What are the different types of lighting? What is task lighting? How to create accent lighting? What else is available besides ambient lighting? With so many different types of lighting available, it can get a little confusing when designing a lighting scheme for your home or office. Our guide explains the different types of lighting - ambient, task and accent, how to use them effectively, and which light fixtures to use create your desired lighting.

Three Main Types of Lighting

1. Ambient Lighting (General Lighting)

This is one of the most common types of lighting. Ambient light is a soft glow that blankets your space just enough for you to function without causing a harsh glare. In photography and cinematography, ambient light is considered the “natural light” within a room. In décor, ambient light is very similar, except you create the ambient light by making the room’s lighting as natural and flat as possible. While ambient light is meant to get you safely from point A-to-B, it is not ideal for working closely with things or to highlight things around your space.

Ambient Lighting Over A Chair In A Room

Atmosphere: When used correctly, ambient light creates a fantastic environment to relax from an overly stressful day or to have a warm conversation with an old friend. Ambient lighting is often referred to as mood lighting, because this light captures the soft curves of your face and allows your pupils to dilate slightly (a physical sign of affection). Some yoga studios have even begun using the softer ambient lighting in their classes to help draw stress from the body.

How to Get This Look: We recommend using the following lights to create ambient light.

Recessed or Track Lights. Try using a series of these throughout your space. These work well with all types of ceilings, but if your ceiling is lower make sure the light isn’t too harsh for the room. Be careful not to over light the space. See the example with the track light system below. Try these in your bedroom, den, kitchen or living room.

Ambient Track Lighting

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Chandeliers and Pendants. These light fixtures work fantastic with taller ceilings. You can choose which height is best for your lighting needs. Notice how the chandeliers below are placed lower in areas people will not be walking near. They are also very classic pieces that work well in foyers, over the tub in the bathroom.

Setting Ambience Using Pendant Lights In The Bedroom

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Wall Sconces and Wall Lights. These are so versatile they work almost anywhere. Use these carefully. If you use too many in one location it may cause a harsher light, but when placed sparingly these work great in hallways, patios and porches. Try to incorporate the wall sconces into your homes architecture.

Wall Lights Near Windows To Create Ambience

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2. Task Lighting

This is a smaller more concentrated light. You want task lighting around when you’re working. In fact, some people call it office lighting. Task lighting is meant to help you see when you’re doing projects in which you need a finer light, such as, reading, cooking, writing, sewing and many other things. Task lighting only works well when it is used as a contrasting light. For example, if you have a low lit room with a table lamp turned on, the light in that area will be more effective with less glare than if the entire room was lit with a brighter light.

Task Lighting A Red Chair In A Blue Room

Atmosphere. Task lighting helps naturally stimulate your brain. The contrasting light allows you to be more alert and concentrated. This will help you see more details as you work, creating higher quality results. This is why many businesses choose to use task lighting in their offices.

How to Get This Look: We recommend using the following fixtures to create task light.

Desk, Swing Arm and Floor Lamps. Use lamps on your desks, bedside tables, coffee tables or anywhere you need a little extra light for working. Swing arm lamps allow you to adjust the light anyway you’d like. Since these floor lamps are lightweight and adjustable these are the ideal task lights.

Desk Top Accent Lighting With Swing Arm And Floor Lamps Too

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Under Cabinet and Vanity Lights. These are the ultimate task lights. Under cabinet lights work great in your kitchen, like below. They add a flare to your kitchen and give the extra light you need for chopping and cleaning. Vanity lighting works well in the bathroom and on dressing mirrors. These lights also work in garages or workstations.

Under Cabinet Lighting To Help With Tasks In The Kitchen

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Pendant and Track Lights. Pendants are great because they can be placed in a lot of areas and can hang directly about work spaces. Track lights are great for the same reason, except they can typically cover a little more space. These lights are great for offices with rows of desks, above kitchen islands and in children’s play/homework areas.

Track Lighting Utilized For A Task

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3. Accent Lighting

This is a very concentrated light with the intention of drawing the eye to its focal point. Accent lighting is a way of adding style and drama to your home. This will help you illuminate the pieces you want on display, while shadowing dull areas. People use accenting for wall washing, artwork, bookcase displays, pieces of furniture, collections and the general architecture of their homes. Outdoor accent lighting is when you highlight parts of the architecture of your home or yard. This is very popular during the holidays, especially Halloween and Christmas.

Accent Lighting Over A Picture

Atmosphere. Accent lighting is one of the types of lighting that creates a very sophisticated atmosphere. It evokes feelings of meaning and importance to the images it displays. This lighting type is used a lot for museums, historical buildings and art shows.

How to Get This Look: We recommend using the following lights to create accent light.

Wall Lights. Wall lights are fantastic for designing accent lighting. They come in a range of sizes that allow you the highlight big or small pieces of art. These work great on art walls and for showcasing the architecture of your space.

Accent Lighting For Your Wall Or Fireplace Mantle

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Recessed Lighting and Spot Lighting. These lights are often used for wall washing (when you illuminate an entire wall with light). Recessed can lights are great for accenting. Place them at the base of your wall to illuminate a beautiful brick texture, a colorful paint design or display a huge bay window.

Recessed And Spot Accent Lighting Up A Picture

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Landscape Lighting. These lights are the best for showing off the outside of your home. Use landscape lighting to light up a pathway, prized garden or statue.

Rock Landscape With Gorgeous Accent Lighting

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For multiple types of lighting options consider using a light dimmer. Dimmers help achieve any mood or look you’re looking for at the push of a button.