Uplighting: beam it up for extra effect

If you’re wondering exactly what “uplighting” refers to, your first guess is right. It’s a commonly used term for any lighting purposefully directed upwards. Light fittings specifically designed for this are predictably known as uplighters or uplights. But what’s the point of this lighting technique?

Creating drama

There are a couple of reasons for deliberately throwing light upward. Primarily, uplights are used to create drama. In this role, the light is positioned on the floor or ground and the light is directed up at an acute angle to glance off a wall, or a fence, or perhaps a statue or tree – this method is used indoors and out.

See our full range of floor uplightersOne thing sharply angled light does is emphasise texture; many objects that look flat in regular light take on a dramatic appearance under acute illumination, with their surface detail revealed. This technique also brings out form. A single light source or an asymmetrical pair of lights shone from beneath (and other angles) provides “modelling”, where light and shade outlines the shape of any item.

It is occasionally said that uplighting looks dramatic because our natural expectation is for light to come from above. A more established fact is that areas of light and dark create atmosphere. Because uplights are often set against subdued background lighting, or even darkness, they are always a fantastic choice for creating ambience.

Reflecting light

Another reason for pointing indoor or sheltered luminaires upward is to bounce light off upper wall areas and ceilings. This has the effect of widely dispersing a smooth light that is completely free of glare. Effectively it turns the ceiling into the light source, and a larger light source creates softer, more flattering illumination.

See our full range of Wall UplightersLight fittings used in this fashion might include floor lamps, concealed fluorescent fittings, and spotlights. The spread of light always depends to some extend on the nearness of the light source to the ceiling, its beam angle, and the light’s angle of incidence as it strikes the surface.

Indoor uplighting

Indoor uplighting works in either of the roles previously discussed. Lighting for drama nearly always means placing a light fitting on the floor. Light that is reflected off a ceiling is usually either wall-mounted or a freestanding lamp. Here are some examples:

The Limina Plaster Uplighter is an attractive luminaire for a hospitality setting or home. Set against subdued background lighting it dramatically lights architectural features, wall-mounted art, sculpture, or houseplants. As a cabled fitting, it serves as a floor or table lamp.

The Mother & Child Floor Lamp directs a phenomenal amount of light towards the ceiling using a powerful LED bulb, which is dimmable for fine-tuned effect. This type of luminaire provides a lot of coverage with its big throw of omnidirectional light, which is further dispersed by nearby surfaces.

A fitting such as the Spot 79 Spotlight might fulfil a similar role to the Opus. By mounting it on a wall and aiming its light upwards, the problem of glare is avoided and a wide spread of light is achieved. Spotlights are often overlooked for this purpose, but they provide good coverage for confined areas while taking up minimal space.

Outdoor uplighting

Most of us have probably noticed outdoor uplighting being used whilst on our travels, perhaps to dramatically illuminate a great cathedral at night. Architectural lighting is one way it is used, which will typically involve a powerful ground-fixed floodlight in outdoor situations.

The Edit Arris Wall Light is usable either as an outdoor uplight or downlight and is ideal for any modern premises. It is intended for decorative purposes, so how you install it falls to personal choice and may be influenced by existing lights or features.

Take a closer look at the Oslo LED Wall LightDrama is usually the motive when using uplighting outside. Popular targets for outdoor uplighting include trees and shrubs, statues, gazebos, fences, trellises, and garden walls. The same principle applies: uplighting gives these subjects texture and form and creates visual interest.

For shrubs, smaller trees, and many other garden items, the Garden Spotlights are ideal, they can be aimed directly upward to accentuate shape. A stronger alternative to Garden Spotlights is the High Power LED Ground Light, which are great option for lighting up large trees or an alternative to wall uplighters.

Water features such as fountains or ponds are often lit from beneath, or within, not least to avoid the peril of surface glare. Here, a product like the set of Garland SMD LED Walkover Lights works well. These provide decorative uplighting, and with their IP68 rating they can be immersed to a depth of 1 metre.

Become a lighting drama queen (or king)

We hope this article has provided you with ideas on how to create drama and mood with uplighting. It may have opened your eyes to how you can use existing surfaces to disperse light and avoid glare. Become a drama queen with your choice of lamps and light fittings!

Browse our full range of wall uplighters

Browse our full range of floor uplighters

For more inspiration and advice take a look at our Lighting Advice section.


Andrew Evangelidis Head of Buying

Andrew is an experienced buying professional who takes an entrepreneurial approach to identify new lighting solutions and ensure Lyco have first-to-market ranges for our customers. Having previously worked for well known brands such as Wickes, Carphone Warehouse and Toys R Us, Andrew has now turned his hand to sourcing commercial lighting and ensure our customers receive top brand quality products at marketing leading prices. He manages a team of commercial and decorative buyers who travel the world finding new products that our customers don’t even know they need yet.