lighting: explanation of light effects and types

Lighting can create an ambiance or put the focus on a particular object or area. It is key in determining how we experience a space and emphasises or supports a room’s specific role. We distinguish between three types of light effect (direct, indirect and diffused lighting) and four types of lighting:


direct light

In the case of direct lighting, the light source shines directly onto the object or surface to be illuminated. There is no filtering installed, only strong direct lighting. We use this form of lighting particularly when illuminating artwork or above the dining table, when reading, etc. Direct light can also be used as general lighting in a room, although, in that case, several light sources will be required to achieve a balanced distribution of light.

Direct light is ideal for seeing details, however, strong focused light creates shadows, which is disastrous in the case of e.g. a good work station. Furthermore, the risk of glare is very high since the light beam is very concentrated and strong.

The most common forms of direct lighting are: built-in spots and reading lights.

BRI_8264-280784-editedindirect light

In the case of indirect lighting we use the surroundings to light the room. As such, the ceiling and walls are secondary reflectors which reflect light in the room. This means that objects beyond the direct beam of light are illuminated as well. It is important to know that smoother surfaces reflect more light than structured surfaces (for example, walls with relief).

This form of lighting is excellent for creating ambiance in a room and gives an open impression, making the room appear bigger. When using indirect lighting as general lighting, more and stronger light sources are required than in the case of direct lighting.

The big advantage of indirect lighting is that it prevents shadows and there is also no annoying glare. You can illuminate a room sufficiently and softly without the harsh effect of direct lighting.

Examples of indirect lighting are: wall lamps facing towards the ceiling or free-standing lamps with a dimmer function..

diffused light

Diffused lighting begins by filtering the light. This generates a balanced distribution of light in the room. Diffused lighting is often used in a work environment, as there are neither shadows nor reflections. In some spaces it can be combined with direct and indirect lighting.


general, functional, accent and atmospheric lighting

We distinguish between four types of lighting, each with its own specific purpose:

general lighting

General lighting or basic lighting provides consistent room lighting, e.g. a ceiling lamp. These are the lamps that you use most often and put on first when you arrive home. It is the most important type of lighting, which means it often involves large lamps. Suspended lamps are best suited to this purpose.

functional lighting

Functional lighting is used to support an activity, e.g. a reading lamp, office lamp or worktop lighting. This sort is important to provide the appropriate lighting for an activity, as well as to care for eye health. LED lighting is increasingly being chosen as a alternative to traditional bulbs. Why? Because LED lasts longer and consumes less energy.

accent lighting

When it comes to accent lighting, the light falls directly onto an object, for example a painting or other object. This means that greater attention is focused on the lit object. Accent lighting therefore serves more of an aesthetic purpose.

atmospheric lighting

Atmospheric lighting, as the word itself suggests, provides the atmosphere in a room. It creates a pleasant cosy feeling in your home. Examples of atmospheric lighting include table lamps, floor lamps and wall lamps. These often feature a dimmer function to manually adjust the light to the appropriate mood.

Therefore, the choice of the type of lighting depends on a room’s specific purpose. In a hospitality business, for example, it is really important to create the right ambiance. In a retailer, on the other hand, it is important that products are well lit and showcased.

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