3 Basic Types of Lighting

3 Basic Types of Lighting

Lighting Design: The Three Basic Lighting Types for a Space

Basic lighting design can get very creative. There are many things to adjust and consider when you’re installing lights for a space. Before getting into details, you can start with a general plan for combining three types of lighting: ambient, task (or focused), and decorative (or accent).

This article explains in detail the 3 basic types of lighting: ambient, task, and decorative lighting, plus a few lighting terminologies.

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting sets up the mood for the space. Think of ambient lighting as similar to the background lighting in a movie. It sets up the scene and attitude before the rest of the elements fall into place.

You can use valance lights for ambient lighting, which are wall-mounted lights that focus light up and down instead of forward. You can also consider cove lighting, in which hidden lights are recessed into the sides of a ceiling. Cove lighting makes the light appear to emerge from the edges of walls and ceilings, permeating softly into a space.

Task Lighting

Once you have the ambient lighting laid out, you can focus on task lighting. The critical question to ask in task lighting is, “What are we focusing on in this space?” 

Task lighting is about focusing the light on what matters. For example, if you’re lighting up an art gallery, you’d want to consider how to focus the lights on paintings and art displays. If you’re doing lighting for a meeting room, you will want to consider how to brighten up desks and the wall where presentations are done. 

The usual light for task lighting is the standard downlight, a round, ceiling-recessed lighting fixture that throws light down in a straight beam from the ceiling. 

You may also want to consider lights housed in troffers or battens, which are rectangular fixtures recessed or protruding from the ceiling, respectively.

Decorative Lighting

The final type of lighting you’ll consider is decorative lighting, where you can let your personal flair shine.

Decorative lighting is all about lighting that aesthetically complements a space. It could be that antique chandelier that was passed down as a family heirloom. It could be an exotic new lava lamp or a painted lampshade that catches attention. But, when it comes to decorative lighting, remember to give that personal touch that truly defines what the space is all about.

Technical Lighting Terms

Additionally, there are some technical terms you will come across while searching for lights, and it’s helpful to be familiar with them.


‘LED’ means light-emitting diode, and LED lights produce their light by running electricity through a semiconductor. LEDs are popular because they generally consume less electricity and last longer than other light sources.


‘Lux’ is a measure of how bright a light is perceived. For example, direct sunlight is at least 30,000 lux, while a typical lighted room measures roughly 500-1000 lux.

Luminous Efficacy

‘Luminous Efficacy’ refers to how is much light is produced in relation to power consumption. The higher the luminous efficacy, the more light you get for less power (and lower electricity costs). LEDs have a luminous efficacy ranging from around 30-90, which is higher than most other lights.

Color Temperature (CT)

Color temperature (CT) measures how warm (orange) or cool (blue) in color a light is. Somewhat counter-intuitively, a lower CT means the light will tend towards orange, and a higher one will be more bluish. Color temperature is measured in Kelvin (K). A warm CT is around 3000 K, a CT mimicking daylight is around 5000 K, and a bluish or cold CT is above 6000 K.

Lighting Services

Now that you have gained a bit of knowledge regarding the 3 types of lighting and want to take your home or business to the next level during the winter holiday season, we can help with that. Although we do not install these types of lighting on a typical day, we install lights and amazing ones during the holiday season.

Do not forget about us! We are proud of our 5-star reviews and would love you to be a part of our long list of happy customers. Get in touch so we can put you on our schedule and create the most fantastic lighting display for your property this coming holiday season.