Popular Outdoor Lighting Design Techniques


Outdoor Lighting Design Techniques and Effects

Whether you're just trying to understand some of the popular landscape lighting design techniques or preparing to meet with a designer, it's a good idea to know some of the terms when planning your project.

In this list of popular outdoor lighting design techniques, we'll also talk about the effects each application creates to help you learn the lingo.


This technique involves placing a light fixture up above and shining it down on to the space. There are two different options for downlighting:

Outdoor Lighting Design Techniques: Downlighting from a Tree - McKay Landscape Lighting Omaha Nebraska

Downlighting from a tree:  

The downlight fixture is installed on a branch high in a tree and aimed downward. When the light hits the leaves and branches, it creates a unique shadowing effect in the evening - much like the effect of a full moon-lit sky. This technique is also referred to as moonlighting.

We love to use this technique on patios, paths and walkways, driveways, and more.

Outdoor Lighting Design Techniques: Downlighting from a Structure - McKay Landscape Lighting Omaha Nebraska

Downlighting from a structure:

The downlights in this photo are attached to a pergola. They can also be installed under the eaves of a roofline, patio covers, gazebos, and more. A designer will strategically place the fixture, designed to blend into the structure, which will draw attention to the area, not the fixture.

This technique is great for emphasizing a structure, highlighting flower beds or beautiful landscaping in the front of the house, as well as lighting entrances and doorways

See more down-lighting applications on Houzz»

Outdoor Lighting Design Techniques: Up Lighting Omaha Nebraska McKay Landscape Lighting


This technique involves lighting from the ground up. Fixtures are placed at the base of the tree or structure and pointed upwards, thereby creating a silhouetting or shadowing effect.

Uplighting serves dual purposes: it will draw attention to a particular object, like a tree or facade, while also enhancing security. You can highlight a large tree and its branches, enhance bushes, and emphasize distinguishing features on your property (such as a flagpole, fireplace, and statues) with up-lighting.

See more up-lighting applications on Houzz»

Outdoor Lighting Design Techniques: Path Lighting Omaha Nebraska McKay Landscape Lighting

Path Lighting:

Lighting paths, walkways, and steps are great ways to increase the safety on your property and helps prevent trips and falls. Not to mention, the light also serves as a guide, helping you and your guests navigate your property at night.

A path light fixture, featured in the photo above, is commonly used to illuminate these areas. A concentrated spread of light shines directly onto the path and surrounding area to create a trail of light. We also love using downlighting, a combination of both, or any of these ways to illuminate walkways, paths, and steps.

See more path lighting applications on Houzz»

Outdoor Lighting Design Techniques: Specialty Lighting Omaha Nebraska McKay Landscape Lighting

Specialty Lighting:

Grouped below are a combination of techniques we often used to light specific features of a property or serve a particular function. As you'll see, we use specialty applications to light seat walls, decks, stone features, water features, and more.

Here are a few of our most popular specialty lighting techniques:

Outdoor Lighting Design Techniques: Seat Wall Lighting Omaha Nebraska McKay Landscape Lighting

Seat wall lighting:

This technique includes embedding a small but mighty fixture into a stone or brick wall, pillars, or steps. It provides a notable amount of light to the surrounding areas, yet is barely noticeable. The light creates unique shadowing effects that add a stylish dimension to transform the overall aesthetic and increase safety. 

Outdoor Lighting Design Techniques: Deck Post Lighting Omaha Nebraska McKay Landscape Lighting

Deck lighting:

For this deck lighting application, we installed fixtures onto prominent posts of the deck and stairs railings. The light has a relatively large spread and can easily extend the time spent outside enjoying the evening while adding safety too. 

See more deck and patio lighting applications on Houzz»

Outdoor Lighting Design Techniques: In Grade Lighting Omaha Nebraska McKay Landscape Lighting

In-Grade Lighting:

This technique can be used when installing well lights at the base of a stone feature or interesting architecture. Light gently crawls up the stone or texture, creating unique shadow effects. It's a great way to highlight an outdoor stone fire feature and brighten dark garages, driveways, and front entrances.

Outdoor Lighting Design Techniques: Water Feature Lighting Omaha Nebraska McKay Landscape Lighting

Lighting water features:

Lighting a water feature, such as a fountain or pond, can often involve using fixtures submersed in water or a combination of techniques. Water feature lighting creates a truly unique effect where the light looks like it is dancing on the water

Selecting an Dedicated Landscape Lighting Company

We hope you found our overview of popular outdoor lighting design techniques helpful. With so many lighting techniques and options, it can be overwhelming; however, a lighting designer will know the best techniques to light your space while considering your needs.

Looking to Enhance Your Property?

Our dedicated team at McKay Landscape Lighting works with you to create a custom landscape lighting design that's unique to your property. From design to installation to service, you can count on our team of experts to make sure you are happy with your lighting system for years to come.

Schedule Your Free Consultation Now


Subscribe to Our Blog


Connect with us

outdoor landscape lighting company nebraska outdoor lighting company nebraska best landscape lighting company omaha nebraska best outdoor lighting company omaha ne landscape lighting sioux city ne, outdoor lighting sioux city security lighting omaha nebraska omaha outdoor lighting design


Recent Posts