What Is Ambient Lighting? and How to Get It Right May 29, 2024 – Posted in: Lighting Information, General Info, Home Lighting

ambient lighting overhead shot

What is Ambient Lighting?

Ambient lighting, or what is commonly called as general lighting, serves as the primary source of light for a certain room. It is the foundation of all the lighting of a room. It is any light that fills a room and results in indirect illumination that reduces shadows on people’s faces.

This creates a soft and diffused light, often from reflected sources like chandeliers, track lights or pot lights. In photography and cinematography it can also be referred to as available light – ambient lighting isn’t necessarily brought to the shoot by the photographer or cinematographer but naturally occurs around them in their environment.

Similarly in interior design ambient lighting has an important role to play; while it should provide enough brightness for basic tasks such as navigation throughout your home, its most important purpose is to set the mood and atmosphere with warm inviting tones that enhance feeling of comfort rather than just functional illumination.

Modern square multi-tier LED pendant light in clear and white decor

Ambient lighting can be accomplished by using basic lighting fixtures such as chandeliers, track lights, recessed lights, and wall or ceiling-mounted lighting fixtures. There are various ways to achieve balance in ambient lighting and this often depends on what type of room you are using it for. In some rooms, this can also serve as a primary source for task lighting just like in a laundry room.

Importance of ambient lighting in home design

Ambient lighting is an essential element in home design as it provides overall illumination for a roomreduces eye strain and helps to create a productive environment.

Ambient light is the basic layer of lighting that illuminates the entire space and allows for clear visibility and movement – this can be complemented with accent or task lights to provide a well-rounded, visually appealing atmosphere.

Natural light from windows, pendant lights, recessed lighting, or chandeliers can serve as sources of ambient light in home settings.

Cozy living room with beige sofa, table lamps, and hardwood wall.

How to Incorporate Ambient Lighting

Lighting is a very important aspect for every room in your home. However, its proper utilization and placement can often be overlooked. Having a bad case of lighting in a quite impressive room downplays the room as a whole.

Ambient lighting helps to create a welcoming and inviting atmosphere that will make you feel right at home. Discover more of the advantages of adding ambient light to your home today!

There are four basic types of lighting that can work to improve a certain room; the ambient lighting, task lighting, and the accent lighting. An excellent lighting plan maximizes the use of these three lighting types to illuminate a room depending on function and style. Task and accent lighting are more specific on its purpose while ambient lighting provides the overall illumination to a room. This type of lighting should never be taken for granted.

Sources of Ambient Light

Natural light

Natural light is an invaluable source of illumination that should not be neglected when considering ambient lighting. The bright and natural sunlight from outside can be used to illuminate a space, creating a warm atmosphere with rich shadows and highlights.

What Is Ambient Lighting and How to Get It Right

In addition, this type of daylight will never need replacing like artificial sources may require over time. When properly considered in home design, the use of natural light can enhance the entire aesthetic feel within any room – creating an inviting environment that makes people feel right at home!

Artificial light sources

Ambient lighting is created using a combination of natural and artificial light sources. Natural light includes sunlight, moonlight, or any other outdoor light that was not added to the scene by a photographer or designer.

Cozy modern living room with ambient lighting and open kitchen.

Artificial light sources such as lamps and chandeliers are commonly found indoors and provide functional illumination in an environment.

Electric bulbs in varying wattages create diffused light that gently bathes your space for the perfect amount of brightness and softness desired. They also come in various colors to suit different tastes; adding color temperature variations helps create moods ranging from warm and inviting to cool and calming.

Choosing Ambient Lighting

There are factors to consider in choosing ambient lighting for every room to achieve the best results:

Choosing the Lighting Location

In choosing the location for your installation, the first thing you need to do is evaluate a certain room when it is dark. You can turn off as many lights as you can without losing the room’s visibility and note the areas that need to be accented. These spaces often include pathways, reading areas, fireplaces, coffee tables, bookshelves, seating areas, and plants.

Lighting Plan Layout Locations

Balance is important in choosing the location for ambient lighting. Lighting just one corner of a large room will make it unbalanced. However, trying to illuminate every corner of the room can make it overwhelmingly bright instead, which is probably not the kind of mood you are trying to achieve.

To measure how much light you need in your room, try our Lighting Calculator.

Choosing The Lighting Types

The best way to achieve balance in this type of lighting is illuminating a certain area probably at the front space and putting a table lamp at the back corner of the room.

sophisticated dining area with ambient light fixture

The next thing to consider is choosing the lighting type that is ideal for your needs. The size and the amount of light a fixture can provide are also something you have to consider.

A few accent lighting types you can choose might include recessed lights, nightlights, lamps, and track lights.

Choosing the Right Look

Accent lighting pieces that are on your ambient lighting plan is now part of the room’s décor, thus, should be treated as one. Accent lighting pieces should complement with your existing decors and furnishings.

Luxurious vintage bedroom interior with elegant furniture and chandelier.

Subtle lighting pieces work best in most rooms. The neutral tones and shades of lamps that coordinate with the room design color work best. If you are going for a dimmer lighting appearance, the darker color shades will work well since it can filter the light better compared to lighter shades.

Choosing the Lighting Intensity

Choosing the bulb wattage when installing the light should not be overlooked. This will depend on the function of your lighting fixture. If the fixture aims to serve as the main source of light such as in a reading chair, you might need a higher bulb output. However, for creating warmth and a little personality especially for subtle accent lighting, there is no need to use glaring lights.

modern kitchen with ambient lighting, subtle cool lights illuminating the countertops and appliances

You can also choose if you want a warm or a cool light for your fixture. Yellow light appears warmer while blue light is cooler. The color temperature of a light will depend on what effect you are planning to achieve.

Creating the right ambient lighting can be very technical and complex and there are some variables to consider in making an excellent plan. However, when achieved, it surely can improve the dull appearance of a room and make it more impressive by giving a little personality.

Modern home bar interior with wooden accents and warm lighting

Frequently Asked Questions – Ambient Lighting

What is considered ambient lighting?

Ambient lighting is considered to be any type of general lighting, this includes a variety of lighting fixtures, including ceiling lights, wall sconces, and floor lamps. This can also include natural sunlight coming from windows or skylights.

What is the purpose of ambient lighting?

The purpose of ambient lighting is to provide overall illumination and is intended to create a uniform light level throughout a space. Basically, the purpose is to be the primary source of light for the room. It’s the foundation of all the lighting in a given space.

What types of fixtures are commonly used for ambient lighting?

Common fixtures for ambient lighting include ceiling-mounted or recessed lights, chandeliers, wall-mounted fixtures, and floor or table lamps. Each type distributes light evenly throughout a room.

How does ambient lighting differ from task lighting and accent lighting?

Ambient lighting provides overall illumination, task lighting is focused on specific areas to assist with activities (like reading or cooking), and accent lighting highlights particular objects or architectural features.