Types Of Lighting 101 | All You Need to Know

Types Of Lighting 1

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Sometimes, a well-thought-out lighting set-up can make all the difference in any decor style. 

Not to mention how lights determine the usability of any space. Moreover, it is a much cheaper alternative to renovate a space than incorporating new furniture frequently to give your home a facelift. 

Indeed, installing fashionable and modern lighting won’t require you to stretch your budget too much. On the other hand, high-quality furniture is expensive and comes with additional costs for maintenance. So, if you’re thinking of changing the existing lighting scheme in your home, we’d say it’s a great decision. 

But the huge variety of lights available on the market can perplex anyone looking to choose a suitable type. That’s why we thought of penning this extensive guide on the different types of lighting. So, without further ado, let’s begin!

Types Of Lighting

Types Of Lighting 2

The Three Main Lighting Categories 

Firstly, know that when you’re looking to set up lights in any space, you must be aware of the three basic types of lights — task, accent, and ambient light. Let’s take a look at their differences.

1. Task Lighting 

As the name suggests, such light sources provide illumination directed toward a particular area to brighten up certain objects or a workspace and provide safe passage. Thus, task lighting is generally more localized compared to other lighting categories. 

Notably, our vision deteriorates with age, and that’s where task lighting can help immensely — it can reduce light glare and prevent eye strain. Such lighting sources are centered around workspaces meant for reading, cooking, studying, crafting, and other stationary hobbies. 

2. Accent Lighting

Such a light source is more decorative and design-oriented than the other types. That said, design is a crucial factor while you’re selecting general or accent light fixtures. 

This type of lighting primarily aims to build a focal point in a room to highlight a statement piece, such as an architectural design feature. Also, if a portion of the wall has some interesting photographs or artworks, it works to bring out their beauty. And that’s not all; accent lighting can even be used to enhance the color or texture of the walls or show off the lighting fixture itself. 

3. Ambient Lighting

Also referred to as general lighting, it’s the primary light source for any room and provides broad lighting for the whole space. Interestingly, it even influences the mood and ambiance of the space — hence, the name “ambient lighting”.   

Note that general lighting fixtures can vary from magnificent chandeliers to recessed lights, which we’ll discuss later in our guide. In fact, if the room is abundant in natural lighting, it serves as the general lighting source during the daytime. 

Now that you know about the basic types of lighting, it’s time to look at some of the most popular lighting fixtures available on the market. And to make things simpler for you, we’ve divided our list into three categories, viz. indoor lighting fixtures, outdoor lighting fixtures, and light bulbs. 

Indoor Lighting Fixtures Types

1. Pendant Lighting

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First off, let’s talk about these interesting lights that are designed primarily to enhance the aesthetic appeal of a room. Note that glass pendant lights, or pendant lights in general are made to hang low from a ceiling, which might have been the inspiration behind the intriguing name. 

Available in different sizes, lengths, and styles, these lights can blend seamlessly into any room décor. Plus, you can choose to install a single piece or a group of pendant lights based on your needs. 

Setting them up is pretty simple — just attach a few sturdy hooks to the ceiling, run the wire of the pendant through them, and then along floors and walls to keep it out of view. And that’s it — let there be light. 

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2. Architectural Lighting

2. Architectural Lighting

The beauty of such lighting fixtures is that they are integrated into the structure of a building. Notably, you can get these fixtures in different styles, like a valance, soffit, and cove lighting. Most architectural lights are placed on shelves or ledges, with the light typically bouncing off the upper parts of a wall or the ceiling.  

Apart from that, valance-styled lights come enclosed in a structure made of glass, metal, or wood, which are mounted high above walls or windows. And as for the soffit-styled lights, they have to be placed near a ceiling so that the light can radiate downward to create a softly-illuminated ambiance. 

3. Recessed Lighting 

3. Recessed Lighting 

Up next is this widely used lighting type that’s installed in various preset ceiling fixtures to illuminate a room using narrow bands of light. Many such lights can be installed together to provide an excellent general room lighting source. 

Recessed lights require at least six-inch clearance for proper installation, plus the area around the fixture must be insulated properly. Interestingly, you can also use these lights in a few spots around the room as a form of accent or task lighting. 

These ceiling lights take up less visual space and can beautifully complement any room decor.

4. Chandeliers

4. Chandeliers

Firstly, chandeliers have to be suspended from a ceiling just like pendant lights — the difference between the two lies in the direction of the light. While chandeliers emit light that points upwards, reflecting off the ceiling, most pendants are directed downwards. 

Furthermore, chandeliers lend a more decorative look to the overall decor and are available in a multitude of captivating designs. These luxurious status symbols are a great example of ambient or general lighting and are popular choices for modern dining and living rooms. 

5. Under-Cabinet Lighting

5. Under-Cabinet Lighting

As the name suggests, such lighting is often installed underneath a kitchen cabinet to facilitate better visibility therein. After all, the area underneath a cabinet tends to be quite dark, making it difficult to find several kitchen essentials. And you would never want to end up slicing your fingers on a sharp tool!

It is worth noting that this prevalent version of task lighting for kitchens is easy to set up. 

6. Track Lighting

6. Track Lighting

While recessed lighting uses pre-installed fixtures to direct light from the ceiling, track lights make for a more convenient alternative for the same purpose. They are mounted to the ceiling with a supporting base and may comprise multiple light heads attached to a continuous track device.

Notably, track lighting is mainly used as a task lighting or accent lighting source. However, it can work as an efficient general lighting source based on the bulb strength.  

7. Wall Sconces

7. Wall Sconces

This style shines in stark contrast to most lighting types we’ve dealt with till now, as it consists of lights extending from the walls instead of ceilings. As such, these lights can illuminate side tables and hallways efficiently. 

At this point, you might assume that installing such lights will require setting up wiring behind the walls. But hang on— that might not always be the case. 

You can eliminate the mess using plug-in wall sconces: just hide the wire properly, plug the lights in the scones, and mount them. And nobody has to know that you actually opted for a plug-in instead of a more permanent fixture. 

8. Portable Lamps 

8. Portable Lamps 

The best part about these lamps is that there is no installation involved; you need only plug them into a power outlet. That’s why you can move them around easily in case you feel they would look better in a different part of the house. Furthermore, the sizes and styles available will leave you spoiled for choice. So, go ahead and find a suitable option for your decor style.

The easy accessibility and versatility of these lights make them a universal favorite worldwide, and they can even act as a perfect task lighting source. That said, larger floor lamps might emanate enough light to make for an efficient source of general lighting. 

9. Laser Lighting 

9. Laser Lighting

If you want to incorporate a distinct lighting element in the room that can transform the ambiance altogether, laser lighting will be an ideal pick. Lasers are, in effect, electrical filaments utilized for generating light created by a variety of fixtures. 

They travel along a thin beam and don’t diffract in different directions, ensuring the brightness and focus of the light aren’t lost over a distance. Note that such lights come in the form of lamps, so you can easily use them in different areas around the home. 

Plus, the narrow path of lasers makes it very easy to diffract a beam into thousands of smaller ones, helping to create the much sought-after, captivating starry effect. And in case you’re looking to create a more happening ambiance for a house party, you can even use two to three laser lights of different colors. 

10. LED Lighting

10. LED Lighting

LED Lights are one of the most popular lighting options today since they offer a much more energy-efficient performance than traditional lights. Moreover, LEDs diffract in different directions and fill the room with a soft glow that most homeowners prefer over the extra-bright light emanating from traditional lighting sources. 

They are also quite long-lasting and won’t need replacements for a long time. Not to mention how some variants have color-changing abilities as well. Another significant advantage is that LED lights can be found in several forms, ranging from accent fixtures such as string and strip lights to standard light bulbs. 

11. Portable Lighting 

11. Portable Lighting 

Portable lighting is another great pick for those who prioritize convenience over design and other factors. Such lights can be plugged into a regular power outlet or a USB port. What’s more, they come in compact and lightweight designs, so you can take them along to create a thrilling ambiance anywhere you go. 

Light Bulbs

Light bulbs can very well be regarded as a separate division when it comes to listing the different types of lighting options on the market. They can even be incorporated in both indoor and outdoor spaces to create different lighting effects as per your needs and preferences. 

Here are the types of light bulbs that are most common on the market today:

1. Fluorescent Light Bulbs

1. Fluorescent Light Bulbs

In case you’re searching for flat light bulbs that offer cold illumination, fluorescent bulbs will fit the bill perfectly. Just like halogen bulbs, these try to imitate natural lighting but work to provide excellent ambient lighting. 

That said, since the light might be too harsh sometimes, it isn’t ideal for many rooms apart from attics and basements. Fluorescent lights are also utilized as commercial lighting due to their powerful ability to light up large spaces. 

Adding to its commendable lighting efficiency is the availability of different variants on the market, including warmer colors. Also, they are much more long-lasting than incandescent light bulbs. 

2. Incandescent Bulbs

2. Incandescent Bulbs

Coming with an inviting and warm glow, these inexpensive bulbs are among the most widely used lighting options nowadays. Moreover, they complement the majority of skin tones and are hence quite flattering light choices. That’s also why they are an apt choice for dimming light bulbs in a bathroom. 

However, a downside is that they aren’t very energy efficient and generally last for just about 700 hours of continuous use.  

3. LED Light Bulbs

3. LED Light Bulbs

These light bulbs use the energy-efficient LED technology to offer quality and long-lasting lighting for most spaces. In fact, they have shown great promise as economical choices worldwide, with more and more commercial establishments using such lighting solutions on a large scale. 

A noteworthy feature of such lights is their ability to provide directional lighting, due to which they can serve as excellent task lighting sources. 

At the same time, there are differently styled variants offering colored lighting, providing users the opportunity to accentuate different spaces to enhance their visual appeal. And that’s not all; You can even find other innovative models coming with clusters of LED bulbs that can provide broader illumination. 

However, if you’re looking for options that offer diffused light, these might not be the ideal choice to go for. Another point of caution is that the more decorative versions of LED bulbs tend to be much costlier than the standard units. 

4. Halogen Bulbs

4. Halogen Bulbs

First and foremost, you’ll love these lights for the way they can replicate natural light, which is actually why they are fairly popular lighting choices worldwide. Halogen light bulbs are, in effect, a variant of incandescent lights, with the colors popping and appearing to be sharper. That’s why they can serve as perfect lighting sources for vibrantly colored rooms. 

Furthermore, these lights are more energy saving than most incandescent bulbs. But keep in mind that this property makes them costlier than the latter. Also, these lights burn at higher temperatures compared to other bulbs, so be careful while you’re handling them. 

Outdoor Lights

Just like indoor lighting options, there’s a pretty huge number of choices when it comes to outdoor lighting. That said, we’ve picked the ones which offer truly effective lighting for outdoor spaces and are popular among a large section of people.  

1. Outdoor Wall Lighting

1. Outdoor Wall Lighting

Lighting on the exterior walls are quite popular, with lots of variants available to suit different outdoor lighting needs. For example, you can opt for wall lanterns if you prefer to set up traditional-style solitary accent lights on different parts of the boundary and exterior walls. They come in the form of semi-flush mount sconces and are fairly popular choices for wall-mounted lighting. 

On the other hand, cottage and rustic-style lights provide a more casual feel to any outdoor space that ultimately exudes the much-loved beachy vibe. But if you’re looking to install wall-mounted lighting for security or functional purposes, it’s better to go for bulkhead lights or spotlights. These offer the optimum lighting essential for such purposes. 

2. Hanging Lights

2. Hanging Lights

These lighting fixtures lend an attractive, welcoming feel to the outdoor space while illuminating the surrounding area just the way you want. Plus, they can beautifully highlight any significant architectural or landscaping feature in the outdoor space. At the same time, you can use them to make areas such as backyards more usable by illuminating them as per your needs. 

Like indoor lighting solutions, hanging lights come in a variety of styles such as pendants, chandeliers, lanterns, rustic lights, industrial lights, and many more. 

3. Garden And Landscape Lighting 

3. Garden And Landscape Lighting 

Adding some lights to your landscape can help elevate the overall appearance and design of your outdoor space considerably. But as numerous lighting options are available for the purpose, you’ll have to research a bit on the style that will be ideal for your home. 

For instance, you may choose to incorporate path lighting to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere in and around the walkway leading to your home. Note that such lights will also serve to illuminate the path adequately. 

Alternatively, you can go for post mount lights for the gate, fence, or entryway. These actually consist of outdoor lanterns fixed on tall posts and are also referred to as pier mount lights. Remember that they are just as useful for lighting up the space as for accentuating its look, which makes them ideal for patios, decks, and poolsides. 

4. Floodlights

4. Floodlights

This immensely popular type of outdoor lighting offers a beam with an adjustable angle that can be rotated to focus on a particular area. You can get these lights fixed in the ground, or they can even be mounted on walls, poles, or structures. Notably, these last much longer than most other forms of outdoor lighting and are also more energy-efficient. 

By using floodlights in dark areas, you can improve the safety of your outdoor space as people will find it easier to spot potential hazards. Moreover, these can discourage crime, vandalism, and property damage. 

5. Barn Lights 

5. Barn Lights 

If you’re looking for a casual outdoor fixture other than lantern-style lights, this option will be a fairly suitable choice to go for. It tends to cast the light in a circle downwards, rather than a host of outdoor lights that can shed light in many directions. 

Notably, a large section of people are under the impression that barn lights are suited for traditional styles. But contrary to this popular belief, they suit modern and contemporary decor styles equally well. Furthermore, you can purchase them in a range of finishes. 

6. Motion Sensor Lights 

6. Motion Sensor Lights 

Before we end our list, here’s another modern form of outdoor task lighting that has gained much popularity of late. A motion sensor light comes with an internal photocontrol or motion sensor that helps regulate lighting consistently. 

To elaborate further, motion sensors light up just when an object passes by their infrared beam, and the light remains on for a particular time. Note that such lights are excellent options to enable safety and security in any outdoor space. 

On the other hand, photocells or photocontrols are similar to timers and are generally found in lights used in parking lots. These lights turn on during dusk and then turn off during sunrise. Photocells are also applied for several outdoor lighting purposes. 

Here, it’s worth noting that you can adjust built-in timers based on the duration for which you want the lights to remain on. 

Things To Consider While Choosing Lighting

To determine the most suitable type of lighting for your home, being aware about the various types available is only half the battle won. 

After all, your choice will ultimately depend upon your requirements and preferences. And apart from that, you’ll need to consider certain crucial factors that influence the applicability of a lighting in a particular ambience and its overall performance.  

1. Coverage

First off, you’ll need to consider the size of the space you’re looking to light up, as that will, in turn, determine the amount of light required to keep it lit. And after you have estimated the area to be covered, you must figure out the ideal brightness for that area accordingly. Note here that the brightness is nowadays measured in lumen (LM) instead of the older unit of wattage (W). 

As a rule of thumb, interior spaces such as bedrooms or sitting rooms require a brightness of around 10 to 20 lu/ sq ft (lumen per square ft). But spaces like kitchens and bathrooms that must have greater visibility need a stronger brightness level of around 70 to 80 lu/sq ft. So, to figure out the lumens you require, you’ll simply have to multiply the area of the room by these figures. 

Speaking of outdoor spaces, you’ll require lighting of at least 50 lumens if you plan to use low background lights. On the other hand, security and driveway lights must come with high brightness levels of around 2400 lumens. 

That’s why it’s a must to check the brightness of the option you’re considering purchasing. 

2. Application 

It’s also worth noting that the ideal lighting choice for any space will depend on how you wish to apply the lighting therein. And when it comes to application, the color temperature will play a crucial role. 

Though this term might not be familiar to many, it’s actually a crucial factor affecting the overall performance of any type of lighting. After all, the color temperature helps you understand the appearance of the light and how well it will blend with the surroundings. 

Long story short, the suitable color temperature will be different depending upon whether you want to incorporate accent, task, or ambient lighting. 

Note that color temperature ranges from warm-white to true daylight, with the former being on the lower end of the scale and the latter on the higher end. 

While warm light gives the room a cozy and inviting tone, true daylight is pure white light and projects a crisp and stark tone akin to natural light. And in between these two levels of the temperature scale is a cool-white light that provides the right balance of vibrance and brightness. 

3. Quantity Vs Quality

The quantity and quality of the lighting are, of course, two of the most essential considerations when it comes to choosing lights for any space. But more importantly, you must strike the right balance between both while making a choice. 

For example, homeowners generally tend to design bedrooms using an overhead lamp, supplemental task lighting such as glass pendant lights, and some bedside lamps. 

True enough, that could provide a well-lit bedroom, but when you’re looking to unwind after a tiring day you will certainly not want a brightly lit surrounding. That’s why an efficient bedside lamp and overhead light are enough to provide the required lighting along with a calming atmosphere in the bedroom. 

Hence, you must make sure the quantity of lights you’re getting for a space never overpowers their quality. 

Final Thoughts 

On that note, it’s almost time for us to wrap up the guide. We hope you enjoyed reading about the different varieties of lighting, just as we enjoyed exploring and analyzing them. 

So, don’t delay decking up your favorite space in the home with the lighting of your choice. But make sure you also consider your lighting needs with regard to the space apart from the design-related aspects. 

Plus, for those planning to set up interior lighting, we’d strongly recommend using lighter reflections and colors to create the desired atmosphere. You can add reflective surfaces and mirrors for a brighter and shinier appearance. 

With that, we’ll bring down the curtains for now. But we’ll return soon with more guides on home designing and décor. Till then, take care!  

Anton Giuroiu

Anton Giuroiu

Anton founded Homesthetics, as an architecture, art and design online magazine on the random date of 20th of October 2012 in attempt to save inspiring architecture and art products in one place.

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