How to Design Shop Lighting


A well-lit workshop is essential to successful projects as well as your health and safety. You will need different lighting at different times of day and for different tasks. The key to designing shop lighting is to incorporate a basic level of lighting and then add flexible arrangements of lights as needed. In addition, your lighting design should be able to expand or change as you do new tasks.

Things You'll Need

  • Colored pencils
  • Ruler
  • Draw a plan of your workshop. It doesn't have to be exactly to scale but should reflect the relevant sizes of walls, work spaces and storage units.

  • Mark on the plan what jobs you do where in the room. Pay attention to the workbenches and movable work surfaces and to any floor space on which you work. With a red pencil, draw a circle representing the area of light that you will need to have in each of these spaces.

  • Identify the current light sources that you have in the workroom. Include windows and overhead fixed lights. Don't include any lights that you can move. If you are designing the lighting in the workshop from scratch, then just mark in the windows.

  • Add a legend to the bottom of the plan: red is the required lighting; orange is light provided by fixed light fittings; yellow is natural light; blue is light from movable fixtures; purple is light from lamps you need to purchase.

  • Make a copy of the plan for each of the times of day that you work in the workshop -- day, late afternoon and evening, and night.

  • Lightly shade with a yellow pencil, on the daytime plan, where the natural light from the window falls. In orange pencil, shade in the circles of light that the fixed light sources and the overhead lights provide.

  • Repeat this for the evening and night plans, using natural light on the evening plan only if there is any at that time of day.

  • Compare the yellow and orange circles on each of the plans to the red circles that show where you need the light. Are there any red circles that do not receive light? Are there any orange circles that illuminate areas in which you do not work?

  • Draw circles in blue on the plan to represent the light from the movable lamps that you can use in any of the unlit areas. Consider using the same lamp in different places at different times.

  • Identify any areas that are not receiving light. Consider rearranging your workshop to take advantage of any light that is not already falling on a working area.

  • Make a list of the lights that you have and that you need to purchase. For each, determine what wattage light bulbs you need. Investigate purchasing light fittings for which you can adjust the amount of light they produce for different times of day or different tasks.

  • Decide on the type of light you need. Do you want energy efficient light fixtures? Fluorescent light bulbs provide shadow-free light but incandescent bulbs produce a brighter light. Adding reflectors to light shades helps to direct the light in the required direction.

  • Mark on the plan, in purple, all of the light fittings that you will be purchasing. Re-examine this complete shop lighting plan for any areas that are still not well-lit and make appropriate changes.

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  • Photo Credit at auto workshop image by Dmitry Goygel-Sokol from
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