The Best Patio Lighting Ideas to Brighten Your Outdoor Space

·5 min read

For maximum enjoyment, your patio should effortlessly transition between daytime and nighttime. This is especially true if you live in a locale where spending time outdoors midday is ill-advised unless you're neck-deep in a cool body of water. By the time the sun sets, it's prime patio time. Cooler temperatures, a slight breeze, and maybe a refreshing cocktail in hand? Count us in. But if all the patio lighting you've got to work with is the flicker of fireflies (no matter how charming it sounds), you might soon find yourself in the dark.

Determining the best patio lighting ideas for your space can help you transform your backyard into an outright destination. Good patio lighting can create an outdoor space that inspires conversation, elevates summer meals alfresco, and even create the staycation you've been dreaming about—just steps from your back door.

Hector Sanchez

1. Create Ambience with Globe String Lights

For a budget-friendly way to add both artificial light and ambience to your patio, turn to globe string lights. Be sure to measure the length you'll need ahead of time by using a piece of string, following the same path you intend to string your lights. Chances are you'll need a longer strand than you might think, particularly if you'll be hanging your lights in a zigzag pattern.

Related: How to Hang Outdoor String Lights on Your Patio or Deck

Other considerations when shopping for patio string lights include lightbulb type (opt for LED varieties, which attract fewer bugs due to reduced UV emissions), whether you want to opt for solar or plug-in power, and options that allow for smartphone control, which is particularly helpful if you want to set your lights to go on and off with a timer.

Julie Soefer

2. Install Track Lighting Overhead

If you have a large or covered patio, lighting integrated into the architectural framework overhead can be ideal. Both track- and can-lighting options designed to stand up to outdoor elements and are on a dimmer can ensure your outdoor room always has the right amount of light. Opting for built-in patio lights hidden behind ceiling beams keeps the appearance unobtrusive and makes the architecture the focus.

Edmund Barr

3. Hang Pendant Lights from a Pergola

Whether you DIY it or buy it, a wicker-style basket light hung from a pergola is a charming rustic choice. Use at least two fixtures over a long rectangular table to ensure no one is in the dark once the sun goes down. The most important factor in selecting your pendant light is ensuring it is safe for outdoor use, meaning it's rated outdoor-grade. Even if it's not directly exposed to the elements, due to humidity, heat, and sun exposure, it will need to use materials that can put up with wear and tear, not to mention adequately protects the electrical functionality of the light.

Kim Cornelison

4. Illuminate Pathways with Hurricanes

Don't let the pathway to your patio be an afterthought. Lighting the way to your outdoor space is necessary to safely create a flow from the indoors out to your patio. Low-lying lanterns or hurricanes provide just enough of a glow to illuminate a foot path without drawing away from the patio. You can opt for battery-powered pillar candles but splurge for a variety that mimics the flicker of real candlelight for added charm.

Adam Albright

5. Use String-Light Planters to Carve Out a Space

The appeal of string lights can't be denied, but what if your patio doesn't have walls or other structural elements to help secure them? DIY string-light planters are the answer and the process isn't as complicated as you might think. Whether you have a giant patio and need to separate the dining area from the lounge area or if your patio is a glorified 8-by-8 patch of concrete, a zigzag pattern of string lights overhead can instantly create a distinct space.

Related: How to Make DIY String-Light Planters

Emily Rone

6. Layer Patio Lighting

There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to patio lighting. The time of day—whether it's dawn, dusk, or well-past sundown—will determine just how much artificial light you need for your patio. For that reason, having an array of options can be both practical and stylish. A sconce just outside the door is a must for safety purposes. The same can be said for motion-activated spotlights typically hung just beneath the roof and used to illuminate darker areas of the yard or patio. If you are entertaining outdoors and don't want guests to feel like they're in the hot seat, just make sure you flip the sensor off for the occasion. Most products can easily be swapped from motion-sensed to on/off functionality.

Even with plenty of light sources, like sconces and spotlights, being able to switch to options that bring a softer glow when called for is ideal. Torches at the edge of the patio can be used to provide one last layer of ambient light while also repelling bugs. Torches with staked bottoms that can be inserted directly into the ground just beyond the patio edge is another option. Finally, candlelight on the table is a must, but flames that flicker out at the first gentle breeze? Not so much. A hurricane is the answer and they come in sizes ranging from ones large enough to fit a collection of pillar candles to petite varieties made to fit a single votive.