There’s more to outdoor lighting than illuminating spaces for security purposes. Sure, security is critical. Your outdoor lighting should also showcase the architectural masterpiece that is your home. You want lighting fixtures that can enhance the aesthetics of a building and the land surrounding that building.

This guide to architectural lighting will discuss the different types of outdoor lighting. You will also discover the different types of outdoor light fixtures and how to pick the ones that work best with your property.

Different Types of Outdoor Lighting

Architectural lighting is based on some basic principles. One of the things you need to understand is the different goals you want to achieve with your lights. There are three of these; task lighting, ambient lighting, and accent lighting.

Each type is designed for different uses. You can combine multiple lighting types in the same space and use them together or switch between them. It all comes down to your needs and the style you want to pull off. Let’s take a closer look at each below.

Task Lighting

Task lighting focuses on functionality more than anything else. You use task lighting to illuminate or highlight specific areas of a property. Pathway lights, deck lights, and step lights are often used for task lighting.

Path lights, for example, deliver localized lighting. You can use path lights to frame the yard and carve out living outdoor spaces. Just install the light posts around the area of interest, and your outdoor living space will take shape.

cast task lighting

You can also use task lighting to illuminate entrances. Outdoor task lighting can also function as security lights. The bright lights illuminate dark spaces that could pose security risks.

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting is also popularly known as general lighting. It provides comfortable illumination. It also boosts the overall security of your outdoor space. However, unlike task lighting, ambient lights are generally less bright, which prevents glare. 

You generally use ambient lighting for places where people gather—for example, outdoor seating areas like your patio or deck. People often use wall or post lights for ambient lighting.

cast ambient lighting

Deck and wall lights will help illuminate those outdoor spaces that you use the most. Our Craftsman Series Bronze Deck Lights and our Classic Savannah Deck Light are both widely used for this purpose. They are beautifully engineered and provide plenty of ambient light.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is used to draw attention to and highlight specific features of a property. You can use accent lighting to put intriguing architectural features of your home under the spotlight, illuminating statues, prized plants, and water features.

cast accent lighting

Wall grazing and wall washing are two accent lighting techniques you might want to use. Both techniques involve “washing” your walls with light. You can use wash lights, like our CAST Classic Wall Wash, or the CAST LED Mini Wash Light to achieve this look. 

Well and ground lights are amazing decorative lights, but you must get durable fixtures that can withstand the climate. We’ll discuss the importance of this in more detail later on in this guide to architectural lighting.

You can use directional lights for accent lighting too. So, for example, you could use directional lights to illuminate a given structure, architectural detail, or plant.


You should select directional lights with suitable beam angles and wattages for the object or objects you want to illuminate. Flexibility is a great asset in this regard. For example, you can adjust the light beam with our CAST Classic MR-11 Bullet Light. It’s also available with optional lenses and louvers for optimal flexibility.

Consider Upkeep

It’s important to consider your budget when selecting your architectural lights. The cost of your lights falls into four main parts. You have the cost of the lights, the installation costs, running costs, and maintenance costs.

While it's tempting to go for the cheapest solutions, you have to consider factors like durability. Outdoor lights must be weather-proof and durable. If you run into problems, you’ll be forced to replace the fixtures. That can get expensive.

You also need to consider where the fixture will be installed. For example, if you light an exposed pathway or driveway, your path lights will be exposed to direct weather elements like rain, wind, and sunlight. In that case, you will need a wet-rated outdoor lighting fixture. On the other hand, you can use damp-rated lighting fixtures if you’re setting up some ambient or accent lighting in a covered patio.

It’s important to consider how you want to operate your lights as well. You might want to use motion sensors to manage some of your lights, for example. That way, the lights will only come on when required.

Safety and Security Concerns

You can enhance the safety and security of your outdoor spaces with different types of lighting. As we’ve seen, task lighting produces bright illumination, which is useful if there’s a specific area in your yard that feels insecure.

You can install motion sensors to ensure the lights turn on when needed. You could also go for “dusk to dawn lights,” which come on and turn off automatically when the sun sets and rises.

Other Considerations

Power source and consumption is the other thing to consider when setting up architectural lighting. You can minimize energy consumption by using low or line-voltage lighting fixtures.

The ideal lighting solution will depend on the size of the space you want to light. A company or consultant with experience installing and designing outdoor light schemes will be able to aid you through this process.

Wrapping Up

Proper architectural lighting can transform your outdoor space. In addition to providing the much-needed safety and security, outdoor lighting can help you show off the best details of your home while adding something positive to your space.

The above architectural lighting guide shows how you can achieve that. First, you’ll need to pick the correct type of lighting for the job. Task lighting helps you carry out activities that require a brighter beam of light. Meanwhile, ambient lights are great for illuminating a large area. Lastly, pick accent lights for all the gorgeous outdoor spots you want to exhibit.