The Bright Ideas Blog

Design inspiration and outdoor lighting tips and advice for homeowners

Are Up Lights & Wash Lights Really The only Landscape Lights you Need?

There are numerous techniques used in designing landscape lighting for a home or property.  But there are two approaches we want to touch on that are often used along side one another to illuminate things from the ground up: Up Lighting and Wash Lighting. 

Are up lights and wash lights the only lights you'll need in your landscape? Probably not. But they are the fixtures used most often for laying the foundation for a beautiful landscape lighting design. But each project is different and will have different requirements. 

Our goal today is to familiarize you with up lights, wash lights, and how they are used independently and in combination with one another to create a stunning visual experience around your home at night.  

what are up lights & wash lights?

Naturally, the fixture styles used to create up lighting and wash lighting effects are simply, but aptly, called up lights and wash lights. 

If you take a look at the photos below, you'll see that the fixtures look very different. landscape-lighting-up-lighting-and-wash-lighting

What is the difference? Apart from appearance, these two fixtures play different roles in your outdoor lighting design because they help create different lighting effects.

up lights

Up lighting is a technique in which lights are placed at the base of a structure or object and pointed upwards. 

This creates a dramatic effect by highlighting the texture and shape of the object, and can be used to accentuate architectural features or focal points in a landscape. Up lights are primarily used for illuminating trees, flag poles, pillars, statuary, and other tall objects in/around your property that need to be accented. 


Another key distinction up lights usually have is a pronounced shroud (glare shield). This shield is used to direct the light/help block light from going places it isn't wanted. For example, if a tree next to a walkway is lit and the up light didn't have a glare shield, the light would shine in your eyes. Having lights shining in your eyes really detracts from your whole viewing experience. 

With good lighting design, we want to experience the effect and not the source. Glare shields make the whole lighting experience more enjoyable.

However, there is one draw back to up lights/glare shields: they don't allow for lighting outputs with wider beam spreads. This is where wash lights step in!

Want to learn more about beam spreads, lumen outputs, Kelvin temperature, etc.? Click here! 

wash lights

Wash lights are different from up lights in many ways. Wash lights have a much larger opening for the light source they also have smaller glare shields. This allows them to do what directional up lighting can not; they throw a splash of light across a wide surface with restricting it. 

Where would you use a wash light instead of a an up light? They are great for capturing a wide target. For this reason, they are great for capturing architectural features like walls.

The photo below illustrates well how wash lights are used being used to accent the stone wall in the background. 


blend to create beautiful lighting effects

Up lighting and wash lighting are both effective lighting approaches that serve specific purposes. But it's the marriage of the two that can lead to fantastic results. 

To create the right balance and composition for your visual experience, adding these lighting approaches together can be incredibly effective. Blending and layering up lighting and wash lighting in the right way will take your outdoor lighting to the next level.


In the design above we can see how the wash lighting on the walls is contrasted beautifully with the accents on the trees to create a more balanced look. Imagine if there were only lights on the trees, or only lights on the walls.  Simply put, it would look a little lack luster when compared to having both types of lighting working together. 

Combining both of them will provide a perfect balance and make the outdoor space both inviting and dramatic. Ambiance is found in the subtle details that make up the whole, not the individual parts. Combining different lighting techniques and approaches in the right way will make your outdoor living space somewhere you don't want to leave. 

are you looking for a professional lighting design?

If you are looking for a professional to help with your landscape lighting installation, request a consultation here! Let our designers create not only a functional property, but one that highlights the beauty of your home even at night. 

At Landscape Lighting Pro, the art of outdoor illumination is a real passion we work to perfect. Designing elegantly bespoke landscape lighting systems is simply all we do. For over 15 years, our award winning team of designers and craftsmen have striven to bring the best outdoor lighting experience possible to people's homes and businesses across the Wasatch Front & beyond. 




Landscape Lighting Design