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The Complete Landscape Lighting Guide


Proper landscape lighting can take your backyard from meh to wow. But like all ambitious and decorative projects, landscape lighting can be overwhelming. You’re welcome to try, but if you’re not a designer, the chances of you turning your landscape into a dumpster aren’t all that low. The greatest challenge in landscape lighting is getting the right topsoil. Without it, your yard will appear all mushy and unappealing. Fortunately, you can get quality topsoil by Googling “topsoil near me”. However, preparing the soil is only the first step. Let’s take a look at how you should go about properly lighting your land.

The Guide

  1. Create an outline– Before you go about the lighting process, it’s first important to determine what light you want in your land. Begin by identifying the key features in your yard. These are objects you want to highlight, such as a gravel path, ferns, trees, pool garage, statues, etc. Before you beautify your land, you must understand which objects on your land are beautifiable.

The second step involves adding drama/highlights to your objects. Remember that in design, minimalism is the best. Too much and you’ll end up overwhelming the human brain which is a huge no-no when it comes to visual aesthetics. For instance, adding a potted plant or a stone wall is enough in some cases. Now place one or two lights in the perfect spot so that the light and shadow complement each other while highlighting the object in view (wall or plant).

The third step involves utility. Now all lights are meant for design. Sometimes you need them to light up pathways such as a stairwell or a gravel path. But even then, you can enhance the aesthetic value of simple objects with properly placed lights.

Once you know what to focus on, it’s time to find out the best light that suits your purpose.

  1. Floodlight/Spotlight– The only thing that separates a spotlight from a floodlight is the beam spread. Spotlight creates a narrow and concentrated light beam that is usually around 45o. Not only is it easy to aim, but it brightens up a small spot and is mostly used for highlighting display points. Architectural buildings or small landscape features use mostly spotlights for attractive lighting.

Floodlights on the other hand have a much wider spread of 120o. It is mostly used to light up large areas such as parking lots, driveways. It’s not used in the design field but comes in rather handy in safety regions.

Simply put, use spotlights to focus on objects, and floodlights to focus on large areas.

  1. Inground lighting– These are circle-shaped lights that are buried directly into the ground. They are often used to light up driveways and walkways. This type of lighting highlights the sophistication of any landscape. The silhouetting feature of the inground lights is exceptionally beautiful to look at. In the case of more powerful lights, it can even light up entire trees, an effect that is simply mesmerizing if paired with the right setting.

Inground lights are also used to highlight statues that are otherwise poorly visible on typical nights. Inground lights are often used in combination with spotlights to achieve that stage effect you see in live plays. These lights create a strong presence, so it’s best you use them in conjunction with tall objects such as a tree or a wall. Smaller objects like plants gnomes, waist-high birdbaths are incapable of fully utilizing the silhouette effect of inground lights.

Lastly, they are used in driveways for pure safety purposes. Make sure to get LED ones for that crisp color temperature to help you better navigate road hazards.

  1. Outdoor post lights– Outdoor post lights are the favorite lighting options for most designers. The ambient brightness creates a calming sensation without the overpowering brightness of its distant cousins. They are great for illuminating driveways and large spaces because they don’t risk blinding the viewers while offering ample light for seamless navigation.

For optimal placement measure the diameter of the light around the post. This will help you determine the amount of space you should leave between each light. This will prevent your yard from looking like an airport runway.

  1. Path lighting– Path lights are the most basic forms of landscape lighting in the market. They are quite similar to post lights but are somewhat fancier looking in comparison. Moreover, in addition to making the path a lot safer to walk they enhance the overall curb appeal.

One of the most important factors you should consider while using path lights is size. For instance, if you’re looking for a nice and even light spread, then the lights should be at least 14-inches tall.

Generally speaking, the lights should also be placed within 1 foot of each other. You can also measure the diameter of the light for optimal placement. Lastly, it’s time to pick a material for your lights. Make sure to pick a coating that’s both corrosion and wear-resistant.

  1. How to place lights– Light placement is the key when you’re designing your landscape. You can achieve a myriad of effects by slightly altering the lighting angles.

Up-lighting is the most basic form of landscape lighting and it’s used to highlight architectural details and silhouetting highlights in objects that are not visible in plain sight. Usually, the light source is placed behind an object in question and is itself not visible, but the shadowy effect itself looks pretty dramatic.

Moonlighting is yet another famous form of lighting small lights on several locations pointing downwards, bathing the branches and the ground below with lights. This light is best used with extra-large trees which look amazing when you combine moonlighting with spotlighting.


There are other forms of lightning as well such as washing, grazing, shadowing, and much more. But before you decide on your lights, you have to create a foundation first. Without proper topsoil, none of this would be possible. In order to get premium-quality topsoil, you can search for “topsoil near me” for the best results. Moreover, the guests will have a hard time focusing on the lights if they have trouble walking in the first place. So, it is vital that you get it right.

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