landscape lighting plan

Tips for Creating the Perfect Landscape Lighting Design

Home Improvement

Landscape lighting does more than just improve a property’s safety. It also adds curb appeal and makes it easier for a home’s residents and guests to enjoy spending time outside after dark. Creating the perfect lighting design is harder than some homeowners might think, but it’s worth putting in some extra effort. Read on to find out how any property owner can create a practical and beautiful outdoor lighting plan to illuminate his or her landscape.

How to Get Started

Before buying galvanized lights, start with a carefully developed, written plan. Having a plan in place will avoid a lot of unnecessary headaches and expenses, and all that’s needed to get the basics down is a pencil and a piece of paper. Start with a walk-through of the landscape and note down things like:

  • What areas would benefit from additional light
  • If there are any existing fixtures
  • Where the electrical outlets are or should be
  • How many fixtures will be required to light each area?

Whether there are specific plants, gardens, or hardscaping features that could be highlighted with appropriate lighting

How much light the bulbs will need to produce to create the desired ambiance

There’s no need to get every detail right just yet. Think of the initial walkthrough as more of a brainstorming session.

Areas That Can Benefit from Lighting

Still not sure exactly what to look for on that initial walk-through? Let’s start from the beginning with a discussion of what areas of the landscape could benefit the most from added light. Here are a few spots to consider:

Driveways and Walkways

Illuminating the driveway and any walkways in the landscape draws attention to unique stonework and creates attractive patterns. It also helps to enhance safety and security and prevent after-dark accidents like slips and falls. Don’t forget about the area immediately surrounding the garage, either.

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Entryways to the Home

Entryway lighting provides a warm welcome to guests and residents when they arrive after dark. Make sure the lights are positioned to illuminate the steps, the handle, and the house numbers, and don’t forget about side doors. Illuminating side and rear entryways can help to deter burglars in addition to adding curb appeal to the home’s exterior.

Patios and Yards

If the home’s occupants enjoy spending time outside after dark, make sure to illuminate the patio or deck and frequently-used areas of the yard. Those who want to save money on electricity can install motion-sensor or automatic lights in areas that see only infrequent use.

Unique Landscaping Features

Have a favorite tree, garden, or hardscaping feature that looks fantastic during the day? Chances are, it will look just as good at night with the right lighting. Many homeowners focus on adding landscape lighting to their front yards to create a stunning scene that can be appreciated from afar, as well.

Outdoor Lighting Techniques

Inside the home, most rooms have a combination of overhead, task, and accent lighting. Things get a little more complicated when lighting system designers head outdoors, though. Consider these specialized landscape lighting techniques:


Downlighting can be considered the outdoor equivalent of installing overhead lights inside the home. The fixtures are mounted high up on the house or in trees to cast illumination over large swaths of the home or yard.


Uplights are positioned toward the sky, or even buried in the ground, to create a dramatic effect. They can be used to illuminate everything from unique trees to fountains and even textured walls to create unique visual appeal.

Spot Lighting

Want to highlight unique focal points like small shrubs, statues, or gardens? Landscape spotlights are a much better fit. Instead of illuminating large areas, they create small islands of visual interest at night.

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Diffused Lighting

Diffused lighting provides low-level illumination to a wide area. It’s a perfect technique for gardens, patios, decks, and even entire yards.

Cross Lighting

Want to draw a ton of attention to a unique statue or tree? Cross-lighting is the perfect solution. It involves placing multiple lights facing in different directions to create a striking, three-dimensional form.

Shadowing and Silhouetting

Shadowing involves placing lights behind a tree or another object located close to a wall to cast an intriguing shadow. Silhouetting is a similar technique, but it’s used when there aren’t any nearby walls. The lights, often concealed within or below trees or bushes, create stunning silhouettes instead of shadows.


Grazing is a great technique for textured surfaces. Place the light close to the surface to draw attention to unique masonry walls, shingles, doors, or even tree bark. Don’t bother with grazing smooth surfaces, as it won’t provide any extra visual interest.


This technique involves positioning soft light sources very high up in trees or on structures. The resulting diffuse light simulates the effect of moonlight.

Pool or Fountain Lights

Water acts as a mirror in the dark, reflecting light and adding some extra visual excitement to an already beautiful landscape. Some homeowners choose underwater lights for fountains and pools, while others position them just above the surface.

Final Tips

Homeowners should now have a basic idea of how to get started creating a landscape lighting design. Once they know what areas to light and what techniques to use, it’s a simple matter of purchasing the right fixtures and bulbs. First, though, here are a few final tips to consider during the design phase:

  • Conceal the lighting source or use decorative fixtures.
  • Don’t overdo it.
  • Mix lighting techniques for maximum visual appeal.
  • Consider buying a timer to turn lights on and off to save electricity.
  • Never aim lights so they shine into neighbors’ windows.
  • Only use fixtures designed for outdoor applications.
  • Choose energy-efficient bulbs.

The Bottom Line

A well-designed landscape lighting plan can improve any yard. Homeowners who plan to create their own lighting designs should still hire electricians if they need to move or install new outlets or fixtures. It’s important to keep wires, outlets, and light fixtures safe from the elements to avoid creating safety hazards.

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