The basics of DIY lighting

If you're going to try your hand at DIY lighting, you should begin by learning about the different lighting techniques used to create specific effects in indoor spaces. Broadly speaking, good lighting design is built around a single focal point or "key light," with secondary lights or "fill lights" used to accent other room features, surfaces or furnishings. Professional lighting designers draw on a number of specific techniques which are built around this principle, and to create a successful DIY lighting design, you should familiarize yourself with the methods the pros use.

Do It Yourself Lighting: Techniques

Here's an overview of some common interior lighting techniques:

  • Wall-washing. This lighting technique creates unity within a room by focusing a key light on a vertical surface, supplemented by directional fill lights. It guides the eye through the room and is an effective way to highlight important features or accessories.
  • Highlighting. If you have a particular area of the room you want to draw attention to, highlighting is an extremely effective technique. It works by focusing a high-intensity spotlight on the area of interest, which is several times brighter than the next-brightest fill light.
  • Lighting
  • Backlighting. Professionals define backlighting in different ways, but one of its most unique applications is the use of a diffuser to change or colorize the quality of the light behind it. Panels, screens, stained glass and veneers can be used as diffusers in a backlighting strategy.
  • Up-lighting. This is another dramatic technique, which is achieved by placing a key lighting source near the floor and orienting it in an upward direction. It is an excellent way to draw attention to decorative elements mounted on walls.
  • Structural lighting. Using box beams or cornices, structural lighting houses key and fill light sources in architectural features such as vaulted ceilings or domes. Again, the effect is to draw visual attention to the feature itself.

You can also experiment with different types of lighting fixtures, including shades, lenses, louvers and spotlights, will help you refine the effect and achieve a unique, striking look all your own. If you want to maximize energy efficiency while creating striking indoor lighting, choose fluorescent lights or LEDs instead of incandescent bulbs.