The Difference Between Ambient, Task & Accent Lighting

Reasons For Lighting: The Difference Between Ambient, Task & Accent Lighting

The terms ambient, task and accent may not mean much to you but odds on you actually have them implemented into your home. Understanding what they mean and the reasons for separating these terms can help to create the perfect lighting balance.

People install lighting for a whole host of reasons; it could be the latest designer fitting which concentrates on image rather than function, on the contrary it could be a powerful light which needs to efficiently light a big room concentrating on function rather than aesthetics. It’s all dependent on the individual and their requirements BUT what is for certain is that all types of lighting have their own identity and agenda. Knowing what they do and how to get the best out of them is sure to give you further guidance whilst designing your interiors.

So what’s the difference between ambient, task and accent lighting? Read on to find out.


Ambient H2 ProAlso known as general lighting, Ambient lighting is an extremely important factor to any interior space. This type of lighting is commonly used as the gateway to a clear vision with the main aim to emit strong light into the room, allowing all inhabitants to safely navigate around.

Due to its vital role it’s essential that your ambient lighting promotes a comfortable level of brightness; this means no glare and no unwelcome headaches.

Ambient lighting can come in various styles but it’s core goal is to provide a great distribution of light. Whether it’s a contemporary pendant light fitting or a number of ceiling downlights as seen in the picture; ambient lighting needs to be strong, durable and reliable.

When you select ambient lighting you have to consider the size of the room as well as any natural light which may filter through and contribute to the overall light. Ambient lighting is there to provide an area with overall illumination with no thrills attached. It’s simply there as the first base and is usually the most dominant of all home lighting.

Having said this, ambient lighting doesn’t have to be boring, as long as the bulb transmits a decent amount of light you can select from a variety of styles. Successful ambient lighting can be achieved by using chandeliers, downlights, track lights, fan lights and any type of fixture with the ability to supply a wide beam span.

EXAMPLE (See Picture):

In this picture you can see numerous Collingwood H2 Pro ceiling downlights helping to efficiently light the kitchen. These have been positioned across the ceiling for no other reason but to provide a general lighting option and to illuminate the entire room.

The designer of the room had to weigh up which ambient lighting would work best in this kitchen, avoiding any type of ceiling pendant fixture because the ceiling level is fairly low. Instead they ended up implementing downlights, a clean and compact choice which sees them embedded in the ceiling rather than protruding through and dangling as a pendant. Knowing that the odd one or two would not give enough light force to power the room the owner has intelligently installed and positioned the H2 Pro downlights across the ceiling to create a constellation of lights able to supply efficient light across the whole kitchen.


TaskTask lighting is what it says on the tin, a light for you to achieve specific goals or to aid you with light in tricky situations or poorly lit areas.

Task lighting is usually dotted around the house where main ambient lighting just isn’t necessary, either in terms of application or brightness. Task lighting can range from under cabinet lights, guidance lights (pictured), table lamps or bollard lights for the garden. They are less for decorative purposes and more for practicality.

For instance, if you are looking to add some extra food to your recipe but you need to find some onions and garlic in your messy kitchen cabinet then under cabinet lights will assist you. Under cabinet lights will provide you with a localised light source to help you discover what you require in an instant; rather than relying on a broad light from above which will often supply insufficient light.

EXAMPLE (See Picture):

This picture shows a guide light which is designed to be switched on late at night for trips to the bathroom or to keep the kids content in bed with a little bit of light emitted but nothing too overbearing. This Saxby Lighting guide light is also known as a low level marker light, it’s not high or bright enough to illuminate the entire hallway but still provides an important light source for tasks when needed.


AccentAccent lighting is for those that want to create extra drama and character to their most cherished areas or objects. Applying accent lighting will draw further attention towards what you want to stand out. These lights are made to tweak the presentation and stature of already existing items or areas within the home or garden.

Accent lighting is often used in commercial and professional arenas, where businesses or artists look to highlight products and artwork by using light to accentuate image and style. It’s a bit like make-up, especially eye shadow or mascara, where the sole purpose is to make feature’s more prominent, attractive and desirable.

Many homeowners have items such as sentimental ornaments, special photography, children’s artwork and feature walls deemed to be important to them and their family. Using accent lighting is a great way to enhance these treasured objects, making people well aware of the memories and importance of what they hold closest.

Of course it isn’t only specific items that can benefit from pin pointed lights because accent lighting can aid the interest or character of a wider area. Feature walls, garden landscapes and general locations can be lit up by uplighters and ground lights to direct the light upwards.

EXAMPLE: (See Picture)

In this picturesque scene you can see how accent lighting transforms this overhead trellis into an inviting spectacle. By using ground lights to shine up through the wooden stands and into the plantation the structure glows and stands out. This accent lighting also acts as general ambient lighting due to the lack of artificial light available outdoors.

To achieve this effect standard up-lighters and ground lights can be well positioned up against walls, posts and other structures. Light is dispersed upwards and ricochets across whatever it comes in contact with, creating this stunning scene especially at night time when light is hard to come by.

Understanding how particular light fittings and where they are positioned can transform an area will put you in good stead whilst planning your interiors. The difference between ambient, task and accent lighting may seem minimal but the impact they have in the home can be massive. Below are a selection of lighting systems loosely categorised within ambient, task and accent lighting styles.


Pendant Ceiling Lights


Track Lights


Bathroom Lighting


Wall Lights

Shaver Lights

Under Cabinet Lights

Table Lamps

Low Level Marker Lights


LED Strip Lights

Picture Lights

Mirror Lights

Effect Lighting

Jacuzzi Lights


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *