Does colour temperature matter in outdoor lighting? Hint: Yes, it does

November 19, 2020 3 min read

Does colour temperature matter in outdoor lighting? Hint: Yes, it does

In the time between Halloween and Christmas, every evening seems to gather early and pitch black. It’s no wonder so many people start thinking now about how to illuminate their home and garden with exterior lighting.

It isn’t just about making your property look incredible – though that’s always important in our book – it’s about helping you enter and leave your property safely, as well as keeping your home secure.

But if you’re a new homeowner – or you’re undertaking a complex scheme – choosing outdoor lighting can be daunting. First there are materials to consider. Do you opt for stainless steel, brass, MOSO bamboo or one of the many other options available?

You’ll want to consider the dimensions of your space and of course the colour of light emitted by the bulb. These days LED bulbs cover a wide variety of colour temperatures – with a measurement of warm to cool light denoted in the kelvin rating provided on the pack front. So when you go to buy an LED bulb it might say Warm White 2700k, or Cool White 5000k. But which should you go for?

Here is our guide to choosing exterior lighting to complement your home…

How to understand colour temperature. What does it mean?

When to use warm light outdoors

When it comes to residential outdoor lighting, the primary kelvin range you’re working with is between 2500k-4000k. A useful rule of thumb: use warmer colour temperatures of around 2500k-2700k on architectural elements and save cooler temperatures of between 3000k-4000k for trees and plants.

While this is flexible, and you can go a little warmer when it comes to lighting spaces where you gather regularly to entertain, it’s best to avoid using cool lighting on any of these “warm light” areas. Cool lighting has the potential to turn off your guests, make architectural elements look unnatural and diminish the home’s “kerb appeal”. Yikes.

When to use cool light outdoors

IP65 Cube LED deck light from the light yard

If you want to showcase the natural beauty of your plants and foliage, neutral white light generally works best. You want to opt for a higher kelvin range of about 3000-4000k.

Many plants appear more natural when illuminated by a higher kelvin light source, and white outdoor lighting in particular makes plants appear more natural at night.

Why not try using structures like trees or trellises when down lighting your garden from high up? You’ll want to stick to a kelvin level of 4000k as this will mimic the colour of natural moonlight (this technique is commonly referred to as “moonlighting”).

Lighting outdoor gathering spaces

All illumination of outdoor entertaining or gathering spaces should be done with soft, warm lighting, and you can even go warmer than you would with architectural spaces if you prefer.

IP54 Orbital industrial style outdoor floor lamp

For outdoor gathering spaces we are particularly fond of our IP54 Orbital Patio Floor Lamp. It combines industrial and contemporary style, making it the perfect addition to any modern or classic exterior scheme.

IP54 Orbital industrial suspended ceiling light

The IP54 Orbital Suspended Pendant Light is handcrafted to order in our Derbyshire workshop from hot rolled mild steel. It is available in contemporary natural raw steel which is finished with a clear powder coat for maximum protection against tarnishing or a patina rusty finish for a more rugged industrial aesthetic.

The best part? Both The Orbital Outdoor Pendant Light & Orbital Outdoor Floor Lamp features a kelvin level of 2100k – which makes it the perfect light source for your guests to gather around.

Whether you’re lighting trees, patios or plants, we have a selection of fantastic handcrafted outdoor lights – many of which offer a choice of colour temperature – to help you illuminate every element of your garden or outdoor space with ease.

Browse our full range of outdoor lighting here.

Questions? To speak with us about lighting for your home or commercial project, call +44 (0)330 223 3940. Or email

For more lighting commentary, design news and advice, follow Gwyn Carless at The Light Yard on  Facebook,  Twitter,  Instagram and  LinkedIn.

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