How to Choose the Best Outdoor Color Temperature

How to Choose the Best Outdoor Color Temperature

Have you ever noticed how certain colors can affect the mood of a room?

Well, it’s no different with lighting your San Diego landscape. You may not even notice, but all outdoor lights have a certain color temperature that can change the mood of the scene for the better when used properly.

How do you know what’s the best temperature to use for your outdoor lighting? Here are some landscape lighting ideas that can set the right tone for your property.


What is Color Temperature?

This is a term that’s commonly discussed in film and photography. It helps photographers decide on the right settings to get neutral (white balance) in a scene, but what does that have to do with lighting your yard?

All lighting sources have a color temperature measured in Kelvin (K). There are two ends of the scale, cool and warm lighting. Warm lighting is lower on the scale and appears more orange and yellow. Cool lighting is higher on the scale and appears bluish in tone.

All types of lightbulbs have a different color cast, even if you can’t easily see it. For example, a standard 100-watt incandescent bulb is about 2800K and is on the warmer side, while a fluorescent tube typically found in an office is measured at about 5000K. LED bulbs are a good choice because they are efficient, and the LED light temperature scale is wide.

If you’re lighting large areas outside with bulbs, then you will notice the temperature tinge. It can create an inviting feeling, or a somewhat eerie glow, depending on the use.

Lighting for Gathering Areas

In the olden days, long before LED lights or even electricity, candles and torches were used to light indoor and outdoor spaces.

You might recall the feeling of comfort you get around a campfire, or in a room lit only by candlelight. That’s because natural light sources have a color temperature too. Candles give off a warm glow and weigh in at about 1500K. As a reference, daylight is much cooler, at about 6500K.

It makes sense to use bulbs that are low on the Kelvin scale for patios and decks. It will create a sense of warmth similar to a candle. It’s also a good temperature range if you’re trying to create a romantic dinner outside with a special someone. Warmer color has also been shown to promote relaxation too.

On the flipside, if you want to sit on your patio into the evening to read a novel, then you might want to consider a bluer light. This spectrum has been shown to be more stimulating, so it could help you read more pages before calling it a night.

That being said, avoid blue light indoors before nodding off, as it can be disruptive to sleep.

Creating Artificial Moonlight

There are a few types of light that can mimic the kind of lighting you get from the sky at night, including the appropriately named moonlighting. Moonlight color temperature is a bit cooler than candlelight, at around 4100K.

This type of lighting can be especially helpful if you’re creating lighting effects outdoors. It involves putting lights high in a tree to shine down through the branches and cast shadows, just like the moon would.

If this is your goal, then finding bulbs that are rated at around 4000K can create the feel of artificial moonlight.

Highlighting Plants

Many plants, like palms and aloe, are on the green-blue color spectrum, so you can enhance this at night by using lamps that are higher on the Kelvin scale. Using a bulb around 3000K to 4000K can mimic the natural look of the plant, so it brings out its color, rather than clashing with it.

Of course, you can experiment with different color temperatures when illuminating garden beds. Certain flowers will look more appealing with different lighting, depending on their color. You can also use different color temperatures for different sections of your garden.

Other natural features such as trees can look more appealing with warmer light if the light is directed towards their trunk.

Lighting for Home Exteriors and Features

Since many homes are brick on the exterior, having warmer lighting can help match and enhance the browns and reds. The earthy tones of stone fountains and sculptures can also benefit from warmer lighting, increasing visual appeal.

Of course, adding lighting to the outside of your home in any color temperature can increase safety and visibility. If safety is your only goal, then consider cooler (whiter) light that’s higher on the Kelvin scale. It may be less “inviting” and act as a deterrent.

Avoid Cool Lighting for Larger Areas

If you’re flooding an area of your yard with light, and not focusing on highlighting features of your garden with individual lights, then you might want to keep it on the warmer side. Bluish light across your lawn at night can feel a bit unnatural.

What Color Temperature Should You Choose?

When it comes down to it, there’s no ironclad answer to which color should be used for different elements of your landscape. It’s a matter of personal preference, and what works best for the property.

However, if you’re looking for a more “daytime” look, consider that sunlight is higher on the Kelvin scale. That might translate well for what you are looking for or create an unwelcoming glow. It may take some experimentation to get it right, but it will be worth it.

One way to get around this challenge is by working with a company that specializes in outdoor landscape lighting.

Choose an Expert for Landscape Lighting Ideas

An experienced lighting team can consider all the elements of your property and what you’re trying to achieve. Then, it can help put together a plan of which types of lighting to use in various areas for the most impact.

To find out more about using the right color temperature for outdoor lighting, and for more landscape lighting ideas, contact us today.

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