Display Lights

All around us, display lighting works on our imaginations. It transforms the painting and the museum case, the monument and the Civil War gun case. Because there are so many uses, there are many fixtures of different shapes and sizes, and display lights that use different power sources and mount to different surfaces. Battery operated, portable and clip-on display lights, backlighting fixtures, flexible and fixed arm lights, display case lighting or showcase lighting, and picture lights all do one thing: Make your exhibited items look just as special as they are.

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What is Display Lighting?

You pass through the doorway into a ballroom at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and your focus is drawn a thousand places at once. Each exhibit sparkles and shines more than the next. Colorful transparent signs are glowing on lightboxes. Recessed lights illuminate table tops, and arm lights highlight items on walls. It’s time to let your curiosity lead you down the trade show rabbit hole. The thing that draws you and keeps you interested while the clock ticks away unnoticed? You guessed it, the radiant and sophisticated display lighting.

Below is everything you want to know about display lighting. Our goal is to make sure you have the information you need to know about how display lighting works, where it is used, and by whom. We answer questions like “What type of fixtures should I choose for my display?” and “What about light source – LED, halogen or fluorescent?” Learn about the benefits of LED display lighting in trade show exhibits, the reason clamp lights are so popular, and how to best light a sculpture. And, if after checking this page out, there is anything you still want to know about display lighting, just pick up the phone and give us a call.

Choosing the Right Lights for Your Setting

Display lighting highlighting object on a wallYour choice of lighting solution will depend on the context in which you plan to show your items. Are you optimizing the design of a trade show or exhibit booth? A pop-up or window display in your store? Do you curate a gallery or museum? Own a bar? Or do you just have a nice collection of something? Chances are, there’s an option for you.

Trade Shows and Exhibit Booths

Trade shows are comprised of vendors who reserve spaces in order to show off their products or services in the best possible light. The type of set-up you have, whether it is a simple table or an elaborate world with walls, nooks, and cubbies, will determine the kinds of light fixtures and sources that will work best for you. The traditional display light for the trade show is the arm light, a single fixture that attaches and highlights an object. But you can go so much further. Up lighting can be used to create interesting effects, as can tape and rope lights, which are often used to light niches, to frame displays, and to create mood lighting. There are endless possibilities.


In retail scenarios, display lighting can serve several important purposes. When there are specific products that you especially want to sell, you use pop-up displays. To attract attention, you create compelling window displays. You make use of shelving. All of these things need great lighting to bring them to life, to draw your customer’s attention, and to provide clarity.

Display Cases and Cabinets

Display cases with lights look crisp, appealing, attractive, warm, pretty, valuable, and maybe even slightly magical. Display cases without lights are shadowy and murky and bleh. That’s really all there is to it, whether you are at a trade show, department store, or a friend’s house.


Backlit displays can be found in movie and home theaters, bars, restaurants, airports, stores, arenas, stadiums, and funky kitchens – anywhere a fun visual impact is desired. You can backlight transparencies using lightboxes, LED tape lights, low-profile linkable fluorescent fixtures, light strips.

Artwork and Pictures

Track lighting, arm fixtures, up lights, recessed lights, and picture lights all can be used to bring your paintings, pictures, or sculptures to life in galleries, studios, museums, cafes, and hotels as well as at home. Just like jewelry does not bling-bling without the right lighting, artwork needs a little help to be its most beautiful self.

Display lighting in an art gallery illuminating pictures

Different Light Sources

There are three main choices when thinking about light sources for your display. LED display lights are energy-saving, come in a variety of colors and color temperatures, and many can be low-profile and/or dimmable. The latest technology even allows LEDs to mimic familiar warm incandescent, neutral white, or cool blue light. Halogen lamps are dimmable and produce nice, crisp light that renders color perfectly every time. Fluorescent display lights are usually linear fixtures and are great for backlighting and display case lighting. They are cool to the touch and produce a lot of light for the relatively small amount of energy they use.

Types of Display Lights

There are many different kinds of display lights that come in different shapes (e.g., arm lights, up lights, light bars, etc.) and utilize different light sources (e.g., LED and halogen). Your project needs will determine what shapes and light sources you want to use.

Arm lights are typically used to highlight items that hang on the wall, like paintings or pictures. Typically, one arm light per item is the rule of thumb, unless the item is especially wide. Then, use two arm lights.

Portable lights, including clamp lights that can be mounted to rectangular or round surfaces, are ideal for lighting exhibits, trade show booths, temporary retail displays, artwork, or wall hangings. When it is all about quick installation and quick breakdown, portable clamp lights are the way to go.

Battery operated display lighting allows you to light a display or exhibit without a power outlet nearby. For example, that summer craft show in the park highlighting local artists and their work.

Strip lighting refers to any lighting fixture with a linear design, and typically strip lights are used for backlighting or illuminating the interior of display cases. Strip lights are excellent at producing consistent, even illumination wherever they are used.

Wall fixtures are ideal for lighting more permanent exhibits, retail displays, artwork, or wall hangings. Wall mounted light fixtures are generally flush-mounted using plates that attach directly to the wall.

Ceiling fixtures can be used to “wash” walls with light or to spotlight individual items.
Exhibit lights that wash your wall space can offer a soft and subtle lighting effect, and spotlighting is an essential for any display.

Up lighting fixtures do exactly what the name describes – they direct light upward. Up lights are useful for adding visual interest to a textured surface via wall grazing, for accenting artwork or sculptures, or even for creating a path of light using recessed fixtures.