Designing lighting in interiors is one of the most fundamental interior design basics. Apart from selecting the actual fixtures, you'll need to formulate a lighting plan that will fulfill your general lighting needs. It is important to understand that all types of lighting have their own illumination agenda. Hence, knowledge of what they do and how to get the best out of them can help you decide how best to light it using three basic techniques — Ambient Lighting, Accent Lighting, and Task Lighting. These three layers of lighting work together to deliver a rich and aesthetically sound lighting experience.

While there is a long list of lighting design criteria that can bring out the best in your interiors, in this blog, we would discuss 'what are they?' and 'how are they different?' parts of these three lighting techniques.

Ambient Lighting

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General Lighting, as it is commonly called, is the most basic of the three lighting techniques. Its primary role is to provide a clear vision. It is used to introduce an evenly bright, glare-free illumination in a space to allow inhabitants to safely navigate around. Ambient Illumination is the natural light that we receive from the windows and the lighting that we use in the dark to substitute for natural light.

Being the first layer of lighting ambient lighting has a cardinal role in setting the tone of a space. That’s why it comes in typically diffused light covers and is often dimmable to consider the day and nighttime settings. Its use is important in hallways and staircases for visibility and optimal orientation. We see its use in kitchens and rooms where there's a need for consistent lighting levels.

In the picture above that shows a living room setting, numerous Downlights have been used to effectively light up the space. These lights are positioned across the ceiling with the simple goal of illuminating the room. Implementing downlights in the ambient lighting scheme provides the users with a clean and compact lighting choice that remains hidden in the ceiling.

Quite often, people understand the use and application of ambient lighting, but many stop there. Although it acts as the base of the lighting layers in an interior environment, the lighting design is complete only after the other two layers of lighting are included.

Accent Lighting

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Also known as Local Lighting, it provides high illumination on relatively small areas. Its illumination allows you to achieve specific tasks or aids you with light in hard to reach or poorly lit areas. It is ideal for detailed work, such as reading or writing at a desk, grooming, and preparing food.

In the kitchen, we use under cabinet lighting to increase visibility on countertops and food preparation areas. They provide a localized light source to help us discover what we require in an instant, rather than having to rely on ambient light which in many cases will be insufficient.

This kind of lighting is direct and is brighter than ambient lighting. Often times, it can be too bright and uncomfortable to the eyes unless the surrounding surfaces are also supplemented with ambient lighting. Effective task lighting is glare-free and strong but prevents eyestrain as it is directed towards the task.

The most commonly used task lighting includes: Recessed and track lights, Under Cabinet Lights, desk, and table lamps, and Bathroom Vanity Lights.

Task Lighting

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Accent lighting adds drama and character to their areas of application. They are used to highlight an object or an area of interest. They increase the aesthetic features and draw attention. They are extensively used around artworks, furnishings, or architectural details, converting them into focal points.

The most common accent lights include Up-down Lights, Spotlights, Track lights, Wall-mounted picture lights, etc. Accent lighting differs from the other illumination methods in its objective — highlighting aesthetics to create a point of interest for the viewer.