it a nice place to be-you will do better work.
We selected blue and gray as theme colors for our own teaching studio
years ago and people enjoy it. All table surfaces are gray (smoke
gray) so that things show up easily, are easy to find and there is no
great contrast on the bench top. The paint is a urethane and is
incredibly durable and washable. Machines should be matt and
non-reflective - I like that blue or gray (Fraser, 47). I’m a big
believer in white paint on the walls and neutral colors elsewhere.
White walls increase the ambient lighting in your shop.

Charles Lewton-Brain/Brain Press
Box 1624, Ste M, Calgary, Alberta, T2P 2L7, Canada
Tel: 403-263-3955 Fax: 403-283-9053 Email: @Charles_Lewton-Brai1