How to Quickly Design and Sketch Your Own Backyard Patio or Landscape Outdoor LED Lighting Plan…In Four Simple Steps

Posted by outdoorled co at

Generate Ideas (and a sketch) for Your Own Landscape, Patio and Outdoor LED Lighting Project

Step 1 - First explore ideas for your ideal outdoor lighting spaces

  1. What spurred you to think about outdoor lighting in the first place? If you can define the night time atmosphere you want to enjoy, and your likely night time activities around your patio, deck or landscape - you’re well on your way to planning your lighting project. Here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Entertain your friends and family outside into the evening without worrying about it "getting dark" and having to go inside.
  • Host late evening barbecues for your friends and family with clear lighting over the bbq, grilled steaks, colorful veggies, bread and wine.
  • Enjoy intimate and enchanting dinners with your partner or a date under a subtle low voltage hanging light.
  • Sip a favorite beverage and relax on your deck after work, with easy-on-the-eye LED lighting to read a book, the paper or enjoy company.
  • Walk safely around the landscape, from the entrance through the garden and to the house without stumbling or needing a flashlight every time.
  • Keep the grounds more secure at night....and worry less.
  • Create family gathering memories with your children, parents, friends or grandchildren enjoying the out-of-doors around the home.
  • Give your teenager and their friends a safe and "cool" place to “chill out” at night, so they don't always need to hightail it out of the house.
  • Sit by an open pit campfire or outdoor heater on chilly nights and stargaze, with a subtle low lighting of pathways to ultimately make your way back to the house to sleep.
  1. Use Pinterest to find pictures and images of backyards, decks and patios with lighting that appeals to your sense of style and the size of your yard. Create your own image boards with the photos you like best. Try a variety of search terms (patio lighting, deck lighting, LED outdoor lighting…have fun with it). 
  1. Write down your goals and keep track of your ideas…your vision. The key is to just get something down on paper. It doesn’t need to be much, but keep your favorite images and ideas for reference and to keep you on track.

Step 2 - Walk and sit in your outdoor spaces at night with a (decent) flashlight

  1. Time for a night walk. Simply wander around the house and your yard with a flashlight. Take your time. Where do you need or want lighting - and in what spaces around the house and landscape? Consider the mood or feeling you want to create. Here are some practical ideas and mood generating tips to get you started:
  • Show off elegant stonework or wall textures.
  • Highlight subtle curves of a sculpture, shrub or the form of a beautiful tree.
  • Side light steps or elevation changes between (between your deck and garden).
  • Create a welcoming atmosphere for your home entryway.
  • Brighten a barbecue or outdoor cooking area (to make sure the steaks don’t burn).
  • Create a warm and intimate space for sitting, lounging or dining outdoors.
  • Illuminate an entertaining area for outdoor parties or games.
  • Light your steps, paths, and driveways so family members and guests are able to move about easily and safely after dark.
  • Convert a deck, porch or patio into an evening retreat by concealing low-voltage lights under steps, railings, or benches.
  • Hang bistro-style string lights to create a dining and entertaining atmosphere.
  • Add a subtle lighting effect to a trickling stone fountain.
  • Adjust the level of brightness - bright lighting to walk or find something, then intimate low lighting over dinner.
  • If you have existing lighting, what is it about it that you don’t like and would change?
  • What others can you think of?

    Want the FREE full guide to quickly designing and choosing the right outdoor LED lighting system for your landscape? Download the entire FREE Step by Step "guerrilla" Guide. 

    Step 3 - Discover your preferred lighting styles

    While you’re outside at night, use your flashlight to test common lighting techniques while you explore your outdoor spaces. It sounds simple.  But while certainly not exact, it can still be effective. Use different flashlights or adjust the brightness. This works best with a partner so one can stand back away to look while the other holds the light.  So plan a night with a friend, partner or sibling and make an evening of it (remember to watch you’re step).  Which of these often-used lighting techniques below would you choose for your patio, deck or landscape?

    Down Lighting

    Elevated spotlights in trees, off balconies or eves to broadcast light over a wide area for entertaining or security. The higher the light is placed, the wider the beam and larger an area can be lit. Use a narrow spotlight or place the light lower to highlight architectural details or garden beds on the perimeter of the house or walls.


    Mimics natural moonlight filtering effects through leaves and branches. Place a spotlight high in a tree or structure and aim downward at an angle.  Patterns of shadows can be created on flat surfaces such as patios, decks and walls…with some really sweet effects. 

    Deck Lighting

    Hide tape lighting under fixed bench seating and under the edge of handrails. Hang pendant fixtures from the inside of large umbrellas, from pagodas and over seating and table areas. On low decks with no railing or edging on a pool, small recessed deck lights create a safe border and delineate the edge.

    Step Lighting

    Use recessed or surface mounted deck lights to highlight single or multiple steps, elevation changes, and edges to increase safety and ease of movement through the space.  

    Pathway Lighting

    Used for safe passage along walkways at night. Path lights are typically stem mounted in the ground with a hooded fixture to prevent glare by casting circular patterns of light over the path while highlighting nearby flower beds. Usually positioned in landscape cutouts and path edges. 


    Used near the base of a wall or facade, will reveal unusual stonework and unique textures and details of vertical materials in surprising ways. 


    Creates a smooth and even look, quite different from the textural grazing technique. The light fixture is placed several feet away from the wall to maintain even ambient lighting for the nearby area. Use wide-angle flood lights with low lumens.


    Use spotlights to feature special trees, large shrubs or architectural features. 

    Accent Lighting

    Unique architectural features and sculptures come alive at night by focusing light on the chosen subject. Up or down lighting can both work, but position the light source in a hidden spot to avoid glare.


    A light fixture is placed just in front of the subject so the light casts a shadow on a vertical surface. To shrink the shadow, move the luminaire farther away from the subject. To enlarge the shadow, move the light closer


    This type of lighting highlights a subject’s outline and form, such as a dense shrub, sculpture or tree. Placing a spot light directly behind the subject and creating the dark outline silhouette of the subject. The colors and textures of the object are not seen, only the impactful shape. 

    Remember to check out our Pinterest site for some great ideas and images (

    Step 4 - Hand Sketch A Rough Lighting Plan

    1. Just remember, your sketch doesn’t need to be a work of art. It just needs to represent your ideas and vision. Just list out the places and techniques you want to use if that works better for you. 
    • Now is a good time to consider maintenance. Do you use a landscape maintenance contractor or do you maintain your own yard?  Are you planning an upgrade or renovation to your landscape? This will affect where you put your lights. It’s best to keep your lighting fixtures out of the way of intensive maintenance areas if possible.
    • Sketch out the spaces and areas where you decided to add lighting.
    • Use directional arrows for light beams.
    • Add comments about the lighting techniques you want to use.
    • Do you want to hide the fixtures out of view, or allow them to be seen? 
    • Note down relative locations of seating, benches, tables, walkways, steps and activities that will benefit from the lighting.
    • Note the adjacent properties and houses. You’ll want to avoid annoying your neighbors with your lighting choices.
    • Mark the locations of any nearby outdoor GFCI outlets (ground fault circuit interrupter). This is where you’ll plug in a low-voltage transformer (for low-voltage systems). If you don’t have a GFCI outlet available, you will need to get an electrician to install one. 
    • Note: 120V fixtures need to be installed by a licensed electrician.

    That’s it! You’ve got a rough plan for your outdoor patio, deck or landscape lighting.

    Now that you have a rough sketch, we’ll show you exactly how to choose the right LED low-voltage light fixtures, transformer and cable to fulfil your lighting vision plan!

    Want the FREE full guide to quickly designing and choosing the right outdoor LED lighting system for your landscape? Download the entire FREE Step by Step "guerrilla" Guide. 

    Share this post

    ← Older Post