The Different Types of Lighting Design

Light brings the world around us to life. Professional Lighting Designers often use light to add functionality, create an atmosphere, or highlight beauty. Their duties include the layout, creation, and implementation of innovative and cost-effective lighting products. Lighting professionals consider many factors, such as colour, intensity, direction, texture, and coverage, when creating a perfectly lit space. The field of Lighting Design encompasses a range of disciplines including Architectural, Landscape, Outdoor, Stage, and Cinema.

Architectural Lighting Design


Architectural lighting design organises natural and man-made light into a coordinated system. Along with functionality, it often provides atmosphere and highlights interior and exterior structural features, as well. In the kitchen, for instance, a homeowner might install bright overhead lighting to help with food preparation, and soft under-cabinet light to showcase the countertops. Commercial applications for designed lighting include offices, hotels, classrooms, etc. Most museums employ a wide range of architectural lighting styles that strike just the right balance of visibility and ambience. Some structures, such as the Sydney Opera House, for example, use a combination of interior and exterior lighting to create an unmistakable presence for visitors and onlookers, alike.

Landscape and Outdoor Lighting Design

Exterior landscape lighting adds safety, beauty, and curb appeal to any home or office. Both residential and commercial building owners typically install landscape lighting to illuminate pathways, highlight specific landscape features (lawns, flowers, and shrubs), or light their property for safe passage. Common strategies for landscape lighting design include:

  • Accent Lighting - Focuses on an individual item or area such as a plant or statue.

  • Grazing - Positions light up close to an interesting surface like a stone wall or an attractive door.

  • Shadowing - Uses light from the front of, and below an object to project intriguing shadows on a vertical surface behind it.

  • Silhouetting - Lighting an object from behind and below creates a stunning effect against the evening sky.

  • Cross Lighting - Illuminating a feature, such as a tree or a statue, from two or more sides. Cross Lighting creates a striking three-dimensional perspective on its subject.

  • Pool/Fountain - Underwater lighting adds beauty to swimming pools, fountains, and man-made ponds. Lighting the area behind the water’s surface also delivers a gorgeous mirror effect.

  • Downlighting or Area Lighting - Casts a light from up high over large areas and provides safety ( a parking lot or building entrance), and functionality ( a backyard party).

  • Uplighting - lights aimed upward on an object - delivers a dramatic treater-like effect.

  • Moonlighting - Places lights up high. By casting soft shadows, the Moonlighting technique simulates the natural effect of moonlight blanketing an area.

  • Spread (or Diffused) Lighting - Used to cover broad areas like patios, decks, and driveways with soft lighting.

Stage Lighting Design

Theatrical lighting design involves the selection, design, and placement of lights for a stage production. Stage lighting designers must be able to break down a script for clues on how to light the stage throughout the play. They usually work closely with directors to set the mood for each scene. Stage lighting helps create an alternate reality and draws the audience out of their seats and into the show at hand. How lighting ‘flows‘ from one scene to the next plays a considerable role in the perceived quality of a performance. Just like the actors, stage lighting technicians need to know the script inside and out. They must be aware of what to focus on, at every moment of the performance.

Cinematic Lighting Design


Cinematography and Lighting Design play an essential role in every production. Even the world’s best cameras can not pick up much of the detail and contrast that a human eye can observe. Almost all productions need additional lighting to deliver the colour palette and definition that people see naturally. Cinematic lighting also provides depth, enhances images, and supports the story’s mood. It adds a cinematic texture to movies, television shows, and commercials. Cinematic lighting helps create natural-looking film scenes that mimic real life. During production, lighting technicians employ over a dozen different techniques such as Key Lighting, Fill Lighting, Back Lighting, Side Lighting, Practical Light, Hard Lighting, and Soft Lighting.

Light Asia


The non-profit - Light Asia offers workshops to educate and inspire students throughout Asia. Through these workshops, professional lighting designers can reinforce the importance of lighting design and share their experience with the new generation of designers.