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What is Accent Lighting?

N. Phipps
N. Phipps

Accent lighting is a form of lighting used most commonly for illuminating walks with subtle light. However, this form of lighting can also be used to highlight key objects and focal points in the home or surrounding landscape. For instance, many people like to display particular pieces of artwork or other collectible items in their home. Others may choose to highlight water features or plants in the garden. When adding light to a specific object, it can help create or set a particular mood to the area as well.

Some of the most common accent lighting fixtures include track, recessed and wall-mounted lights. Track lighting is probably considered the most flexible. Fixtures are placed as needed and aimed in any direction along the track. They can also be used with other light sources, like sconces or lamps. Recessed lighting fixtures blend into their surroundings. These are usually installed in ceilings, under cabinets, or within bookshelves and are available in many styles.

A water feature with accent lighting.
A water feature with accent lighting.

Wall-mounted fixtures are attached directly to a wall or similar surface. They can also be placed above or below the frame of a hanging. Outdoors, light fixtures may include those placed in the ground or specialized lamp fixtures. Forms of accent lighting may include low-voltage halogen lights, fiber optics, metal halides, and LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting.

Spotlights are often used as accent lighting.
Spotlights are often used as accent lighting.

Halogen lights are great for highlighting or spotlighting objects, as they emit a strong, white light. Fiber optics are good choices for lighting stairs; paths; or water features, like ponds and pools. Metal halides provide soft light and are best used for subtle lighting in small areas. LED lights are becoming more favored. They are more energy efficient, last longer, and are flexible enough for use in various lighting fixtures and situations.

Different types of accent lighting can be used, but path lighting is the most common. Not only does it provide nighttime safety but can also accent interesting patterns, stones, or plants along the way. The use of floodlights can also provide safety. These accents lights are ideal for emphasizing architectural features in the landscape as well. For a more dramatic effect, the use of well lights can be placed in ground or floor fixtures and concealed with plants to cast light upwards.

There is also submersible accent lighting, which is used for creating drama and highlighting ponds or other water features. Backlights are generally placed behind objects to create shadows or silhouettes. All of these types of accent lighting can be used to create various effects with different techniques. For example, silhouetting is used to accentuate an object’s outline. This, as previously stated, is done by placing backlights behind the object and pointing it upwards.

Spotlighting an object involves pointing the lights directly at the intended feature. This popular method is most often used for highlighting focal points in the landscape. Moonlighting can be achieved with recessed light fixtures, which are placed in the ceiling or with floodlights placed in trees. The result is a downward light pattern that mimics natural light from the moon. The type of accent lighting and method used depends on the desired effect to be achieved.

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    • A water feature with accent lighting.
      A water feature with accent lighting.
    • Spotlights are often used as accent lighting.
      By: DeshaCAM
      Spotlights are often used as accent lighting.