Lighting Techniques

The best garden lighting layouts usually take advantage of a number of lighting techniques commonly associated with outdoor lighting. For example, we can illuminate the same tree in several ways, each creating a different lighting effect. In that sense, accent lights are designed for use with halogen directional lamps are by far your best tools to fashion many of those special effects.

Some of the more popular techniques are described briefly down bellow and they may be useful in planning your layout. Nevertheless, remember the following before proceeding :

Do not light everting

If you illuminate everything equally you take away the emphasis from what you really want to highlight.

Select those objects that you want to focus attention on and light only them. The interplay of highlights and shadows is what results in the most interesting visual surroundings.

Do not overlight

With landscape lighting, we are highlighting articles such as trees, statues and shrubs against the near black background of night.

Even low wattage lamps can produce ample brightness against the dark veil of the night. Too much wattage may brighten objects too much and may result in visual discomfort.


Uplighting is extremely popular in landscape lighting projects. Here the light source is usually installed at ground level and the beam aimed upwards against the object such as a tree trunk, foliage, wall, shrubs, etc.

The landscape designer can alter the resulting visual effects by varying the distance and/or the aiming angle with respect to the object.

Choose an accent light to create this effect.

Direct Accent Lighting

This technique calls for a direct beam of light aimed directly towards the object to be illuminated. Lighting fixtures using PAR and MR halogen reflector lamps are the most common choice. Since these lamps are available in a multitude of wattages and beam spreads, you are sure to find the right lamp whatever the size and distance of object you wish to illuminate.

Choose an accent light to create this effect.


Moonlighting is soft directional lighting from above. Install an accent lighting source high up in a tree and allow the light beam to trickle through the branches towards the ground. The branches and foliage are immersed in a luminous glow and their shadows fashion a mosaic of patterns on the ground.

Choose an accent light to create this effect.


The silhouette lighting technique seeks to capture the peripheral outline of an object by focusing light on the backside of the object while the front side remains in the dark. The luminous effect is quite mystical as an aurora of light appears to emanate from the outer edges of the object.

Choose an accent light to create this effect.


This mirroring technique takes advantage of the natural reflection of calm water. The scenic effects can be breathtaking. Imagine, if you will, the raw beauty of a moonlit snow-capped peak reflected on the surface of a serene mountain lake. Similar reflections are possible in the calm water of an artificial pond by simply highlighting objects at the edge of the pond.

Choose an accent light to create this effect.

There are applications, however, when we simply want to blanket the ground or a vertical surface with soft illumination as evenly as possible.

For these, area lighting and flood lighting techniques are perfectly suited since they provide wide vertical or horizontal beam spreads.

Area Lighting

Decorative arrangements such as rock gardens, flower beds and low level shrubs require soft widespread illumination directed downwards. The key words here are “soft”, “widespread” and “downwards”.

SNOC garden downlights feature painted white interior surfaces for maximum efficiency and concealed lamps to focus attention on the area and objects illuminated.

Flood Lighting

Whenever there is a need to light large vertical surfaces evenly or a group of small objects, floodlights are recommended because they are designed to spread light almost evenly over larger areas.

This way the entire illuminated space draws attention rather than a single isolated object. Floodlights are also very useful when we need to accent an object, say a bush, at close range.


There is an abundance of natural materials that are prized primarily for the richness and feel of their texture. The angle at which these textures are lighted has all to do with how they appear to the viewer.

When the beam of a directional light source is aimed at a sharp angle against a deeply textured surface, contrasts are maximized and the richness of the texture is enhanced.


In this variation of accent lighting, we create two distinct lighting effects. We brighten the object (plant or shrub) with a direct beam of light but we also intentionally allow the object to project a sharp shadow against a backdrop (perhaps a fence or a wall).

Since by simply manipulating the position of the light source with respect to the object, we can change the size, shape and position of its shadow, the possibilities are endless.