When it comes to adding extra touches, homeowners often want to create atmosphere and ambiance BUT safety is still an important part of the design. Realistically, the ideal landscape lighting design will do it all: help create an inviting feel, highlight architectural aspects of your property, and also provide safety. How do you balance both when you’re choosing your landscape lighting? Downlighting and path lighting, among others, are two very viable options.

To help you choose the right landscape lights, we’re breaking down the differences between the two so you’ll know if either or both can add to the safety, security, and nighttime atmosphere you’re wanting for your yard.

Click here to read more to tips for designing your landscape lighting plan

What is downlighting, and when would you use it?

Downlighting is where the light shines down on certain aspects of your landscape. Downlights are not intended to be spotlights but are meant, instead, to add softer lighting to your landscape—mimicking moonlight.

Downlights can be placed on tree trunks and large tree limbs as well as on structures like walls, fencing, soffits, pergolas, under seating and benches—anywhere you’d like soft “moonlight” shining down on some part of your yard. In some instances, downlighting can replace path lighting, but layering the two is often the best choice to give you the best of both worlds: aesthetic and safety.

  • When considering downlighting ask yourself: do you have mature trees or structures like fencing or pergolas? If the answer is no, path lighting may be the option that works best for your property.

Downlighting tip: When deciding on the placement of downlights, the key is to make them discrete—as hidden as possible, which will add to their “moonlight” effect. Make sure they’re high enough to get the effect you’re going for, and always ensure they’re securely fastened

What is path lighting, and when would you use it?

Unlike downlighting where the focus is more on the “moonlight” effects, path lighting is more focused on ensuring that those who walk (and for kids, run) on any pathways in your yard can do so safely once the sun goes down. Path lighting, when done correctly, still adds to the atmosphere you hope to create in your yard. However, if you want your pathways to bathe in “moonlight” while also being illuminated for safety, a combination of both—depending on your existing landscape—will give you the look and feel you want.

Click here for our top 5 tips for lighting pathways

Path lighting can be used effectively not only on pathways but also on stairways, trails—anywhere a possible walkway might be in your landscape.

Path lighting tip: When designing your path lighting, alternating the placement of your lights on each side of the pathway will not only be visually pleasing, but it will also eliminate any dark spots and accompanying safety hazards. And depending on your pathways, lights should also be placed close enough together for the same safety reasons and to also create those appealing pools of light that can add more ambiance to your landscape.

But what about step lighting?

A cousin to path lighting is step lighting. Step lights are placed nearby or within steps. Step lighting also offers security, but especially safety, since trying to navigate steps in the dark can be tricky and risky. As with path lighting, step lighting can also contribute to the overall atmosphere of your landscape, offering focused pools of light. When planning step lighting, make sure steps are uniformly lit to prevent the risk of tripping and falling, and when necessary, make sure lights are placed on both sides of areas with wider steps.

So which do you choose for your landscape lighting design?

The answer is likely, a mixture of each. It’s dependent on your property, landscape features, and design needs.

  • If you have a tall tree near a brick pathway, consider use downlighting to moonlight the tree while also adding additional pathway lights to your brick stairs. This will add a nice warm and welcoming glow to your property.
  • If your property lacks tall trees or fences, consider using pathway lights in a strategically designed pattern—remember you’re not landing a Boeing 737—will still give you a well-lit pathway without taking away from the aesthetic you hope to achieve in your landscape lighting design.

When deciding whether down lighting, path lighting, or step lighting will add to your overall landscape design, safety, and atmosphere, keep in mind that sometimes downlighting can also do double duty as path lighting and/or step lighting.

Ready to add any of these types of lighting to your landscape? Have any questions about these types of lighting? Contact us today, and let’s work together to add the benefits of downlighting and path lighting to your landscape!