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  • Writer's pictureKyle Foch

Lighting Techniques and Uses

Lighting is a key factor in the development of any landscape design project. Illumination of landscape elements can add character to a space by creating ambiance and emphasizing focal points throughout an area. Brightness, colour, direction and distribution are fundamental in lighting design and can be manipulated to create unique effects. There are three primary means of lighting the landscape.


Uplighting is most effectively used on focal areas within a space. This lighting is viewed from one direction with limited exposure and is typically directed against a blank backdrop such as a fence or wall. The light source must be placed at a low point and directed away from the viewer in an upward direction toward the object. Dramatization and contrast are most commonly created through this lighting due to its unusual setup. Silhouette lighting can be achieved by directing the light at the backdrop instead of the object itself. This is the most common form of landscape lighting.


Moonlighting is achieved through combined lighting which is placed strategically in a tree canopy or other overhead landscape structure. This effect is commonly used to illuminate paths and create a romantic impact in the transitional spaces between well lit areas .


Backlighting is used to enhance the figure of unusual or visually pleasing forms. This lighting is typically matched with specimen features & vegetation. Glare must be minimized by carefully positioning the light at the necessary height and angle.

Residential landscape design requires heavily on landscape lighting to increase the usability of outdoor spaces. Lighting up your landscape can add value to property by enhancing curb appeal and practicality. It also creates a sense of safety by increasing visibility and nightly activity. It has been highly documented that lighting is a key component of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).

Consider these techniques and the positive implications of adding simple lighting throughout your landscape design the next time you are consulting with a landscape architect or other landscaping professional to do some work on your property.


Russ, T.H. (2009). Site Planning and Design Handbook: Second Addition. USA: The McGraw-Hill Companies.

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