Painting Light on the Cheap

This is a short overview of the¬†lighting I have set up in my painting area. It’s no revolutionary ideas, for sure, and it’s been done before. But I thought this might help some who is trying to equip their studio without spending a fortune.

Most of the material for these I already had at hand, so my total cost for this setup was probably around $30.

What you’ll need:

  • Two empty 1 gallon paint buckets
  • Two 1x2x8′ sticks of wood
  • A few screws
  • Concrete
  • A couple of clamp lights
  • A couple of clamps
  • Light bulbs

Ok, the idea is to use the buckets filled with concrete as a weight to keep the lights steady.


I used a short piece of the wood on the inside to make it easier to attach the stick straight. The remaining piece I cut to about 6 foot length. Obviously this can be as long as short as you like, but if you make it much longer it will be more cumbersome to carry through doors, etc.



I attached this with a couple of screws through the side of the bucket



The bucket is then filled with concrete. Concrete is heavy, so you don’t really need that much in there to make these pretty sturdy. Looks like I filled mine about 2/3 full, but it would probably work with half full buckets too. That would make them a bit lighter to carry around.

Then on the stick I attach a common clamp light. You can get these from the hardware store for $5-$10 each. The ones I use are about 8.5″ across in the front.



The clamp on the lights tends to get a bit loose over time, so I use a second clamp to secure. For the light bulb I use a bright 23W natural light CFL bulb.


A big advantage of this setup is that you can easily reposition the lights by moving the buckets and adjusting the clamp up or down on the stick.

Two sticks with lamps like this gives me a bright evenly lighted work area. Often I have one positioned on my palette and I am working under the other one.



My airbrush station is in the other corner of the room, but moving a bucket over there only takes a second:


In addition, these lights are excellent for photography. I just move the buckets closer and the lights down. Here I am using a plastic ice-cream bucket as a diffuser.


You get a nice bright even light.


The resulting image (still have some details to finish up on this one…)


I am sure there are many other lighting setups that are better, and definitely looks more elegant. But for the price, the versatility of this set up is hard to beat.




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