What Is Task Lighting and How to Use It

Task Lighting over Island

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Have you ever hunkered down in your favorite chair with a good book and found yourself straining to see the page? Or perhaps you were cooking dinner and found yourself casting hindering shadows on your cutting board. Both of these scenarios illustrate the need for bright, functional light—often referred to as task lighting. By learning more about the purpose and types of task lighting, you can illuminate your home in the areas where you need it most.

What Is Task Lighting?

Task lighting is direct lighting used specifically for certain tasks, such as reading, writing, cooking, sewing, or other intricate work. It is used to add visibility to a small area, with light bright enough to illuminate small details, reduce strain on the eyes, and avoid distracting shadows.  

Task Lighting: Its Purpose and Why You Need It In Your Home

Task lighting is a valuable lighting feature in any home. From kitchens to workbenches and office spaces, task lighting plays a critical role in making life easier. It illuminates the workspace, helping you see important details.

Besides making your work easier to see, task lighting is important for your eye health. Inadequate lighting can cause eye strain and lead to eye problems. More than a matter of aesthetics, brighter task lighting is necessary to work safely and comfortably. 

Types of Task Lighting

Task lighting can be incorporated into the home in various ways. Some options simply require you to plug a light in, while other varieties of task lighting may require new wiring in the home. 

  • Lamps: Lamps are an easy way to add task lighting to desks, bedrooms, reading nooks, or sewing tables. Floor lamps are perfect for illuminating a chair or corner, while desk lamps are great for table-tops or work desks. This style of task lighting is the simplest to install since lamps only need an outlet to plug into.
  • Wall-mounted Lighting: These permanent lighting fixtures are often used near beds or chairs for a comfortable reading area. There are large, lamp-like styles and small, thin lights that look more like wall-mounted book lights. Whatever style is chosen, these lights offer an easily accessible light source in areas where task lighting is frequently needed.   
  • Pendants: Task lighting can also be suspended from the ceiling in the form of pendant lights. These are commonly seen in kitchens, such as over an island or dining table. Large and small pendant lights are available, depending on the size of the space you wish to illuminate. 
  • Under-cabinet Lighting: Lighting placed underneath cabinets creates perfect task lighting for countertop spaces in kitchens or craft rooms. The same concept is used for stovetop lighting. Under-cabinet lighting is available in small, round lights, known as puck lighting, or in long strips or ropes. These are perfect for illuminating work surfaces without taking up valuable counter space.  
bedroom lamps on either side of a bed

Gray Space Design

Tips For Incorporating Task Lighting

Getting your task lighting right can mean the difference between a comfortable workspace and one that is tiresome and distracting. Here are a few tips to keep in mind that will help you create the most efficient task lighting setup for your situation. 

First, pay attention to other light sources in the room. This will allow you to add task lighting in a complementary spot, using any already existing light sources to the full. For example, a reading chair with a window to its left would do well to have a task light on its right to help eliminate any shadows and more evenly illuminate the space. 

Place the task light where it can do the most good. This may seem obvious, but placement is important when it comes to effective and comfortable task lighting. For example, placing a task light in front of a monitor will create an unpleasant glare, while positioning a floor lamp in front of you will cast odd shadows down your book and produce light that is too bright on the page. Try to place desk lamps away from monitors, keeping the overall light in the room bright and even. Use small desk lamps to illuminate key areas without creating glare on the monitor.

task lighting in an office

Studio Peake

For reading lights, it is best when they are placed to the side and behind you enough so that they can shine directly onto the page. This will evenly light your space without the light being overly-direct or casting harsh shadows. 

Choose task lighting that is equivalent to the task at hand. For example, small pendant lights create a spot-light effect perfect for small spaces. However, spotlights of illuminated workspace may be distracting when used on a kitchen island. Therefore, multiple, larger pendant lights fit the job much better.

By keeping these things in mind, you will be able to choose task lighting that works well and adds value to the space, creating a more comfortable and practical environment for any activity. 

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  1. Lin, Kuan-Han et al. The Effects of Lighting Problems on Eye Symptoms among Cleanroom Microscope WorkersInternational journal of environmental research and public health, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 101, 2019. doi:10.3390/ijerph16010101

  2. Why Proper Lighting is Important While Reading. Canadian Association of Optometrists.