Create a Landscape Lighting Design in 3 Easy Steps
As you make plans to spend time in your yard each spring, make sure that your outdoor space provides enough light for you to enjoy it. The right lighting design can highlight your beautiful landscape and create the perfect place for entertaining guests or relaxing. With plug-and-play options and low-voltage systems available, it has never been easier for you to become your own landscape lighting designer. These three easy steps will help you to design your landscape lighting and create the perfect outdoor oasis.
Before you begin your lighting design, make sure you know the characteristics and differences between common outdoor landscape lights. Each light fixture is best suited for specific tasks, and understanding when and where to use them is essential.
1. Determine What The Function Of Your Outdoor Lighting Will Be
Outdoor lighting falls into two main categories: decorative and functional. Decorative lighting is used to highlight parts of your landscape that you want to draw the eye to. This can include pointing lights at flowers and bushes in your garden, uplighting a tree, or illuminating parts of your pond. Functional lighting, on the other hand, encompasses safety and task lighting such as path lights or deck and step lights. These lights will provide enough visibility to help you access parts of your outdoor space at night safely.
Ways to Use Decorative Outdoor Lighting
- On the ground: Illuminate key parts of your landscape such as trees, plants, statues, flags, and bushes with spot lights, flood lights, and well lights. Outdoor spot lights come with an adjustable base or a ground stake so you can aim them where light is needed. For larger objects, opt for a flood light that has a wide beam angle. If you want a more covert light, try in-ground well lights that are installed in the ground and shoot light upwards.
- Overhead: Add outdoor string lights to your patio, gazebo, or pergola to create a well-lit and decorative sitting space. These lights can be mounted in a variety of ways to fit your installation needs.
- Underwater: You can also add lighting underwater with waterproof light fixtures. These lights can be fully submerged and provide decorative lighting to your ponds, fountains, and other wet locations. Now you can watch fish swim at night or simply enjoy how your light reflects on the water.
Ways to Use Functional Outdoor Lighting
- Deck out your deck: Decks are full of spots to add lighting. Installing deck and step lights around your deck brighten up the space, adds visibility, and adds a decorative touch. Eyelid surface-mounted fixtures aim light downward to brighten up your patio walkways and steps without a harsh glare. Recessed step lights install flush with your deck and are available in various shapes, faceplate styles, and colors to seamlessly tie into your patio design. For rail lighting or step lighting, weatherproof LED strip lights are a great option. Strip lights come with various color temperatures, RGB colors, and brightness options so you can customize your lighting according to your needs. Their flexible nature allows you to install them around curves and corners.
- Blaze your own path: Install path lights around your walkways, driveways, and in gardens or mulch beds for increased accessibility and visibility. These lights come in a variety of different decorative styles such as cones, bollards, and pagodas to match your design aesthetic. If you want the added benefit of energy efficiency, consider using solar-powered path lights.
- Leave no stone unturned: Installing hardscape lights on your stone stairways and retaining walls is another great way to add functional lighting to your outdoor lighting design. These fixtures come with the required hardware that will allow you to mount these lights on tough surfaces.
2. Choose Different Lighting Characteristics
Modern LED landscape light fixtures come with a variety of color temperature, color, and brightness options. Correlated color temperature, or CCT, refers to the shade of white light emitted. Different CCTs are best for certain applications, so choose the right white light for your design. Warm white light can help create a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere, while cool white light is best suited for security lighting. RGB landscape lights are perfect if you want a creative and dynamic outdoor space. A combination of different colors creates an exciting environment and will help your house stand out against other neighbors. Lights with multiple RGB color-changing options are also great for holiday lighting; change your lights to display red and green for Christmas or purple and orange for Halloween. Finally, select lights with an appropriate lumen output for your intended application. You could choose a different brightness depending on the size of the object you want to showcase.
3. Figure Out The Layout of Your Outdoor Lights
Once you know what parts of your landscape you want to light up, decide how you will place and arrange your fixtures. The best landscape designs use a combination of several light types to achieve the desired effect. For example, you can use both spot lights and well lights in garden beds to brighten up different types of flowers and bushes. Be sure to leave enough space between your fixtures so that you can see the effect of each light. You should also consider using different landscape lighting techniques to create dimension and depth in your space. Techniques like shadowing, silhouette lighting, and down-lighting can add a dramatic look. Or for a traditional approach, incorporate up-lighting, moon-lighting, and grazing into your design.
After you have a general idea of where you want to install your lights, make a sketch of your layout and wiring so you have a reference point for future changes. If you plan to wire fixtures like lamp poles or high-voltage lights, make sure you are following the NEC rules for buried outdoor wires. Additionally, look at the distance between where you want to install your light and the object you wish to light up. If the fixture will be placed far away, consider choosing a higher-lumen bulb so that you have enough light to properly illuminate what you want.
If you choose solar-powered fixtures or lights with a built-in photocell, make sure that the solar panel and sensor have enough direct access to sunlight to work properly. Solar-powered lights are able to store more energy if placed in direct sunlight, so the placement of these lights is important when considering the performance of your light. Outdoor fixtures with photocells should also avoid being placed in the shade so they do not accidentally register the dim environment as being nighttime. Proper access to sunlight will ensure your lights turn on only when necessary, and this helps save on energy costs.
Ready for the next step in creating your outdoor lighting design? Check out our article on Planning for an LED Landscape Lighting Installation. Or, browse our full line of LED landscape lights.