What is uplighting and downlighting

Your choice of lighting is a quintessential part of your home’s ambiance. Choosing the right uplighting/downlighting layout can create a subtle yet stunning outdoor lighting atmosphere that you crave for your home’s exterior.

Although lighting experts and landscaping pros seem to speak their own lingo, understanding the meaning of the term uplighting/downlighting is as obvious as it seems. Uplighting refers to lights that are mounted to shine their light upward and are installed at low or ground level. Downlighting refers to lights that shine their light downward; so they would be installed at a higher to point to create this downward light effect.

Now that we understand the general meaning of the terms, let’s get to the fun part – working out what your unique uplighting/downlighting configuration might look like!

Kichler 7-Inch Outdoor Spot Light is perfect for shining light on your favorite home exterior features!

What should you uplight? Common features to uplight in your home’s exterior include special, large or unique trees, architectural features or columns as well as garden features. Uplights are also a perfect choice to illuminate something that is taller. The beauty of these type of features in your home’s exterior can be lost without the correct choice of outdoor lighting.

In addition to highlighting the best features of your home’s exterior, uplighting also:

  • Creates captivating shadows in your landscape
  • Adds depth to outdoor walls, fences or other flat surfaces
  • Layers on extra light for safety and security purposes
  • Outlines space boundaries in your outdoor design

There are many types of uplights available to serve a multitude of backyard lighting needs, including bullet (or spot) uplights such as the Kichler 7-Inch Outdoor Spot Light that offer a narrow spot beam, perfect for shining light on your favorite home exterior features!

What should you downlight? Downlighting is great for adding a layer of depth to your beautiful exterior landscape and creates that warm, welcoming feel that everyone wants their home to have! Downlighting is often used for landscape beds, water features or any of your favorite ground-level focal points that you want to call attention to once the sun goes down. Downlighting also provides an element of safety and visibility to outdoor seating areas as well as pathways around your home.

If you want to add a beautiful effect to downlighting, we recommend you look into Moonlighting. Moonlighting is a trending downlighting technique that, if done correctly, can replicate the beauty of the moon’s light exactly where you want it!
Here’s how moonlighting works:

  • You affix a light fixture, such as the the Kichler 6-Inch Outdoor Spot Light, high up in a tree and point its beam downward to replicate the moon shining down on your favorite area of your home’s exterior. Moonlighting is a fantastic choice for entertainment areas such as patios or pools, where you and your guests can relax under the light of the “moon.”

When is uplighting the way to go? When is downlighting the way to go? Now that we’ve whet your whistle for downlighting/uplighting techniques that you can use to enhance the exterior of your home’s ambiance, improve the overall look and feel and even add another layer of security, you might feel overwhelmed by all the choices. Not to worry, we’ve summarized all these best practices so you can get started.

When to choose uplighting: Uplighting is an amazing way to light up your favorite parts of your home’s exterior – whether it’s your favorite tree, an architectural column or a hardscape in your garden that you want to make sure receives the attention it deserves. As a general rule of thumb, uplighting is used for adding contrast and showing off an element of your exterior. It is best used for structures or elements that rise up from the ground.

When to choose downlighting: Downlighting requires something at a higher level that the light can be affixed to and works best in areas where you want to light up an area or feature that is closer to the ground. It can also be essential in areas where you are concerned that a light could be tripped over or walked upon. Downlighting is more subtle than uplighting making it better suited for areas where pathways or seating areas that need only to be slightly illuminated, for example.

Can’t choose, don’t. Choose both uplighting/downlighting for the win-win! Just like any element of exterior design, the best techniques will often compliment each other. The same is true for uplighting/downlighting. Uplights and downlights are actually better when used in unison to create the combination of subtle and dramatic lighting for your outdoor living space. Layering your landscape lighting with uplighting to highlight certain architectural features, statuary or foliage as well as using downlighting to direct light sources toward ground level elements such as low-growing plants, sitting areas and water features is the ultimate win-win.

How downlighting and uplighting work together:

  • Uplighting can soften the area where the downlighting begins at ground level, making it more subtle, so it appears more natural.
  • Both techniques combined add a wide variety of angles of light, creating a more natural feel – such as you would see in nature.
  • Using both uplighting and downlighting allows you to guide the eyes toward certain areas of your exterior while supporting other areas subtly with mood-enhancing light.

Kichler Energy Smart 4-Inch Outdoor Spot Light is eco-friendly and energy-efficient.

A note about LED up/downlights: LED up/downlights are an excellent choice as you plan out the perfect lighting configuration for your home’s exterior. LED up/downlights such as the Kichler Energy Smart 4-Inch Outdoor Spot Light from Capitol Lighting’s complete collection of lighting products can help you achieve nearly any of your exterior lighting goals!

  • LED up/downlights offer many advantages such as:
  • Ease of installation and maintenance
  • Eco-friendly and energy-efficient
  • Cutting-edge technology
  • Versatility and long-lasting

Enjoying your backyard lighting adds an entirely new dimension to your home. Whether you’re entertaining (and impressing) your friends or just unwinding with your family after a long day at the office, your choice of uplighting/downlighting can transform your home into your personal paradise. While uplighting and downlighting serve unique purposes, they work best when used in tandem. Finding the balance between the captivating and the subtle is how you will create the exterior living space worthy of more of your time, enjoyment and, of course, relaxation.

– The Capitol Lighting Team
Browse our complete collection of uplighting/downlighting here.

What’s the next big thing?

Concealing lights in the walls or floor to create a layered effect is a growing trend – but the next big developments will be about better control and energy efficiency.

If you make only one change to your lighting …

Install a dimmer switch.

On ambient, task and accent lighting

These are the three principal effects. They should be controlled separately so the balance of light in a room can be changed to create different moods. Ambient lighting provides the background lighting. General downlights and wall- mounted uplights are both good options or, if you’re lighting a living space, you could use a central chandelier or table lamps.

Task lighting is focused light for a specific task – downlights over a kitchen worktop, say. Accent (or feature) lighting adds interest and glamour to a space. It could be a narrow beam downlight over a collection of glass or a discreet uplight of an archway.

On uplights and downlights

These are your main tools and knowing how to use them is the key to success. Downlights are fully or partially recessed ceiling lights (fully recessed, where the bulb is set back by around 30mm, will provide maximum focus with minimum glare) that cast light downwards and can be used for ambient, task or accent lighting. Uplights direct light at the ceiling, which reflects it back. They can be free-standing lamps, mounted on the wall or set in the floor. Wide beam reflectors provide ambient lighting, while narrow beams (10 degrees or less) are ideal for accent lighting.

On sources of light

We’re most familiar with the tung- sten source of a regular light bulb. This provides a soft, warm, inviting light that’s ideal for table lamps, but the best source for both ambient and feature lighting in domestic interiors is low-voltage halogen. Use it with a wide beam for general lighting or a narrow beam to highlight features. It is ideal for areas where more daylight is required and when dimmed it takes on a candle-like quality.

LEDs (light emitting diodes) are the latest trend and are great for decoration. Use them outside set into decking or as a colour-changing striplight.

On common mistakes

Not using enough different types of light and thinking of rooms as single spaces rather than breaking them down into different areas results in uniformly lit rooms that are in danger of becoming dull. The worst mistake, however, is to install a symmetrical grid pattern of lights in the ceiling with no reference to what the space is used for. You’ll end up with a room that feels like an office.

And how to get it right

Good lighting is about creating layers and it’s important you think about how a space is used. The key is variety and to consider each of the individual areas in a room so the lighting creates invisible walls. For example, open-plan living-eating- cooking spaces need lighting as if they were three different rooms.

The living area may need localised task lighting for reading and accent light focused on an artwork, while the kitchen may require ceiling- mounted task lights over an island and the dining area some intimate accent light focused on the table.

Tips for kitchens

1 Opt for recessed or semi-recessed fittings that won’t collect grease.

2 Light work surfaces with under-cupboard or under-shelf lights or adjustable spotlights mounted on the wall. Recessed downlights in the ceiling are good to light island units.

3 Put task lights on a separate circuit to alter the mood of the room.

4 A low-voltage downlight in the ceiling will give a warm glow to the smallest galley kitchen and can be used to bounce light off cupboards, giving a feeling of space.

5 For mood lighting consider setting lights into the plinth of a central island or row of units to light the floor.

6 If you have high ceilings, try mounting uplights on to the top of wall units to provide attractive ambient light and reduce the number of downlights you need.

Tips for bathrooms

1 Make sure your lighting is designed for bathrooms – check that the IP rating is appropriate (IP means ingress protection and shows the amount of dust and light that can get into the fitting).

2 For a flattering look, place lights evenly either side of the mirror.

3 Think about feature lighting to create atmosphere. Put recessed spots into alcoves, uplight behind a bath with waterproof uplights, or position downlights above the bath or sink so that, when they’re filled, you create a pattern of rippling water across the ceiling.

4 Place downlights close to the back wall of a shower (ideally in a slot) to create a dramatic shaft of light.

5 Install different switch lines, one for mood, low-level and mirror lighting and one for practical lighting.

Tips for gardens

1 A little light goes a long way at night – decide what features to illuminate and to what intensity.

2 Keep lighting flexible. Spiked fittings will enable you to change the position of lights.

3 Emphasise steps with built-in step lights or night lights in glass holders.

4 Go for dark-green fittings that blend with the foliage. Alternatively try copper, which will gradually patinate to a natural green colour.

Tips for hallways and landings

1 Introduce a different dimension by adding low-level lights in the wall to illuminate the floor.

2 Make the hallway dimmer than the landing: it draws the eye upwards, making the space feel bigger.

· Sally Storey is design director of John Cullen Lighting (020-7371 5400, johncullenlighting.co.uk) and Lighting Design International (020-7381 8999, lightingdesigninternational.com).

Downlighting vs. Uplighting: Which Landscape Lighting Do You Need?

After dark, your outdoor living space glows. The architectural detail of interesting trees and a stone retaining wall are naturally illuminated. Beds of blooming perennials are highlighted so you can enjoy their beauty after sunset.

You don’t see the landscape lighting. You can feel it.

Done right, you won’t spot fixtures or feel like you’re sitting in an arena. Effective landscape lighting should not feel like you flipped on an overhead switch that floods your property with light. High-voltage is not the effect you’re going for.

So, what’s the secret to achieving that subtle, natural lighting effect? A combination of downlighting and uplighting in the landscape will accent focal points and architectural detail, create an inviting mood, building property value, and improve safety.

Let’s talk about the difference between downlighting and uplighting, and how both professional landscape lighting effects play well together to enhance your outdoor environment at night.


Spotlights and well lights are positioned to shine upward to illuminate structures. The positioning of light will accent texture and shape– a tree’s leaves and branches, for example. Uplighting draws the eye up, creating depth in the landscape at night. Upighting can shine directly on a surface, like a wall or tree trunk. Or, it can be positioned to light up and under a feature, such as a tree’s canopy. Depending on how uplighting is positioned, the effect can look crisp and modern by creating columns of light–or naturally dramatic, by shooting light up into and behind a feature to create a contrast of light and shadow.

Tip: First, pinpoint features you’d like to accentuate on your property. What are its focal points? Some ideas: architectural columns on your home or from a pergola/patio structure; or even interesting trees.


With downlighting, fixtures are mounted up on to structures so light shines down and accents what lies beneath. Downlighting works for landscape beds, a water feature or any other ground-level focal point of functional space you want to illuminate after dark.

Tip: the key to creating a natural effect is to conceal the light fixture, if possible. Downlighting fixtures can be tucked into a tree canopy or behind natural stone or another hardscape element. You should notice the features that are illuminated, not the fixture of beam of light shining from it.

Layering Light: Combining Uplighting and Downlighting

Trying to determine whether uplighting or downloading is best for your property? The good news is, probably both. Layered landscape lighting that combines uplighting and downlighting creates the most appealing effect. If you think about it, natural light pours in from different angles. Your landscape lighting should amplify what nature can do, while maintaining a subtle, warm feel.

Uplight features that will accent your property’s character– interesting trees and architectural details.

Downlight focal points at ground level that might otherwise get lost in the dark. Think: low-growing plants, hardscape elements, water features.

Landscape lighting is an art and science. Let’s talk about how you can ring your property to life after dark. Call us any time at 801-440-7647, or fill out this simple contact form and we’ll get in touch with you.

Outdoor Lighting

Why We Love Outdoor Lighting

Installing modern outdoor lighting is one of the easiest ways to breathe new life into outdoor spaces. Contemporary outdoor fixtures look great in patios, entryways, outdoor stairwells and pathways, and other outdoor spaces that can benefit from extra illumination.

Exterior lighting takes the design of your outdoor spaces to the next level. From functional lighting to highlight high-traffic areas to decorative lighting with a focus on design, outdoor lighting epitomizes versatility. Another great thing about outdoor lighting is the versatility. For patio lighting, you can install an outdoor ceiling fan/light combination to regulate temperature and provide ambient lighting at the same time. Experimenting with different types of lights from the same collection can contribute to a cohesive look in outdoor areas.

Where Outdoor Lighting Styles Work Best

There is no limit to the ways you can use outdoor light fixtures. Depending on the location, certain lighting options will work better than others in exterior spaces. If you want to illuminate a pathway or garden, step lights work well. These lights look best when purchased in multiples placed at evenly spaced intervals. Outdoor chandeliers are the perfect option for decks and gazebos and add a touch of elegance when dining outdoors. These fixtures are best when coupled with a timed dimming function or integrated solar panel that automatically adjusts the light level throughout the day.

Outdoor Lighting Designs You’ll Love

You have access to the absolute best in outdoor lighting options and the choices range from chic pendants to practical flushmounts. Sconces are another popular outdoor lighting option that offers style, function, and durability. Kichler Lighting has a reputation for its innovative exterior lighting options that add a touch of whimsy to yards, decks, and outdoor water features. Modern Forms brings you sophisticated outdoor LED lighting that adds style to existing landscaping and outdoor décor. For lights that are suitable for outdoor use while maintaining a stylish aesthetic, look to Sea Gull Lighting for its range of outdoor pendant lights, sconces, and flushmounts. Minka-Lavery is your source for ultramodern outdoor light fixtures with lustrous finishes like brushed aluminum and alder bronze. For the ultimate in landscape lighting, Maxim Lighting offers a range of gorgeous LED wall sconces, step lights, and light posts.

How to Choose the Best Outdoor Lighting: Sizes, Styles & Understanding UL Listings

When picking out fixtures for an outdoor area, it’s a good idea to consider the size, style, and UL rating of the lights you have in mind. Start your search for the ideal outdoor fixtures with these simple steps.

  • Where to Place Outdoor Lighting?

    Begin searching for your outdoor lighting by deciding where exactly you need exterior fixtures. Where are the dim areas of your front porch, back yard or driveway? Do you need a pair of wall sconces flanking each side of the garage door? What about a low profile fixture for the front porch? Or do you need to take your lighting on the go from the front porch to the back patio? Take inventory of the kinds of lighting you need and where, then you’re guaranteed to have a simple search.

  • How to Choose the Best Sizes of Outdoor Lights?

    As with choosing any style of lighting, finding the correct size is of utmost importance. Once you have decided exactly where you will be placing new lights, get out the measuring tape, a pen and a pad of paper. You’ll want to be mindful of dimensions like height, diameter, length and suspension. Whether you’re in need of a sconce, a chandelier or a flush ceiling light, getting the right size is key.

  • Selecting Colors & Finishes

    While the color of light you choose is up to your personal aesthetics, these kinds of fixtures are especially peculiar when it comes to certain finishes. For instance, if you live in a coastal cool area, you’ll want to look out for marine-grade finishes so the light is well-protected in moisture-heavy areas. You’ll find several metallic finishes and colors to incorporate into your outdoor lighting scheme as well.

  • What Does Dark Sky Rated Mean?

    While we are huge proponents of outdoor lighting, we are conscious of light tresspass and sky glow. Any fixtures tagged with a dark sky compliant rating indicates they will help minimize the amount of blue light at night. This helps to reduce light pollution and the overall glow they put into the evening sky. You’ll commonly find this rating for exterior wall lights.

  • What Does A Light’s UL Rating Mean?

    Simply put, the UL rating is an indication of how wet a light fixture can get and when it comes to outdoor lighting, this is extra important. Modern outdoor light fixtures will either be listed as UL damp, meaning they can be exposed to some moisture or as UL wet, meaning they can be exposed to water. For UL wet listed outdoor light fixtures, you’re free to spray them with the garden hose anytime they need to be cleaned. Easy, right? For any outdoor lighting you’re thinking of purchasing, just be sure to double check the UL listing.

Keeping these few steps in mind when you’re planning your outdoor lighting will help ensure you pick out the right fixtures for your application.

Other Considerations

Look to the selection of porch lights to give guests of your home a warm and safe welcome. For outdoor hanging lights, consider where they will be placed and how much of a drop you want to the fixture to have. Likewise, for outdoor sconces, measure the surrounding space to determine the appropriate fixture size. And if you are installing pathway lights, measure the total length of the pathway to decide exactly how many lights you’ll need to achieve the desired look. Last, but certainly not least, keep your patio area cool during the summer time with an outdoor ceiling fan.

Outdoor Lighting

Transform your exterior space into a beautiful, well-lit oasis with the help of outdoor lights from 1800Lighting. The exterior of your property is the first things guests and visitors will see. As the saying goes, you get no second chance to make a good first impression. Choosing the right exterior lamp or exterior light setup can make an amazing difference in your home’s curb appeal. It can bolster its safety and security as well as its value.

We’re pros when it comes to helping our customers design a delightful, welcoming outdoor scheme that sets the stage exactly the way you want it. Our extensive inventory of outdoor lights for sale means you can get any kind of effect you set out to achieve. Whether you’re looking for ultra-stylish outdoor ceiling lights that play to your specific decor scheme or want to illuminate pathways and gardens with enchanting outdoor post lamps and landscape lights, you will discover an amazing selection of illumination options here.

Our assortment of outdoor lights is unmatched, with selections in an incredible variety of finishes, brands and bulb types to choose from. We can help you upgrade to long-lasting, energy-efficient and eco-friendly outdoor LEDs or provide you with classic incandescent external porch or patio lighting at a great value. Shop online or in one of our stores in New Jersey or Florida to find the ideal outdoor light for your specific space.

We can accommodate any kind of design scheme, from old-fashioned to modern. Highlight your home’s architectural features with exterior wall lights featuring show-stopping fixtures in styles ranging from clean, contemporary cylinders to antique-inspired bronze outdoor fixtures. Draw the attention of guests and visitors upward — to your archways, patio canopies, outdoor kitchen ceilings and other ethereal heights — with one of our elegant outdoor ceiling lights. Do you want to boost your home’s curb appeal? Learn how to do so effectively by reading about the eight great fixtures that will do so quickly and easily.

You can create a one-of-a-kind design statement when you install a hanging outdoor fixture that brings the indoors outside. These products are great for al fresco dining, entertaining or any other time you want to enjoy gorgeous weather outside with friends or family.

You will find a practical side as well as an aesthetic approach in our outdoor external lights as well. Keep things purely utilitarian with affordable flush-mount lights that provide the perfect atmosphere for outdoor working, entertaining, dining and other activities. We can also help you find practical and great-looking landscape lighting, outdoor security lights and outdoor pier lamps that will provide your commercial or residential landscape with extra safety and security as well as style.

All of our exterior light collections come in an amazing variety of styles, so you can find something that suits your particular decorative scheme, whether it be nautical, traditional, Mediterranean or ultra-modern. We specialize in providing top-notch lighting brands, including Troy Lighting, Quoizel and Kichler. And, with every purchase from our store, you get a 110 percent best-price guarantee, easy returns and free shipping. That means you can shop with total confidence and ensure you’ll be pleased with your experience with us from start to finish.

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More About Outdoor Lighting

Pro Lighting is your one-stop shop for all types of outdoor lighting. Whether you’re looking for heavy-duty, commercial dusk-to-dawn lights for your industrial exterior or stylish landscape lighting to illuminate your residential space, you’ll find it in our expansive store. The right outdoor lighting, including security lighting, can help make your property safer and more inviting. We have high-quality lighting products and accessories made by the industry’s best, including RAB, CREE, and more. Find eco-friendly and cost-effective LED outdoor lights, PAR lights, CFL lights and other top-of-the-line outdoor styles at Pro Lighting.

We can assist you with outdoor lighting for your home, office, warehouse, retail environment, school, parking lot and much more. If you’re looking for commercial dusk-to-dawn outdoor lights, we recommend installing one of our LED dusk-to-dawn floodlights. These lights provide an excellent solution for landscape lighting, signs, building facades and security lighting and provide up to 50,000 hours of lamp time. We also offer pole and wall-mounted area lights that are appropriate for installation in any parking lot, long driveway, exterior courtyard or yard. We make it easy to configure your lighting with light poles and mounting accessories designed for the outdoors.

Pro Lighting is also an expert when it comes to cost-effective landscape lighting. Using path and garden lights, step lighting, well lights and floodlights, you’ll be able to elegantly illuminate your pathways, gardens and patios while simultaneously adding a layer of safety and security to your property. These items are manufactured with all-weather materials to endure throughout years of use and have corrosion-proof, non-conductive components for added safety. Many of our exterior lighting products come with generous warranties to ensure that your purchase is protected for the long-term.

Uplighting vs. Downlighting: What is Right for Your Space

When it gets dark outside, your outdoor living space should glow. However, the only way this is possible is by utilize the right type of landscape lighting. The fact is, there are likely quite a few appealing elements in your landscape, from interesting trees to exquisite stone retaining walls that you could highlight. The question is, how do you achieve a “natural” lighting look, that is still effective and aesthetically pleasing?

The answer is by utilizing uplighting and downlighting. This can be a tricky process, so it may be wise to enlist the help of the professionals.

Using Uplighting in Your Landscape

Examples of uplighting includes well lights and spotlights that are positioned so they shine upward to illuminate various structures in your yard. By properly positioning this light, you can accent the shape and texture of various objects, for example, the branches and leaves on a tree.

An appealing factor of uplighting is that it helps to draw your eye upward, which creates a sense of depth in the landscape when darkness falls. You can position uplights so they shine directly on a surface, such as a tree trunk or wall, or it can be positioned to light up and under a certain feature, such as a tree canopy. You can also create different “feels” with uplighting depending on how the light is positioned. For example, the effect can be modern and crisp if you create columns of light, or naturally dramatic by positioning the lights so they shoot into and behind a feature, creating a contrast of shadow and light.

Using Downlighting in Your Landscape

When downlighting is used, the fixtures are mounted on to a structure, so the light will shine down, accenting anything under it. Downlighting is effective for water features, landscape beds and other ground-level elements that you want to be a focal point.

A key to creating a natural looking effect is to conceal the light fixture if you can. You can hide your fixtures in the canopy of nearby trees or behind natural stones or other hardscape elements. The goal is to notice the features the light is illuminating, rather than the fixture itself of the beam of light shining down.

Using Uplighting and Downlighting Together

For most people, using a combination of up- and downlighting will be best. This is because you can layer the lighting elements, to create an extremely appealing and illuminating effect. If you are unsure of how to create a landscaping design that properly accentuates your property, then contact the professionals at The IDL Company. They can help create a customized lighting plan for your outdoor area.

In the world of lighting, there are a lot of terms to decipher. While some terms are never explained because they are assumed to be a common vernacular within the lighting industry, there are other terms that need to be more accessible to the average consumer. A topic often talked about in terms of lighting is uplight and downlight. What is uplight and downlight? How do you use it to the advantage of your space? Let’s take a closer look at this matter to help you make the right choice for your next fixture purchase.

What is uplight and downlight?

These two terms are actually quite simple in their application. Both terms explain the direction that the majority of the light spread is cast. For instance, uplight is light cast from a fixture that goes up to the ceiling and downlight is light that spreads downward to the floor. The type of fixture will determine whether it creates more of one or the other or an equal amount of both. A few examples of fixtures that only give downlight include gooseneck, decorative pendant styles, and task lighting such as lamps. A few examples of primarily uplight fixtures can be found in wall sconces where the bottom of the fixture is enclosed to avoid letting light escape. Of course, many fixtures, such as certain wall sconces and most recessed troffer units will give a little bit of both directional light flows.

Why does it matter?

Some people wonder if they can just choose a fixture that offers an equal amount of both directional light spread and call it a day. However, the matter of downlight and uplight matters greatly in any space. It should also be noted that each type is better for different reasons. For instance, downlight is ideal for task lighting such as over a workspace, desk, or in the kitchen. Downlight is also great for lighting intended for safety and security purposes such as exterior lighting for doors and walkways. In contrast, uplight is ideal for accent lighting such as wall sconces in hallways or bathrooms, as well as to highlight specific areas of interest in the space.

The best way to use these two lighting aspects to your advantage is to create what is called layered light. Every room should have a mix of both uplight and downlight to create a balanced effect throughout the space. All rooms should have accent lighting (uplight or a mix of both), task lighting (downlight), and general lighting (usually downlight or a mix of both) to create a layered effect. The reason for this is because it makes the lighting easier on the eyes and creates a pleasing appearance.

When understanding the meaning behind uplight and downlight, as well as when and how to use them, it is actually a simple concept. With this information, you can easily create a beautiful, well-lit area with ease and confidence!


Despite being the industry standard, soffit lighting is almost never the best way to light the facade of a home.

It’s very common practice to use soffit lights to light the exterior facade of a home. Contrary to popular belief, this is not the best way to do it. It’s impossible to light every aspect of your facade using soffit mounted lighting. Read more on why we almost always recommend ground mounted up lighting versus soffit mounted down lighting.

Get Noticed – The Psychology of Up Lighting

Natural light comes from above, from the sun. When lighting from the ground up, the effect is unnatural and thus more noticeable to the human eye. Ground mounted fixtures that up light the the exterior of the home are more eye catching and more noticeable than soffit mounted down lights. As a result, the eye is drawn up, which emphasizes the scale of the home. Soffit lights are recessed and do the opposite; they pool light on the ground and draw the eye down. Soffit down lights leave the soffit and fascia of the home dark except for the bright, intrusive light of the soffit light itself.

Ground mounted up lights “grazing” the stone facade of a client’s Nashville home

Lighting Effect and Fixture Placement Are Paramount

The lighting effect we want is known as “grazing”. Grazing is a technique used to emphasize a textured surface or architectural element (a stone or brick wall, for example). It’s achieved by placing a light source close to the surface, usually 12”-24” out, with the fixture parallel to that surface. The effect this has is to softly illuminate the surface in a visually pleasing way.

Soffit lights are stuck in the soffit; you couldn’t move them if you wanted to. The distance between the light source and the home’s facade are extremely close, 2″-3″ out, and results in harsh, bright spots that fail to properly display your home. Ground mounted lights are not fixed; they can be adjusted as necessary for the best effect.

The above examples show less than ideal soffit downlighting. In each example the source of light is visible, causes hot spots on the surface, and doesn’t accentuate the architecture of the home.

Up Light Your Gables! Soffit Lights Can’t Do That

Lighting the gables on the home is crucial for any well balanced architectural lighting design. Gables are the triangular peaks between the edges of intersecting roof pitches. Most homes have gables, but because soffit lights are affixed to the the underside of the eaves, they fail to light them by design. When a home doesn’t have gable lighting, the scale of the home is lost, you can’t view the most interesting architectural elements of the home, and the house can look unnatural and cut off after the first story.

When are recessed soffit lights appropriate?

Soffit lights aren’t all bad, and sometimes they can offer the most cost effective solution, as in lighting around garage doors. With a concrete driveway in the way, ground mounted up lights can be tricky to install. Recessed well lights are best, but can be costly as they require core drilling through the concrete. For people concerned with cost, soffit lights can be a solution.

Recessed soffit down lights installed above the garage on Brentwood client’s home

Soffit lights have their place, but more often than not, ground mounted up lights are the best way to light the exterior of a home or building. If you’re interested in learning more about the differences in soffit and ground mounted lights, get in contact with us!

If you have any questions or would like to discuss your lighting needs, please feel free to request a free consultation online.

We’re a local business and we’ve been lighting up Nashville since 2012. Our team has years of experience creating and installing unique and elegant outdoor lighting designs, and providing maintenance and repair services to homes and businesses across Middle Tennessee. Our award-winning company has been voted 1st in Nashville House & Home for landscape lighting for four consecutive years and Best of Houzz for the last three years.

Located in Goodlettsville, Light Up Nashville services Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin, Hendersonville, Gallatin, the surrounding areas and beyond.

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