Can LED Lights Fade Artwork?

Since the discovery of the bleaching effect of the sun, people have used it to their advantage for a number of different things.

People have used it to naturally turn their hair lighter and even used it to bleach and remove stains on clothes when left out in the sunlight.

Haven’t you heard, nothing brightens whites like drying laundry out in the sun!

While this sounds interesting and doable, you really should understand the science behind it. The ultraviolet rays or UV-radiation in the sunlight causes the dye to chemically break down and decompose.

So while you can use the sun’s power to your advantage, it can work against you to produce undeniable effects as well. Such as bleaching and fading away from your prized artwork collection.

The norm now is to light up artwork using LEDs. Wondering if that has any fading effect? Let’s find out.

LEDs do not fade artwork when used within the specified luminosity and duration of time. Without infrared radiation or heat from the bulbs, it becomes a factor. Some yellow pigments used decades ago might be prone to turning green due to the blue light in LEDs.

Why Does Light Inevitably Fade Artworks?

Storing and displaying art, paintings, leather book covers, ink, and photographs in the open for years will damage their color over the long term. This is due to their exposure to light in the surroundings, either directly or indirectly hitting the object in question.

The technical name for this phenomenon is photodegradation. Ultraviolet light, visible light, and infrared light all contribute to the damage.

Mainly, ultraviolet rays present in light sources such as sunlight, fluorescent light, and incandescent light are the culprit. So what exactly happens?

The artwork contains colored dyes and inks held together, absorbs light, and reflects the wavelength of the color we see. UV-rays break down the chemical bonds between the color molecules.

This makes the artwork appear faded and light, or sometimes yellow and brittle.

Actual heat also contributes to a much faster degradation of art, as the fibres become dry and cracked, and speed up the chemical reaction of bonds being broken.

Do LED Lights Fade Paintings?

As always, LEDs will solve much of the problem of color losses from exposure to traditional light.

Let us look at paintings. Paintings compose of colored paints, dyes, and inks and need to be preserved with the utmost care for hundreds of years with the least amount of damage.

Museums are turning more and more to the use of LEDs to light up their paintings. LEDs do give off very little nearing zero UV rays that is not enough to erode colors.

It was discovered that LEDs are giving more blue light than previously thought. The color most affected by the blue light from LEDs in chrome yellow. This yellow shade contains sulfates, which then interact with the light to slowly turn brown or olive green.

It has most famously been used in Van Gogh’s Sunflower painting, which has been affected by LEDs. Two particular chrome yellow shades were significantly affected by primrose and lemon.

Other than that, paintings are greatly being saved from damage thanks to the use of LEDs. Previously incandescent and halogen lights were used and paintings were protected by UV-blocking glass covers.

Can LED Lights Fade Autographs?

Can you imagine meeting a sports idol or your favorite musician and actually getting an autograph for you to keep and cherish as a memory forever!

Except forever is defined by how long the ink on your autographed paper lasts! Especially if you have proudly displayed your fan-favorite autograph in a frame on the wall.

Now you’re in a bit of a dilemma. Displaying the autograph brings you joy but exposes it to light and degradation. Storing it away will protect it, but hey, life is too short to live that strictly.

So you choose to display it!

Just like color, black ink is also prone to fading under sunlight and other light sources. All thanks to UV. Once again, LEDs to the rescue. They don’t allow the fading to occur.

To protect precious manuscripts in museums, the suggested lumens is 150 for black ink.

How To Protect Artworks From Fading By Light?

What can you do to protect your autographs from fading as well as artwork in general?

As you have seen, using LEDs is the easiest, most cost-effective, and the most promising way to reduce all damage caused by UV rays.

Keep in mind if you do have older paintings using chrome yellow paint, you might want to add a further layer of protection.

For protection from UV rays and blue light, manufacturers make protective glass covers that do not allow UV radiation to pass through.

Some also block the blue light wavelength. Other simple measures, like keeping the curtains drawn during the daytime, will tremendously help.

Keeping one artwork on display for an infinite time will also do it harm! Rotate them, so some are in storage and in temperature and humidity-controlled dark environments.

Don’t forget that incandescent and fluorescent lights also give off infrared radiation, or simply heat that can degrade the art.

In that case, don’t direct the lights on the artwork, but at an angle and at the very minimum of recommended lumens.

Keep ambient lighting dark, so you don’t need to shine a brighter light on the art. After all, who’s there to look at people passing by?

Final Words

For art hobbyists and painting enthusiasts, they must keep up to date on the best practices to preserve their possessions.

You may not have known that you are potentially putting your framed art, textiles, delicate silks and tapestries, and other material that is directly under incandescent light into harm’s way.

Have you seen your art, photographs, or fabric fade over time?

How do you store your prized possessions?

Share your ideas and thoughts with me in the comments below.