30 Outdoor Lighting Ideas to Brighten Up Your Yard

Outdoor patio and dining table covered with outdoor lights on pergola

The Spruce / Christopher Lee Foto

Outdoor lighting is an important aspect of yard and garden design. The right fixtures or features can add ambiance, while also providing functional lighting for use and safety purposes. It can illuminate walkways, outdoor dining rooms, patios, and structures like pergolas and arbors. Get inspired with these top outdoor lighting ideas.

What to Consider Before Installing Outdoor Lights

First, assess features in your yard to emphasize with lights. For example, the pool, spa, and steps are key areas to illuminate for safety purposes. Also, consider highlighting plants, architectural features, and outdoor rooms. In some areas you might want to add uplighting while in other areas you might be aiming to silhouette shapes. Purpose will dictate what type of fixture you need.

Prior to choosing lights, contact your area's building department for any local codes that dictate lighting types or levels. Once you know the kinds of lights you can install, play around with light strands or clip-on lamps in different areas of your yard, positioning them at various levels to see how lighting looks in the space. Remember to practice basic lighting safety, such as only using outdoor bulbs and being mindful of electrical safety when water is present.

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    Rattan Lanterns

    Rattan lanterns in trees

    Andrea Scharff Landscaping

    Rattan is a trending choice for outdoor decor and it also makes a great option for outdoor lighting. Globe-shaped lanterns in various sizes provide visual interest and ambient light. Be sure to check the durability of the materials you choose. True rattan may not weather well in wet conditions, while options made from resin will offer better durability.

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    Patio Lighting

    Patio string lights

    @cottageandsea / Instagram

    Give a petite space bright lights with a string of small bulbs. You can opt for neat rows or crisscross the strings of light for a more eclectic vibe. The intensity of illumination is determined by the bulbs you choose and the number of lights you use. Go with fewer string lights for a softer glow or add more rows of bulbs for better visibility while spending an evening on the patio.

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    Privacy Fence with String Lighting

    Privacy fence with string lights

    Тодорчук Екатерина / Getty Images

    Give your privacy fence a glow up by hanging individual string lights. This look doesn't require symmetry or perfect placement, and it works well whether you hang the lights vertically or horizontally. For easy ambiance, use lights with a dusk-to-dawn timer.

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    Illuminate Doors and Windows

    Patio of house with string lights on doors and windows

    @herzenstimme / Instagram

    If you want to set your home aglow, use string lights or flexible LED light tubing to outline doors and windows. This idea is best suited for backyard hideouts and is an effective and easy way to jazz up your home's exterior while also softly outlining the door on a dark night as you make your way back inside from the firepit or hot tub.

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    Tree Lighting

    Villa with outdoor dining area and tree with string lights

    Morsa Images / Getty Images

    If you're searching for a good spot to hang string lights, sometimes all you have to do is look up. String lights in trees can turn dark or shadowy areas of your yard and garden into an illuminated oasis, ready for dining, socializing, or peaceful reflection. Choose solar or battery-powered string lights if you don't have access to a nearby electrical outlet.

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    Plant Lighting

    Plant with spotlight next to patio set

    @ladylandscape / Instagram

    For potted trees or plants, use a stake light to provide spotlight illumination. Aside from providing a focal point (even at night), the light source highlights the foliage. You can either use several small solar lights to create a halo of light around the plant or a single light source to backlight a larger plant, as seen in this photo from Lady Landscape.

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    Paper Lanterns

    Backyard with paper lanterns

    Jovana Rikalo / Stocksy

    As an alternative to the soft ambiance of string lights, consider hanging paper lanterns instead. Use lights of varying diameters to add illumination and visual interest. Keep in mind, though, that the lanterns aren't weather-proof, so expect to hang them ahead of your special event and pack them for safe storage once the occasion is over.

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    Layered Lighting

    Lighting sources under pergola

    @wildrosecountryhome / Instagram

    Indoors or outdoors, using a variety of lighting layers can add dimension and versatility to your space. This pergola combines string lights for ambiance with an overhead fixture for a more direct beam of light. Use just one or both light sources, depending on the mood and festivities underway. For the best effect, remember to match the color temperature of all fixture light bulbs.

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    Wall Sconces

    Outdoor wall with wall sconce lighting

    Lucide Lighting

    Wall sconces provide illumination and décor in one attractive package, and are an exceptionally great choice for outdoor lighting on feature walls. Many options provide soft background light but if you want more illumination, look for cylinder lights that cast upward and downward beams of light, as seen in this photo from Lucide Lighting.

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    Patio Lanterns

    Pool and patio with lanterns

    onurdongel / Getty Images

    Outdoor lighting doesn't always come from above. Ground lanterns, as seen here in a modern square shape, can be placed wherever you need them around patios, pools, and other outdoor seating areas. The soft glow harmonizes with the light fixtures used to provide illumination in the covered patio, giving the entire pool area a cohesive lighting plan with enough illumination for any activity.

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    Pergola Lighting

    Pergola with lighting and patio furniture

    Upstyle Your Home

    Pergolas provide welcome shade during the day, but adding outdoor lighting kicks up the ambiance at night. String lights and hanging pendants both make popular picks for pergola lighting. Don't be afraid to mix-and-match lighting styles to achieve the right lighting effect for your space. If you choose hanging lights, as seen in this photo from Upstyle Your Home, it's usually best to center them over your seating arrangement for light distribution and design balance.

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    Path Lighting

    Outdoor pool and pathway with ligthing

    Design by COS Design / Photo by Urban Angles

    Don't overlook the importance of path lighting. A welcome greeting to visitors and a practical safety measure, use outdoor lights at regular intervals along walkways to help guide the way. Solar lights are often a go-to choice, since they require no battery replacement and will turn on at dusk.

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    Lantern Posts

    Hanging lantern along pathway

    krblokhin / Getty Images

    Pathway lighting can come in a variety of forms, but the post-and-lantern option seen here harmonizes with the wooden handrail on the other side of the path. The glow of the lanterns leads the eye up the pathway, while lighting the steps. Opt for solar-powered lanterns if you're looking for an alternative to hardwired outdoor lighting options.

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    Statement Lights

    Lighting on house with wraparound porch

    Tyler Karu

    Two large globe lights break the mold of traditional house lighting fixtures. The orbs illuminate the space by night while providing visual contrast to the more rectangular features of this house by day. When choosing porch lighting, think about the functional features of the lights you choose without overlooking the opportunity to make a statement right at the front door of your home.

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    Wraparound Porch Lighting

    Craftsman home with wraparound porch at dusk

    Raymond Forbes LLC / Stocksy

    More than a sign of a warm welcome, porch lighting can make outdoor spaces more enjoyable to use after the sun goes down. On this wraparound porch, recessed can lights lend a soft, inviting glow to the entire space. This craftsman-style home has abundant windows and cedar plank siding add charm, but leave little space for wall-mounted fixtures making the cans a practical and aesthetically-pleasing option.

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    Front Door Lighting

    Dutch front door with pair of lights

    White Sands

    A well-lit front door is practical for safety reasons, but also gives your home a welcoming look. By using a pair of lighting fixtures on either side of the door, you double the illumination, which can be helpful as you search for your keys or greet guests at night. Give attention to the size and scale of the light fixtures you choose. Don't overwhelm or crowd the doorway, but don't underwhelm the area with too little light from undersized fixtures.

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    Recessed Path Lighting

    Wooden Entryway with lights

    Rowena Naylor / Stocksy

    The recessed lights of this wooden entryway preserve the modern aesthetic of this home while highlighting the edge of the path for safety. This option can be built into walkways of various materials, but recessed walkway lights are most popular and practical for wooden and stone entryways.

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    Pendant Light

    Pendant light over outdoor patio set

    @cottageandsea / Instagram

    A pendant light outdoors can serve the same function as a well-placed indoor fixture, providing illumination and eye-catching décor. A great application for this outdoor lighting idea is to use it over a patio set. By day or by night, the hanging light serves as a focal point for a cozy conversation corner.

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    Light Canopy

    Patio seating with string lights

    mtreasure / Getty Images

    Even without a pergola or gazebo, you can set the stage for your outdoor seating area with a canopy of string lights. The easiest way to achieve the effect is to use a net of string lights, but you can also use individual strings of light to achieve the same look. It gives the effect of a covered seating area using illumination, but doesn't require the install of a permanent structure.

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    Illuminated Steps

    Well-lit house with outdoor lighting on steps

    White Sands

    This outdoor lighting idea uses a variety of LED light sources to make this walkway glow. The steps are easy to navigate, thanks to wall-mounted light sources and stake lights further up the path. The upward facing spotlights, built into the pathway, illuminate the landing area while highlighting the texture and form of the feature wall.

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    Lighting for Outdoor Dining Room

    Contemporary House with outdoor dining room

    Aleksandar Novoselski / Stocksy

    Dining on the deck or patio is one of life's simple pleasures, but if you don't want to dine in the dark, you'll need to install a light source for use after the sun goes down. This contemporary home features a pair of hanging light fixtures that provide plenty of illumination over the table and seating arrangements. Lighting for outdoor dining serves a practical purpose but can also add ambiance to the area and enhance the feeling of a true outdoor living space. Be sure to choose fixtures that are damp or wet-rated for safety and longevity, since lights in outdoor areas will be exposed to moisture and precipitation.

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    Cozy Candlelight

    Outdoor patio with candles and pumpkins

    @herzenstimme / Instagram

    If you don't have the know-how or budget for hardwired outdoor lighting, you can still light up your patio or deck with candle light. Romantic and chic, battery-operated candles give you that gorgeous glow, without worries over melting wax or fire hazards. Make this look more effective and attractive by using plenty of candles in various sizes, placing them at different heights in your outdoor space, including on the ground and on tables or other outdoor fixtures.

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    Under Eaves Lighting

    Tropical villa at night with eaves lighting

    Carli Teteris / Stocksy

    Adding lights underneath roof eaves is another unique option for outdoor lighting. This villa has can lights that illuminate in both directions, though the top beam of light is amplified to draw the eye upward. When deciding where to place under-eave lighting, pay attention to architectural details and functional features. On this tropical villa, the lights are placed on either side of the door walls and along the side of the home for full illumination around the perimeter.

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    Illuminate Sun Shades

    Sun shade with string lights over hot tub

    @herzenstimme / Instagram

    Sun shades are usually designed with the day in mind, but when illuminated from underneath, they give off an attractive glow. In this hot tub oasis, the sun shade is lit from below with string lights, adding to the privacy and ambiance to this outdoor space.

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    Illuminated Architecture Features

    Home with illuminated stone features

    ShutterWorx / Getty Images

    For homes with unique architectural features, like cut-outs and recessed areas, consider designing your outdoor lighting to highlight these architectural details. In this example, the stone wall seems lit from within, providing plenty of light underneath the portico and up the stairs.

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    Fence Illumination

    Garden lights shining on privacy fence

    @ann.living / Instagram

    You can illuminate the borders of your backyard with fence lighting. These LED lights spaced at measured intervals along the privacy fence cast a glow on the fence above and garden bed below. Use them to softly illuminate your landscaping and provide a visual identifier of the fence line.

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    Fence-Mounted Lights

    Privacy fence with spotlights

    ucpage / Getty Images

    Light up your yard or pool area with fence spotlights. Unlike stake lighting that lights up the area from below, mounting lights on your fence provides downward directional illumination. Evenly space the lights for centered beams of light along the perimeter of your area.

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    Summer Party Lights

    Mason jar string lights hanging around pool

    @ladylandscape / Instagram

    Outdoor lighting is a key element of backyard bashes, but your party lights don't need to be limited to tabletop options or Tiki torches. Instead, use battery-powered LED string lights inside of mason jars for a firefly-like glow. Affix the battery pack to the lid of the jar and hang from trees or hooks around the party area.

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    Lighted Steps

    Exterior of house with lighted steps

    White Sands

    Stair lighting is another safety-conscious but aesthetically-appealing way to use outdoor lighting. White Sands shows off the beauty of the brick steps leading to the elevated entryway of this multi-story home with built-in lighting. The lights give a visual indicator of where each step begins, but also cast a pool of light on the stair below. Match the light temperature to your materials; in this case, the warm light is a perfect complement to the sandy hue of the brickwork. Cool light temperatures would be a better pick for gray-tone building materials.

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    Lanterns for Stepping Stones

    Stepping stones with lanterns

    Bank215 / Getty Images

    Stepping stones lead the way across a yard or garden, but can quickly blend into the surroundings under dark or shadowy conditions. Cast illumination on your path with a series of ground lanterns. Using solar or battery-powered options eliminates the need for hardwiring or permanent installation. In this example, the lanterns are staggered on either side of the path and nearby illumination from tree spotlights gives the area added brightness.