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Landscape lighting can be confusing. The best lighting is real artistry, creating a Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 7.59.25 PMbeautiful warm glow that you know comes from somewhere, but you can’t quite figure out where. If done well, you see the light, not the fixtures.

Some of this warm, inviting glow comes from uplighting. Some comes from downlighting. But which is which? And how do you know what kind of lights to put where? Good questions. These landscape lighting design ideas will help shed some light on the subject.

Uplighting Vs. Downlighting — Understanding The Difference

It’s all about direction. In uplighting, landscape lights are typically mounted below or at ground level, shining the light upward.

To downlight, you might place a fixture high up, inside the branches of a tree or beneath an eave on your house, so the light shines down. The higher the light, the wider space it tends to illuminate.

Don’t Forget Moonlighting

Moonlighting is a type of downlighting that offers a specific look. You got it—it looks like moonlight.

A light fixture is placed high up in a tree and angled downwards. The effect? Moonlight shining down through the branches. It feels natural, and creates a lovely effect as the leaves and branches create shadow patterns on the ground.

What Should You Uplight?

Certain areas outside your home are perfect for the effects of uplighting. They include:


Lighting a pretty tree from the ground up shows off its interesting bark, the structure of its branches and its delicate leaves.

Architectural Columns

Why not enjoy the beauty of your home’s architecture at night, too? Lighting columns from below adds drama and can create interesting shadows on walls.

Garden Features

Highlight a beautiful fountain, elegant statue or a prized plant with uplighting. It automatically adds drama to your garden.

What Should You Downlight?

Some features are best lit by downlighting. They include:

Low Growing Garden Plants

While tall, dramatic plants are best suited to uplighting, low growing flower beds and ground covers need downlighting to highlight their pretty tops.

Outdoor Seating

Use downlighting under benches and seating walls to cast subtle lighting along pathways and patios. Not only does it cast a welcoming glow, but it offers an element of safety for people walking through.


Down lighting is great for illuminating large outdoor living areas.

When Should You Use Moonlighting?

Think about the spots around your house that would be perfect under a full moon. You can’t always count on natural moonlight. So create your own:


If there are trees overhead, they’ll Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 7.59.08 PMcreate intriguing shadows as the light filters down through them, and you can happily entertain your guests under your “moonlit” sky.

Swimming Pools

Who doesn’t love a moonlit swim?


Dragging yourself home after a hard day at work, carrying in loads of groceries, toting a cranky toddler — it will all seem better beneath your own personal moonlight.

Uplighting Vs. Downlighting — Strike A Balance

You don’t always have to choose one or the other. A front entrance can use uplighting to highlight pillars on the porch, and use downlights to illuminate the steps so nobody trips.

A beautifully lit garden might feature moonlighting filtering through the trees, as well as uplighting and downlighting to highlight dramatic plants and statuary.

Let Neave Turn On The Lights

Neave Lighting uses the best energy-efficient LED outdoor lighting in the industry to highlight your swimming pool, garden, entryway, walkway or driveway. A fully customized landscape lighting system will add warm ambiance to your home while offering safety for your family, friends and visitors. We offer landscape lighting design, installation and maintenance services for any residential or commercial property owner.

We’ll add a glow to your backyard dinners, make your play area safer, light your pool parties and illuminate your garden so you can enjoy it way beyond sunset.

Give Us A Call

If you’re in the Hudson Valley, call us at (845) 463-0592. If you’re in Westchester County, call (914) 271-7996; from Connecticut, dial (203) 212-4800. Or, fill out our simple web form, and we’ll contact you about setting up your free consultation.

Uplighting vs. downlighting? An expertly installed combination of both will make your home as beautiful at night as it is during the day.

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landscape planning guide neave group cover

FREE Landscape Planning Guide

Download our FREE Landscape Planning Guide and start planning the landscape of your dreams!

Download Now