How to Use Decorative Outdoor Lighting to Enhance Your Outdoor Space
You can transform your yard or patio at night with some well-placed lighting solutions. In this ultimate guide to outdoor lighting, we explain basic lighting principles and terminology. We’ll also give you ideas for both decorative and utilitarian outdoor lighting. You’ll learn how to enhance your outdoor space according to your specific needs.
Layering is Key
To light up your outdoor space like a pro, try to create a layered outdoor lighting scheme. Layering combines multiple lights for an elegant effect. When layering is done successfully, you highlight important spaces and hide less important spaces for a natural balance of light and dark.
The three components to a layered lighting scheme are: ambient, task, and accent lights.
Your ambient lighting fixtures are usually the brightest. Ambient lights shine on large open areas. They provide enough illumination for you to be able to see your surroundings at night. You’ll often find ambient lights placed in outdoor living space, such as outdoor dining areas, patios, and porches.
Task lighting fixtures focus light on specific locations to help you execute a specific activity. Task lights add a tasteful touch to your outdoor space while providing enough light to safely move around and interact with your outdoor space at night. A task light may shine on steps or paths so that you don’t stumble in the dark, or on a door so that you don’t have to fumble to open it. Task lights could also illuminate seating next to a pool or chairs on a deck.
Like task lighting, accent lighting fixtures focus light on specific features of a space. But unlike task lighting, the purpose of accent lighting is more aesthetic than utilitarian. You can use accent lights to highlight appealing features of an outdoor space, like a big beautiful tree or , a textured wall.
Less is More
You need much less light to illuminate an outdoor space than an indoor space. A little bit of light goes a long way in the dark. When you combine these three types of light, start with what you need and add additional light slowly and in small doses. That way you’ll complete the layering effect that creates the perfect picture of sophistication.
Why Lumens are Important
When we talk about lumens, we’re talking about how bright a light is. The more lumens a light has, the brighter it is. Are you wondering if your solar powered lights are bright enough for the areas you plan to place them in? Take a look at an article where we’ve broken down how many lumens are needed for successful outdoor lighting.
Warm White vs. Bright White
When you plan lighting for your outdoor space, it’s important to consider color temperature.
When you’re in a lighting store and notice that some lights look brighter, bluer, or yellower than others, you’re seeing the difference in those lights’ color temperature.
A light’s color temperature is expressed in degrees Kelvin. The warmer the light appears, the lower the °K will be. Warm light ranges between 2500-3000°K, and it looks yellowish or golden, like a warm flame. A cool light is anything above 3500°K, and it looks bluish to the eye.
Warm light is generally more soothing to the human eye and is preferable in areas with dark sky concerns. Cool light generally makes people feel alert and may even interfere with human sleep patterns.
Both colors of light serve important purposes, and you can use strategically for both form and function in your outdoor lightscape.
Types of Outdoor Lighting
Now that you know what makes a successful outdoor lighting scheme, let’s delve deeper into different types of lighting solutions. Then, you’ll learn how to use to use them to create a well-rounded, elegant appearance for your outdoor space.
Pathway lights are designed to illuminate pathways and walkways. They are a great solution for lighting residential spaces such as sidewalks and paths from your driveway to a front door, or from your back door to a backyard patio.
Pathway lights can also be used to enclose gardens, flower beds and other landscape applications.
Commercial spaces often use pathway lights to illuminate sidewalks and landscapes as well.
These lights play an important role when building your unique layering scene, because they allow for you to safely move across your landscape while also adding depth to the surrounding architecture.
Gama Sonic offers several different kinds of solar pathway lights.
Our GS-148 Garden Light Shepherd Hook can be positioned to subtly overhang the edge of a path you want to illuminate.
The Gama Sonic GS-239 Dual Color Premier Solar Garden Light can be set to warm white light or bright white light.
Our GS-111 Plantern Solar Path Light has an optional built-in planter base that helps you simultaneously illuminate and decorate a path with flowers.
The Gama Sonic GS-214 Stainless Steel Bollard lights the way and creates a visual barrier along a path.
For a dramatic effect, up lighting creates contrasting highlights and shadows on far-reaching vertical objects like trees, sculptures, and walls. To minimize contributing to light pollution, take care when choosing the placement for your up lighting. Angle your light so that it terminates on an object that is within your line of sight.
Down Lighting is perfect for creating subtle illumination along normally darkened areas like exterior walls or outdoor hallways. It can also be implemented as an extra layer of security for your home, providing strong light that deters home invaders.
Gama Sonic’s GS-203 or GS-103 Solar Flood Lights can also be installed as down lights.
Up and Down Lights
Up and down lights can be used for both commercial and residential spaces to light walkways, exterior walls, and outdoor hallways. They work best when you want to highlight elements both above and below a certain focal point.
Gama Sonic’s GS-120 Infinity Solar Up and Down Wall Light features a sleek modern design. While it shines up and down, it can be installed to direct light up and down, left and right, or at two opposite angles, making it a uniquely flexible addition to your outdoor lightscape.
Your pergola, veranda, patio, or deck can be completely transformed with an outdoor hanging light. Solar hanging lights can be installed just about anywhere. All you need to do is hang the light from a secure, sturdy structure and position the solar panel in a location that receives ample sunshine.
Hanging lights are the perfect option for providing your outdoor space with ambient lighting. They allow for a 360° spread of light and will illuminate outdoor gathering and hosting areas.
The Gama Sonic Baytown II Bulb Solar Hanging Light is easy to install and features remote control operation.
Outdoor wall lights are a perfect solution for lighting your front door, back door, garage, shed, and even the sides of your home.
In residential outdoor spaces, wall lights can light walkways along the side of your home or fence. Wall lights are often used in commercial outdoor spaces to illuminate sides of the building.
For outdoor hallways or dimly-lit front and back areas, wall lights can add another layer of safety, security, and ambience to your space.
Gama Sonic offers a wide variety of solar outdoor wall lights to choose from.
The GS-98B-W-WB Royal Bulb Wall Mount Solar Lamp shines with 120 lumens and comes in a weathered bronze cast aluminum finish.
The Gama Sonic GS-177W Polaris Solar Wall Lamp comes in black rigid resin that makes it resilient and reliable in coastal areas.
Our GS-130 Farmhouse Wall Light features cutting-edge, patented Translucent Solar Panel technology and comes in a sleek matte black cast-aluminum finish.
The Gama Sonic GS-123 Orion Solar Wall Light also features patented morph technology, making it an extremely long-lasting and efficient solar light.
Our GS-122 Solar Barn Light features a remote solar panel that enables you to install the light in areas that don’t get direct sunlight. As long as the panel is in direct sunlight for at least 4-6 hours a day, the Solar Barn Light will provide up to 12 hours continuous hours of 120 lumens of bright white light.
Post lights are often placed near walkways and driveways in residential outdoor areas. They are also often used to light public or commercial areas such as cities, parks, RV or mobile home communities. Commonly seen along sidewalks in neighborhoods and parks, post lights offer exceptional lighting as well as security to moderately-trafficked pathways after dark. Unlike their wired counterparts, solar post lights are easy to install. Lights from Gama Sonic require no digging, trenching, or wiring.
Compared to other types of outdoor solar lighting, post lights can offer the strongest illumination. Posts come in varying heights, and how high you want your post may vary depending on your landscape and visibility needs. With their 360° spread of light, post lights can illuminate large open areas.
Light up your residential and commercial areas with a post light from our wide selection of pedestrian lighting solutions.
The Gama Sonic GS-109 Everest Solar Lamp Series shines at 200 lumens and lasts up to 3 nights on a full solar charge. Its big brothers, the single-headed GS-129F and double-headed GS-129F2, shine at 500 lumens per lamphead and last up to 10 nights on a full charge.
The GS-97B Imperial Bulb Solar Lamp Series shines at 180 lumens and lasts up to 2 nights on a full charge. Its big brothers, the Imperial II and Imperial III, each shine at 300 lumens per lamphead and last up to 6 nights on a full charge.
Pier Mount Lights
With their durable bases, outdoor pier mount lights can be installed on any structure with a flat surface. They are commonly placed on columns around backyard pools, front yard fences, lakeside docks, decks, and walkways. Pier mount lights give off 360° illumination that beautifully illuminates landscapes and barriers.
The Gama Sonic GS-94B-FPW can be pier mounted and comes in a black or white cast aluminum finish.
Our GS-104B Pagoda Bulb Solar Lamp Series is inspired by Asian architecture and comes with a pier mount option.
The Gama Sonic GS-114B-FPW Prairie Bulb Solar Light has a pier mount option and comes in a black or weathered bronze cast aluminum finish.
Our GS-113B Floral Bulb Solar Light has an antique bronze finish and can be pier mounted.
Post Cap Lights
Post cap lights are designed to be installed flush with the top of a post. They work well along the top of fences, railings, and piers. While this makes them similar to pier lights in their function, in form they differ from pier mount lights. They are usually meant to blend in, somewhat, with their mounted surface instead of standing out.
The Gama Sonic GS-143 Gothic Solar Post Cap Light comes in a black or white finish.
Our GS-138 Acorn Finial Solar Light has a speckled grey finish that complements stone walls or mailbox posts.
Perfect for placing around your home, garage, and sheds, outdoor security lights are activated when motion is detected. They are also helpful for lighting driveways and walkways when arriving home.
In addition to convenience, security lights also provide protection by shining no matter what type of motion is detected. This makes it easy to know when someone is walking outside your house or business, giving you an extra layer of security.
Homeowners both new and old know just how important it is to protect what matters most. Finding affordable security options can be hard, but the task is not impossible. When you install the Gama Sonic GS-201 or GS-101 Solar Security Lights, you get a reliable lighting option that is activated by advanced motion sensor technology. These solar-powered lights will shine through in moments when you need them the most.
Putting it All Together
There’s a lot that goes into staging a perfectly-layered scene, where well-placed lighting can create contrast, ambience, and transform your outdoor area after the sun goes down. Now that you’re an expert on the different types of lighting and what solar lights can best help you achieve an elegant outdoor space, you’re ready to start transforming your outdoor spaces into the perfectly illuminated hangout spot for all your family and friends.
Let Gama Sonic help you find the perfect light that compliments your needs and style. Call now to find out more about our products!
Frequently Asked Questions
Lumens are a measurement for LED lights. As wattage becomes irrelevant and LEDs become increasingly popular, lumens are said to eventually replace watts.
A warm white solar light is perfect for invoking a comforting and inviting feel to your outdoor space. If you want a fixture to act as a security light, a bright white light is the best choice.
In order to achieve maximum visibility, outdoor solar lights, especially pathway lights, should be placed six to eight feet apart.
Many solar light enthusiasts prefer Gama Sonic’s patented GS Solar LED bulb. The bulb is designed to produce the same look and feel like a traditional incandescent bulb, and it does just that! With its 10-year lifespan and inherently eco-friendly application, you can understand why.