How to Illuminate Your Patio: A Guide to Landscape Lighting Design

Considerations to Make When Creating an Outdoor Lighting Plan

When it comes to your outdoor spaces, the last thing you want is to be left in the dark after sunset. An outdoor lighting plan is the make or break element for a successful and functional indoor-outdoor space working both day and night. When approaching landscape lighting, it is essential to consider ambient, task, and accent lighting just as you would for the interior of your home. Our San Antonio interior designers and architects put together the ultimate guide to outdoor lighting, including what spaces to light, techniques to use, and light fixtures to consider.  

Adding Ambient, Task, and Accent Lighting to Your Outdoor Living Space

Ambient, task, and accent lighting need to be incorporated outside just as they do inside. However, many homeowners overlook this when creating a landscape lighting plan. Obviously, you would want task lighting in your home office, but it is also just as important to include it in your outdoor kitchen. 

Ambient Lighting 

Ambient lighting provides overall illumination, like ceiling-mounted fixtures or wall sconces in a patio space. 

Ambient Lighting
Ambient Lighting

Task Lighting 

Task lighting creates direct light for workspaces, like pendants over an outdoor kitchen counter. 

Accent Lighting 

Accent lighting draws attention to a focal point or helps establish a mood, like spotlights in trees or underwater lights in fountains.  

Layering different types of lighting outdoors will help define the outdoor living spaces, illuminate workspaces, and enhance the overall mood of the backyard.  

Accent Wall Lighting
Accent Wall Lighting

Outdoor Spaces to Include in a Lighting Plan

When setting out to illuminate your backyard with a landscape lighting plan, make sure to consider all the outdoor spaces that need to be included. Some areas like porches are apparent, while other spots like garden paths may be forgotten and left in the dark. Remember, if an outdoor space isn’t properly lit, it will be unusable at night. 

Porch Lighting 

Areas like porches, patios, and home entry points are the first places to start when creating an outdoor lighting plan. The illumination of these spaces will encourage an indoor-outdoor flow and encourage the family to get outside and take advantage of the backyard for dinners and gatherings.  

Porch Lighting
Porch Lighting

Stair Lighting 

Stair lighting is crucial for making sure your guests can safely navigate your outdoor living spaces at night. The last thing you’d want is for someone to miss a step and trip. Plus, stair lighting creates a beautiful accent.  

Stair Lighting
Stair Lighting

Pathway Lighting 

Like stair lighting, pathway lighting is another crucial factor for consideration in your outdoor lighting plan. Pathway lights will also help to establish a backyard flow and direct guests to additional patios and gardens.  

Pathway Lighting
Pathway Lighting

Tree Lighting 

Tree spotlights can be used to highlight key focal points in your landscape or even cast interesting shadows on flat walls to add dimension after dark. Additionally, diffused downlighting can be mounted in taller, more established trees to fill the yard with moonlight quality lighting filtered through the tree branches.  

Tree Lighting
Tree Lighting

Accent Wall Lighting 

Lighting can be added to showcase the architecture of your home, highlight retaining walls, or reveal an interesting pattern of light and shadow. Plus, illuminating walls can help define outdoor living areas.  

Fountain and Pool Lighting 

Lighting fountains and pools will help establish these areas as nighttime gathering spots and add an element of romance to your backyard. Lighting is one of the many considerations to make when designing a luxury pool

Landscape Lighting Techniques to Use in a Lighting Plan  

When designing a landscape lighting plan, there are many lighting techniques to consider in your outdoor spaces. Layering these different techniques will add dimension and charm. Keep all of these techniques in mind when designing a lighting plan.    

Spot Lighting 

Spotlights or accent lights focus a beam of light to highlight a specific plant or focal point in your backyard. 

Grazing 

Grazing refers to illuminating a textured surface, like stone walls or hedges, to bring out exciting shadows and texture.    

Grazing Lighting
Grazing Lighting

Shadowing 

Shadowing is using a light source to light an object from behind and cast a shadow. This technique is an attractive way to add dimension to an otherwise flat wall. 

Underwater Lighting 

Underwater lighting can create a dramatic mood in pools or fountains. In the case of swimming pools, this is a great feature that allows you to carry the pool party into the evening.  

Uplighting 

Uplighting uses lights placed low to the ground to illuminate walls or foliage from the bottom up. This style of lighting typically creates a more climactic effect and reveals striking textures. 

Pathway and Uplights
Pathway and Uplights

Downlighting 

Downlighting is more traditional lighting mounted high in a tree or on a porch ceiling to diffuse general lighting to illuminate a space for practical use.  

Must-Have Outdoor Lighting Fixtures 

To illuminate your landscape and patio spaces and create beautiful effects in your outdoor lighting plan, you will have to purchase the right light fixtures. Here are some of the top choices from our San Antonio interior designers and architects.  

Outdoor Sconces 

Depending on the style, outdoor sconces can be used as accent wall lighting to create a grazing effect or serve as the primary ambient lighting on your patio space.  

Outdoor Ceiling Fans 

Outdoor ceiling fans are a must for warm summer nights, especially here in Texas! Capture a cool evening breeze while illuminating your porch.   

Spotlights 

For a complete outdoor lighting plan, you will need multiple spotlights to highlight trees, illuminate sculptures, and even create a grazing effect on accent walls. 

Step Lights 

Step lights can be added to the wall beside the staircase or the riser. These are necessary for ensuring safety.  

Step Lights
Step Lights

Garden and Pathway Lights 

Post and bollard lights are great options to illuminate your garden and pathways. They will help to establish outdoor flow as well as provide a safely lit walkway.  

String Lights 

String or cafe lights are the perfect choices for creating a dreamy mood and defining an outdoor living area. They add picturesque charm and call to mind romantic nights spent al fresco. 

String Lights
String Lights

Are you looking to illuminate your backyard with an outdoor lighting plan? 

Let us know!

Don’t miss out on design history, trends, and knowledge. 

Stay up to date with us.  

Recent Posts
Patio Design IdeasMaximalist Fun in Palm Springs