When done correctly, landscape lighting can transform a dark outdoor space into a place of beauty. However, knowledge of lighting and an eye for design is essential to achieving the perfect lighting plan. In this article, we’ll take a look at the basics of landscape lighting and provide you with all the tips and tricks you need to get started with your project!
The Basics of Landscape Lighting
The first step in lighting a landscape is knowing what you want to emphasize. Identify the features of the landscape that you like. Maybe it’s a pond or a particularly stately tree. Highlight those with light and show them off! You can also add contrast to areas that might not stand out during the day. A simple stone wall can take on an entirely new personality at night when grazed with light and shadow. Some common examples of landscape lighting include:
- Pathway Lighting – Pathway light fixtures are typically installed next to driveways, walkways, and pathways. They can be used as accent lights to showcase a yard, garden, or architectural features of buildings and homes. Not only do they look great, but they also provided a safe way to maneuver around the space.
- Tree Lighting – Use lights to bring your trees to life! Uplighted trees are dramatic and can create a focal point for the entire landscape lighting. By comparison, downlighting is subtle and can create an inviting outdoor living space. Uplighting and downlighting can be used together on the same tree for maximum effect, or they can be used separately on different trees.
- Functional lighting – Stairs and pathways need to be lit to ensure that people can move about the space without the risk of injury. Outdoor areas that focus less on plants can use functional lighting to highlight furniture, building architecture, or other aspects. Even the simplest design features can look amazing when lighting is used correctly.
Choosing the Right Lighting Fixtures
Now that you know what you want to light, how will you actually do it? To get an effective landscape lighting scheme, you need to know the types of lighting available, the effects that can be created, and where they are commonly used. You’ll want to get familiar with several basic kinds of fixtures when designing your lighting plan. Below are the various types of lighting you might find in a landscape:
- Spotlights & floodlights can be used to make the trees, plants, and shrubs stand out. They’re also perfect for illuminating fountains, gazebos, statues, and other features. Spotlights project a concentrated, narrow beam of light that’s usually around 45 degrees. Floodlights generally have a wider beam spread, up to 120 degrees.
- In-ground & well lights are often used to illuminate walkways and driveways but are also suitable for lighting a building’s side, especially columns and other architectural features. They are installed flush with the ground, so they look fantastic.
- Post lights & bollard lights are typically used to line the edges of sidewalks or pathways to enhance aesthetics and safety/security simultaneously.
- Path lights are similar to post lights and bollards but are shorter and smaller in comparison.
- Waterproof spotlights are safe for use in or out of water. Suitable for soft lighting around ponds and fountains.
- Underwater lights are designed to be placed at the bottom of water fixtures such as ponds or fountains. They’re perfect for bringing life to water fixtures in the dark and highlighting fish!
- Hardscape lights are designed to be mounted on stone or other hard surfaces. Hardscape lighting is best used on the underside of lipped stone walls or stone steps.
- Recessed stair lights help increase visibility around flat surfaces and stairs. They’re available with a variety of faceplate designs to illuminate selected areas. Recessed stair lights are used just as much for aesthetics as they are for safety.
- Motion sensor lights are used to illuminate large areas when motion is detected. These lighting fixtures are suitable for security purposes to prevent potential criminal activity.
Landscape Lighting Techniques
Don’t feel overwhelmed! We know there are a lot of types of lights and a lot of spaces to place them. A quick way to get ideas for your project is to grab a high-powered flashlight with a dimming optic and play around with the light to see what looks good or what might not work as well. Here are a few of the various landscape lighting effects you might want to try:
Uplighting is one of the most basic landscape lighting techniques created by strategically placing lighting fixtures on the floor and pointing them up. Uplighting is often used as an accent to architectural details and increase the safety of dark stairs.
Use with: Spotlights, Well Lights
Silhouetting is a fantastic effect for highlighting dramatic shapes. Create this effect by placing the light source behind the item and light toward where the main vantage point will be, ensuring that the light source cannot be seen.
Use With: Spotlights, Well Lights.
Shadowing is the reverse of silhouetting. You can create this effect by placing the light between the main vantage point and the object being lit, with the light source aimed at the object. This technique works best when you have a wall or flat surface behind the object to catch the shadows. Great for creating a softer, more moody effect!
Use with: Spotlights, Well Lights, Floodlights
Grazing is a lighting technique created by placing the light close to the flat surface and aiming directly up or down the surface. This technique creates dramatic light and shadow play and works best on uneven or irregular patterns such as stone walls. Grazing can add an upscale touch, as it is often seen in hotel and restaurant design.
Use with: Well Lights, Hardscape Lights
Choosing the Right Distance for Path Lights
The distance between path lights depends on the path’s size and the effect you’re trying to create. Typically, path lights should be spaced 6 to 8 feet apart to keep the path well-lit. Reduce the distance between lights for a more vivid lighting effect.
Choosing the Right Lumen Level for Landscape Lighting
The lumen level required to illuminate an outdoor space effectively varies from fixture to fixture. While your lighting design shouldn’t follow a rigid template, here’s a general guide to help you create a great landscape lighting scheme:
- Path lights – 100 to 200 lumens
- Step lights – 12 to 100 lumens
- Spotlights & flood lights – 700 to 1300 lumens
- In-ground & well lights – 200 to 400 lumens
- Hardscape lights – 50 to 185 lumens
- Motion sensor lights – 400 to 700 lumens
Nevada Sales Agency: Your Lighting, Controls & Site Amenities Partner
Ready to light your next landscape project? Nevada Sales Agency is a team that connects you to lighting, controls, and site amenity solutions in Southern Nevada. As industry leaders, we pride ourselves on having experience and commitment to our partners. If you’re looking for a passionate and experienced team to help turn your goals and visions into viable solutions, contact us today!