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Outdoor Lighting Design Guide

Mitchell Elworthy February 22, 2024 at 8:32 am

When it comes to outdoor lighting design, an electrically savvy homeowner may be able to do it themselves. However, it is not a straightforward task and not for the faint-hearted. If you’re not experienced with lighting, we highly recommend calling in a professional. Outdoor lighting design done well is a thing of beauty but, when done wrong, it can be more than just an eye sore, potentially creating a safety hazard too.


To help you better understand your project, whether you’re doing it alone or working with a team, our lighting designers have put together some points you should consider and common mistakes they’ve seen over the years. If you need support, we offer Landscape Lighting Services in-house and our fees are refunded when you buy your lights through us!* Are team are happy to help where they can.

*Please see T&CS for minimum spend.


Landscape lighting design checklist:

1. Purpose: Determine the main function of the lighting - whether it's for security, ambience, or to illuminate a path.

2. Lighting Type: Choose between different types based on your needs. There are lots of lighting options to consider, including spotlights, spike lights, LED strip lights, bollard lights, solar lights, festoon lights, step lights, lamp posts, floodlights, pathway lights, or decorative wall lights. Each has different features and benefits for your space.

3. Brightness: Consider the level of brightness you need. Brighter lights are good for security, while softer lighting is better for ambience.

4. Energy Efficiency: Opt for energy-efficient options like LED lights to save on electricity costs and reduce environmental impact.

5. Durability: Ensure the lights are durable and can withstand weather conditions in your area, such as rain, snow, or extreme temperatures. Using materials such as copper, brass or marine-grade stainless steel. 

6. Motion Sensors: If your lighting is to help with security, consider lights with motion sensors to enhance safety and save energy.

7. Solar Options: Solar-powered lights are eco-friendly and can be easier to install since they don’t require wiring. However, you need to place them appropriately to ensure they’re getting enough sunlight.

8. Colour Temperature: As with indoor lighting, the colour temperature of your lights is key. Choose a colour temperature that suits the mood you want to create – warmer tones for cosy spaces and cooler tones for a more alert atmosphere.

9. Style and Design: Select a style that complements your outdoor decor and architectural style. You may even have a theme that runs from the interior of your house to the exterior.

10. Automatic Timers: Timers can be convenient for managing when the lights turn on and off, saving energy and effort. It’s important to get a timer that suits your needs and is easy to operate for anyone who might need it.

11. Ease of Installation: Consider how easy it is to install the lighting and whether you can do it yourself or need professional help.

12. Adjustability: Check if the lights can be adjusted or repositioned to suit different needs or preferences. This is particularly good if you enjoy restyling every now and again or have new plants that are still growing into themselves.

13. Control Options: Look for options like dimmers or remote controls for added convenience. Smart lighting to automate your lighting schedule. 

14. Water and Dust Resistance. Correct IP rating, so your fittings have the correct weatherproof or submersible rating. This may seem obvious but not all weatherproof lights are made equal.

15. Safety Standards: Ensure the lighting meets relevant safety standards and electrical codes.

16. Light Pollution: Choose lighting that minimises light pollution and is neighbour-friendly. You will likely want to light your space but not interfere with the lighting inside the house - this could keep family members awake inadvertently or cause them to wake up in the night.

17. Warranty and Support: Look for good warranty terms and customer support for your peace of mind. This can make a huge difference when it comes to the long-term cost and maintenance of your garden.

18. Cost: Consider the upfront and long-term operating costs. With electricity prices fluctuating, it’s important to bear all factors in mind.

19. Compatibility with Other Systems: If you have a smart home system, check if the lights are compatible with integrated controls.

20. Scalability and Expansion: Consider if the lighting system allows for future expansion or changes in case you want to add more lights or change the layout.

21. UV Resistance: For areas with high UV exposure, ensure the materials are UV resistant to prevent degradation.

22. Corrosion Resistance: Particularly important in coastal areas or places with high humidity to ensure longevity of the fixtures.

23. Color Rendering Index (CRI): A higher CRI means colours appear truer to life under the light, which is important for areas where you want accurate colour representation, for example, showing of colourful flower beds or plants..

24. Beam Spread: Consider the spread of the light beam – a wider spread can illuminate larger areas, while a narrow beam is good for highlighting specific features.

25. Light Layering: Think about combining different types of lighting (ambient, task, and accent) to create layers and add depth to the outdoor space. If you’re unfamiliar with light types you can find out more here.

26. Glare Control: Look for lighting options that minimise glare for comfort and safety, especially in areas where people will be spending a lot of time.

27. Compatibility with Existing Landscape: Ensure the lighting design fits in with your existing landscape, garden, or outdoor features. For example, you may wish to utilise tree lights or pond lighting. 

28. Light Direction: Consider whether you need downward lighting for pathways, upward lighting for accentuating features or directional lighting for specific areas. The correct blend of lights and directions can make or break a space.



We know the list is long but if you’re creating your dream space, it’s critical that you consider each of these factors. There are a lot of useful resources online and professionals on hand to help you as you navigate your garden/ outdoor lighting design.

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