What Light Sources Will Fade Artwork and Fabrics?

Randall Whitehead, IALD, compares the UV levels produced by various types of light bulbs.

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Living room featuring Mid-Century Modern furniture and Eurofase lighting for artwork

It's inevitable: Fabrics and artwork will fade over time, but that fading can slow down with the right care. To help your clients take better care of their new fabrics and artworks, Lighting Doctor Randall Whitehead has the right prescription to keep them looking newer longer.

Q. : Some light sources are known to accelerate the fading of fabrics and artwork. Is this an issue with the new ESL bulbs?

A. : You're right, different light sources accelerate fading at different rates. It depends on the amount of ultraviolet (UV) light each particular light source produces.

The worst culprit is natural daylight, followed at a distant second by incandescent and finally fluorescent. ESL (electron stimulated luminescence) bulbs are still close cousins to fluorescents in the way that they create light. These bulbs produce close to the same amount of UV as other fluorescent bulbs. Their main advantage over other fluorescents is that they contain no mercury. Fluorescent bulbs produce a small amount of UV, and until LEDs came on the market, they were the best bet.

Only LEDs, which produce no ultraviolet light, completely protect fabrics and art from fading. Even if you are using LED sources, however, most rooms have windows that allow natural light in during the day. This will cause fabrics and art to fade over time.

Closing the window shades during the day will help protect your possessions, but it will make the space feel a bit depressing. I recommended watching a John Hughes film. It always makes me feel better.


Video Extra: Clear of Frosted Bulbs?

Consumers have more choices than just incandescent, CFL or LED bulbs. Clear and frosted bulbs both have their uses and best styles, but they're not always interchangeable. Let Lighting Doctor Randall Whitehead walk you through their differences and best uses in this helpful video short.


Randall Whitehead, IALD

Randall Whitehead, IALD

Randall Whitehead, IALD, is a professional lighting designer and author. His books include "Residential Lighting, A Practical Guide." Whitehead has worked on projects worldwide, appeared on the Discovery Channel, HGTV and CNN, and he is regular guest on Martha Stewart Living Radio. Visit his website www.randallwhitehead.com for more information on books, upcoming seminars and the latest lighting trends.

Leave a Comment

Submitted by Walter Langley (not verified) on Sun, 10/08/2017 - 00:47


Wonderful Post...! I like your <a href="https://bestreviewexpress.com/best-uv-flashlight/">UV light</a> decoration tips and ideas. This is very helpful Post for my living room. You are so creative.I am trying to follow your technique.
Thanks for sharing Your Post.

Submitted by Steve (not verified) on Tue, 01/02/2018 - 13:31


Thanks for the note on UV levels and light bulbs - I hadn't known LED bulbs emitted no UV light.

Regarding outdoor UV, I definitely would like to keep the window shades open. What do you know about the UV protective window films that are on the market? Are they a good solution?