Landscape Lighting Techniques

Landscape Lighting Harrisburg PA brings new life to outdoor spaces, improving their safety and security and extending usability after sunset. But what is the most effective way to highlight trees, shrubs, and architectural features?

There are many different landscape lighting techniques. Here are some of the most popular: uplighting, downlighting, cross-lighting, silhouetting, and grazing.

When it comes to lighting your landscape, there are various options available. Two of the most common are uplighting and downlighting. As their names suggest, uplighting means the light points up, and downlighting is when it shines downward. A professional landscape lighting design typically incorporates both techniques to ensure your home is well-lit while still looking natural.

Highlighting is another popular landscape lighting technique. This involves placing a spotlight behind a feature like a tree or garden structure and aiming it towards an adjacent wall. This creates an illuminated backdrop showcasing the shape and form of your favorite features, creating shadows that add drama and depth.

Another popular uplighting method is silhouetting. This is when you use the same technique, but it’s used on taller structures or trees. This helps to show off the texture and unique shapes of a tall tree and create a stunning effect at night.

Downlighting, on the other hand, is the opposite of uplighting. In this case, the light is placed lower, such as on a tree branch or underneath an eave of your home, to provide downlighting. This type of lighting provides a beautiful, soft glow and simulates the effect of moonlight.

Depending on your goals, uplighting and downlighting can be combined with other landscape lighting techniques to make your home look spectacular at night while also providing safety and security. For example, a good lighting scheme will include uplighting on your porch pillars or columns while also using downlighting to make sure steps are well lit so you can safely navigate them at night. Also, a good lighting plan will utilize both uplighting and downlighting to help deter crime by making intruders less likely to target your home.


Downlighting illuminates ground-level elements of a landscape. It’s a great way to highlight unique features such as trees, water features and sitting areas. It’s also an excellent technique for illuminating paved surfaces like walkways, driveways and pathways. The lighting creates a rich sense of depth that can help bring a whole home’s exterior to life after the sun goes down.

It’s a good idea to use both uplighting and downlighting together in your landscape lighting design. The techniques play off each other to deliver the ultimate landscape lighting experience. Uplighting accentuates focal points like architectural features, statuary and foliage while downlighting draws attention to ground level landscaping features and seating areas.

There are many different ways to downlight a landscape. Some examples include sconces, bollards and post-top lights. You can also use recessed and flush mount fixtures, as well as hardscape lights (think pathway, stair or wall-mounted lights). It’s important to choose fixtures that are rated for outdoor use. Fixtures that are not rated for outdoor use can easily be damaged by moisture and temperature change. You should also make sure that the light bulbs you choose are rated for outdoor use as well.

When choosing a downlight fixture you’ll want to consider its brightness and color temperature. The brightness of a fixture is measured in lumens, and the color temperature refers to how warm or cool the light is. You’ll want to make sure that the light you choose is bright enough to illuminate the area you are lighting, but you also don’t want to create an overly harsh glare.

Another important aspect of downlighting is the beam spread, which refers to how wide or narrow the light’s spread is. You’ll want to look for a fixture with a beam spread that matches the area you are planning to light, and that fits your desired style of lighting.


Using cross-lighting is another landscape lighting technique that offers a more dramatic effect. Similar to silhouetting, this method highlights features by shining light from two sides of an object or area. This can bring garden sculptures, architectural details and centerpiece trees to life with intricate shadow patterns. It also creates balanced illumination, reducing the harsh shadows that occur when only one light is used.

While safety is an important goal, proper landscape lighting also evokes strong aesthetic and emotional responses from those who use the space. Highlighting certain landscape features like statues, flag poles and centerpiece trees draws attention to your property, making it a focal point at night. This can increase your home’s curb appeal and even boost its value.

Other types of landscape lighting include path lights, step lights, spot and flood lights and bollard lights. Each of these types offer a unique style and function that can be integrated into your overall landscape design theme.

For example, path lights provide an even glow to illuminate walkways and prevent tripping hazards. They are designed to brightly illuminate areas where people frequent at night, and are available in a wide range of wattages and finishes. These fixtures can be placed along the edges of walkways or embedded in retaining walls and other hardscape elements.

Spotlights are ideal for accenting special features of your home, such as a fountain or planter. They are usually smaller than other types of lights, and have a narrower beam angle. They can be installed on the ground or atop 18- to 24-inch posts, and are often used as pathway markers. Spotlights are also great for illuminating flagpoles, statues and other landscape accents.


This lighting technique emphasizes the shape and texture of a feature by creating an intriguing silhouette with a light behind the structure. It’s ideal for illuminating the outline of trees, statuary and fountains, and can also be used to highlight the carved edges of wood or stone walls and retaining walls. Landscape spotlights with narrow beam angles work best for this purpose, as well as well lights and recessed fixtures.

Highlighting is a great way to draw attention to a particular feature in the landscape and add visual interest at night. This type of lighting can be used to showcase specimen trees, sculptures or even your home or business’s architecture. By using a low-level intensity, this technique can create dramatic contrast with the surrounding landscape while eliminating any unwanted glare. Well lights and recessed fixtures are the most common types of landscape lights used for this purpose.

Grazing is a great way to illuminate textured surfaces such as tree bark, masonry walls, wood shingles or doors. Using this landscape lighting technique, you can highlight these textures and help your guests navigate paths and walkways without causing them to trip or stumble. Similarly, using spotlights in front of tall bushes or trees catches the details of branches and leaves, emulating the look of moonlight.

It’s important to use a variety of landscape lighting techniques to create a visually appealing and functional outdoor space for your clients. With the right knowledge, you can help them choose the perfect type of lights to suit their needs and style preferences. Once the lights are installed, it’s essential to keep up with regular maintenance to ensure that they continue to perform at their best. Checking the wire connections periodically and replacing burnt-out bulbs promptly will help you extend the life of your landscape lights and keep them looking good.


Landscape grazing lighting uses narrow, focused beams to highlight surfaces from a low angle, emphasizing textures and creating captivating shadows. It’s ideal for highlighting textured walls, fences, or architectural features that might otherwise go unnoticed at night. It also adds drama to any outdoor space by enticing the viewer into an intimate play of light and shadow that transforms an everyday experience into something extraordinary.

Grazing lighting is available in line and low voltage varieties. In general, low-voltage fixtures (also called “landscape lights”) are more common for residential applications, as they’re safer to use and require less maintenance than line-voltage fixtures. Low-voltage fixtures are also more customizable than line-voltage fixtures, allowing you to specify brightness (lumens), color temperature, and beam spread based on your unique needs. Additionally, many low-voltage fixtures are lamp-ready, meaning that you can swap out the bulb without having to replace the fixture itself.

Low-voltage landscape lights are also more affordable than line-voltage fixtures, making them a cost-effective way to elevate your outdoor spaces. And because they don’t use a transformer, you can install them yourself without hiring an electrician.

Grazing lighting is a versatile technique that can complement nearly any style of outdoor design, whether you’re going for a modern aesthetic or a more rustic look. It can even be used to bring out the texture of retaining walls, or to create an antique feel for stone or brick structures. It’s also a great option for accenting statues and carvings, or adding depth to the look of a fountain, tree, or wall-mounted art piece. However, if your flat walls have a lot of detail or are highly patterned, this method may not be suitable as it can lead to visual chaos and excessively bright areas.