A wise man once said, “you don’t realize how dark your shop is until it is properly lit.” Or maybe that wise man was Jimmy DiResta? Either way, installing the best shop lighting is something that way too many people take for granted in their shop.
I know for certain that I do!
When I moved into our new shop early in 2020 I relied for a while on a single overhead lightbulb and a bulb on an extension cord while I got the shop set up. That setup was painfully dark to work in.
Since then I have installed a few overhead LED bulbs but I still need to get a few more put in. Especially in the areas under my wood loft as the overhead bulbs are frequently blocked by my head as I am working.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive to dramatically upgrade your lighting. Soon you will no longer have to squint to see if you’ve removed the tooling marks from a piece while sanding a project.
The Best Overhead Shop Lighting Options
Dramatically increasing your overhead lighting in the shop is the absolute best way to create a bright, workable space.
If you’re curious just how much lighting you should be installing for a given space there are some great calculators available. This one gives you the ability to enter the size of your space and desired brightness then calculates how many bulbs of a certain size and brightness will need to be installed.
Luckily, almost all overhead lighting sold today is LED which dramatically cuts down on energy costs over older lighting options. So installing a few extra lights won’t break the bank on your energy bill each month.
Best Overall Shop Lights: Hykolity 5000K LED Shop Light
I installed these lights in my shop and they have checked all the boxes on what I was looking for in the best shop lighting available.
These 4-foot long linkable, 42-watt lights can either be hung by the included chains or flush mounted to the ceiling. I chose to hang them as the shop ceilings are fairly high. They also come with a longer than average 59″ cord so that gives you a bit more space to maneuver the lights around your ceiling.
These lights come with a standard plug and you can link up to four together with the included linking kits.
Best Shop Lights for Lighting a Large Space: Barrina 4FT LED Shop Light 10-pack
If you have a larger space or just really want to light up your garage then these Barrina LED lights are the way to get it done on a budget. These 4-foot long, 40W lights put out an impressive amount of 5000k bright daylight.
A great feature of these lights is they can be either hardwired into an existing switch or plugged into a standard outlet. All of the necessary cords are included for either option. You can then connect up to 6 lights together on a single string.
These lights come in a 10-pack and are easy to flush mount to the ceiling with the included mounting accessories.
One common complaint to consider with these lights though is the mounting clips are prone to failure. A common fix is to install them using PVC straps.
Best Florescent Shop Light Replacement: FaithSail 4FT LED 40W Wrap Light
If your shop already has existing florescent light fixtures installed and you are looking to upgrade them to new, lower energy LED fixtures then these are a great option. Using 70% less energy than traditional florescent fixtures upgrading your lights can save you a good chunk of change in the long run.
These lights also make it easy to expand your existing lighting setup as they come with knockout holes at the end of each light. This enables up to 20 lights to be installed together.
The included LED bulbs are a warm 4000k neutral white light which can give a cozier feel than the sometimes harsh 5000k daylight light of many LED fixtures.
Another option for upgrading your existing florescent fixtures and making them more energy efficient is to install LED bulbs.
These bulbs are designed to plug right into your existing fixtures with no wiring changes needed. Note that some LED replacement bulbs do require some rewiring to bypass the ballast in your fluorescent fixture so read the instructions carefully before installing.
Best Upgrade to Existing Shop Light Bulbs: Homelazy 80W LED Garage Ceiling Lights with 4 Adjustable Panels
If installing new strip LED lighting is not an option in your shop space then the next best bet is to upgrade your existing overhead light bulbs. These 4-panel, adjustable LED lights plug into any existing light socket and put out an impressive 8000 lumens of light.
The 4 adjustable panels make it easy to spread the light around your shop will feel like a huge upgrade over the soft light of a traditional bulb.
These lights are great over workbenches or tools as you can aim the light as needed into the corners of your space that may be normally prone to shadows.
Best Under Cabinet Bench Lighting: EShine LED Dimmable Under Cabinet Lighting
Once I installed a wood loft over my workbench I needed some under cabinet lights to properly light my work space.
These small, under cabinet style lights have worked perfectly for that job. The lights come in a warm 3000k or bright white 6000k option as well as 3 different sizes to fit your space.
The lights are also motion-activated, so a quick wave of my hand turns them on and off. My only complaint with that mechanism is that dust tends to impede the sensors, so I occasionally have to blow them out with the air compressor.
The lights plug into a standard outlet and multiple fixtures can be strung together with the included cords.
Best Tool Light: 9W Magnetic LED Gooseneck Work Light
This light is one of my favorite lighting upgrades I have made in the shop. I actually have a few of these scattered around on various tools like the bandsaw and lathe as they are so handy.
The 9W gooseneck work light has a magnetic base that can attach to any metal tool. The long neck can then be moved to aim the light directly where you need it.
On the bandsaw, the guide bushings will usually cast a shadow directly on the the wood if I rely solely on overhead lights. By installing one of these gooseneck lights I can aim the light from the side and get a clear view of my cut lines.
I also keep one on the lathe so I can aim it inside of bowls or hollow forms as I turn them. It also casts a consistent light on spindle turnings as I am often close enough to the lathe that it blocks out the overhead light and casts shadows. This makes it especially difficult during sanding when I’m trying to see if there are any sanding marks left on the piece.
Best Adjustable Workbench Light: TROND LED Clamp Desk Lamp Task Light
And last, but certainly not least, is the trusty workbench light. We talked a little earlier about adding under cabinet lights over the workbench but I also can’t go without an adjustable clamp light as well.
So much of what I do at the workbench leaves me huddled over the pieces that I tend to block out a lot of the overhead light. Having an adjustable light that I can move around and clip directly to the bench makes life so much easier.
When I’m batching out dozens of Etsy orders for the Christmas rush it can be a pain to constantly have to lean back so I can check my sanding progress on each piece. This light totally takes care of that problem.
This light draws only 9W of power and produces a very bright, workable light. The light is also dimmable which is great for time when I want just a little extra light on my work but don’t need the full power.
Final Thoughts on the Best Shop Lighting
I hope this post is helpful in choosing lighting upgrades for your shop. Even though I still have a little ways to go in upgrading my shop lighting it is still light (haha) years ahead of where I started. Adding specific lighting to your tools and workbench also makes a huge difference and I can’t recommend it enough!