Lighting Research Center

Advancing the effective use of light for society and the environment

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How can I see small details better?

You can see small objects like fine print and sewing better when you have more light. A task light is a light fixture designed to direct light to an area where you need to see small details. The closer the task light is to the object you wish to see, the easier it will be to see fine details as long as the light still covers the whole object. You will be able to see small things better if you:

  • Place adjustable task lights, floor lamps, or table lamps near your table, desk, bed, or objects with fine detail.
Place a task light over your shoulder, close to where you read.
You can see fine details better when the task light is close to the task.
  • Place your task light on your left side and slightly to the front if you are right-handed. Place it to your right and slightly forward if you are left-handed. This will reduce shadows cast by your hand on your paper, cutting board, or other task surface.
A. B.

Place your task light slightly to the front and on the opposite side of the hand you write with (a) to avoid shadows (b).
  • Place fixtures over the sink, stove, countertops, and other fixed work areas. Avoid placing fixtures on the ceiling behind you when you stand at a counter, table, or sink. Fixtures located to the side and slightly in front of you will keep your shadow off your task surface. Use light-colored décor to reduce shadows.
A. B.

Place a light fixture over the counter between you and the wall (a) to avoid shadows on your work area (b).

  • If you have upper cabinets, light your countertops with thin, undercabinet lighting fixtures mounted on the underside of the upper cabinets.
  • Mount swing arm lamps used for reading in bed above the head of your bed or to your side, below your eye level.
You can read well in bed with an adjustable task light mounted over the headboard.

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