The Best Lighting Choices for Your Woodworking Shop

A garage with a workbench and tools.
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Proper lighting is an essential part of a successful woodworking shop. A good light setup can help you better distinguish between colors and see the finer details of your work without much hassle. From LEDs to fluorescent ballasts, here are the best types of workshop lighting.

Lighting Options

There are three main types of bulbs on the market today and each comes with its own benefits and drawbacks. For most woodworkers, you will want to equip your shop with either LED, ballast combinations, or T8 and T5 lamps. Which one you prefer boils down to personal taste and the dynamics of your shop. If you're unsure which system to pick, try one out for a few weeks and return it for another setup if you are unsatisfied.

LED Lights

LED lights are great if you want something that will last a long time. The only downside to LEDs is their cost, though it continues to get lower each year. Even better, they now make LEDs that can be retrofitted for fluorescent tubes. These lights might be more expensive than ballast combinations or fluorescents, but they are definitely worth the cost and are the future in lighting.


Fluorescent lighting in a dark room.

Fluorescent lights are good for certain conditions but can create problems in woodworking shops. These lights tend to dull and flatten wood colors and make color-sensitive projects more difficult. They also diffuse light, making details harder to pick out. This can create a host of problems for the woodworker, especially when sanding or jointing pieces of lumber. That said, fluorescents are a lot more affordable than their counterparts and are easily obtainable. If you decide to use fluorescents, mixing them with other types of light sources can improve their efficiency.

Considering Color

Color temperature will play a big role in choosing the right lights for your setup. Lights that operate above 5000 Kelvins are ideal for woodworking shops because they are closer to sunlight at peak time. This range will enable you to better see your work without worrying about color differences and shadows. The downside to using a higher rating is that it could become too reflective, especially if you have white walls or large windows in your shop. You should also consider the distance between the ground and the lights as they can easily become too intense for normal use.

Under-Cabinet Lighting

Overhanging structures, such as a cabinet above a work bench, can create lighting nightmares. For places where your overhead lights cannot reach, consider adding some under-cabinet lights. These lights are typically found in kitchens but can really illuminate a work space if used properly. This is especially true in hard-to-reach areas or smaller areas that need more detail work.

Portable Lights

A portable light for diy projects.

When all else fails, a good portable light can really be a lifesaver. These come in a variety of shapes and types, from LEDs to halogen bulbs, and are usually height-adjustable. Portable lights should only be used in areas where lighting is awkward and should supplement existing fixtures.

Task Lighting

A great alternative to traditional lighting options is task lighting. These come in many shapes and forms, but the most popular are swinging LED lamp fixtures that can be clamped or bolted down to a work bench. This type of lighting is great if you need something more intense in a particular area of the workshop or want to white out any unnecessary shadows. It's recommended you select LEDs for task lighting as fluorescents are slowly being phased out.


You should do plenty of research before settling on a lighting system. Think about the layout of your workspace, cost over the long run, and ceiling height. If your workshop ceilings are above 8 feet tall, you probably want to invest in overhead fluorescent bulbs. You can even space these fixtures further apart from each other to help negate shadows.