top of page

Layered Pool Lighting Ideas

Want to make a big difference in the appearance of your swimming pool area? Try layered pool lighting!

Solar Pool Lighting Ideas

Some people use string lights above the swimming pool, some just put underwater lights in the pool, and bollard lights are also be used around above-ground pool. All of them work well in pool lighting, just lack of the beautiful aesthetics. They are good choices if you just want to light up your swimming pool, but they won’t make a big difference in the appearance of your pool.

Before we talk about the layered pool lighting idea, let us first clarify the premise of lighting.

When it comes to lighting up the exterior pool spaces, there are two basic points to know about outdoor lighting, no matter you use normal electrical lights or solar lights, no matter you are decorating your backyard or swimming poo, you have to bear these two basic lighting points in mind.

Firstly, in outdoor environments, we need far less light than we need indoor, which means outdoor lighting can often be more dramatic than task-focused. Especially in a swimming pool area, you have a lot of lighting options. You can use landscape lighting, which is meant to light up the overall swimming pool space and make it feel more welcoming. You can use decorative lights that adorn the structure of your pool area and provide a little bit of color and fun. You can use spotlights to highlight certain features in your swimming pool. Since it doesn’t need to be very bright, most of solar lights can provide enough light and work well.

The second is that with ambient light, we actually prefer warmer, lower color temperature light. In fact, our attraction to flickering flames is more visually pleasing, or the warm light that renders the skin so naturally, that our outdoor design goals aim for low, warm lighting tones. With warm lights in the pool areas, we can feel warmer. In addition, warm lights do better in creating layered lighting because warm lights are less directional and do not create harsh shadows that cool light does. To take advantage of this, we often use warm LED lights as our primary source of light and then add cooler accent lighting for specific areas.

There are so many lighting principles we need to follow when decorating and lighting up our outdoor living space. Today, let's start with the most basic ways of outdoor pool lighting. We will focus on avoiding lantern effects and creating layered lighting effects.

Avoid Lantern Effect in Lighting Design

What is lantern effect in lighting? We usually rely on nearby structures to act as ambient light sources. In short, the lantern effect refers to the undesirable effect of lighting that is too bright and creates dark shadows. It also has the potential to generate minimal ambient light for outdoor entertaining and promotes the building's form and shape above all else. This can be especially problematic when decorating an outdoor space because it's hard to avoid! Lantern effect is commonly found in commercial buildings where fluorescent lights are used.

Here comes an example,

Note that bright buildings near dark landscapes are high-contrast situations. The huge architecture on the pool is much brighter than other things in the surrounding environment. The lack of layers makes both the architecture and the pool look dull. When you have one strong light source that casts shadows on the walls and objects in your outdoor space, making everything look flat or two-dimensional.

To minimize this impact: Use multiple light sources so there are no hard shadows anywhere. Consider supplementing smaller light fixtures at the far end of gathering spaces away from the main architecture and the pool. Solar inground lights are most effective when landscape objects like this are turned into lanterns, and also work in reverse. Let’s see the swimming pool examples.

This swimming pool is seen as a large luminous plain. The swimming pool was a special consideration, especially when downlights became reflective and could cause glare issues at night.

This swimming pool lighting looks much better.

The light from left side from the swimming pool and the minimal lighting on the fence around the pool are equally effective in balancing the pool lights, which brings us to the concept of layering. This swimming pool lighting is a great example of a comprehensive lighting strategy that takes advantage of all three main components of any lighting design.

Three Main Components of Lighting Design

What is three main components of lighting design? They are ambient lights, task lights and accent lights. No matter you are designing lights for a garden or a pool area, they are important.

Ambient Lights

Ambient lights are the overall lighting for the space, which is important for safety reasons. They should be soft and subtle, allowing you to see what’s happening in the room but not drawing attention to itself. Ambient light often includes solar string lights, solar windchime lights, candle-styled lights, pool solar fountain lights and so on.

Task Lights

Task lights are those that are focused on one specific task or area of a room. They are often used to illuminate specific objects or areas where work needs to be done. They should be bright enough to perform the task, but not so bright that they cause eye strain over time. These can include reading lamps, desk lamps, camping tent bulb and floor lamps.

Accent Lights

Accent lights are used to draw attention to something in particular, like artwork on a wall or a beautiful piece of furniture. They can also be used for cosmetic purposes or to draw attention to certain parts of a room. They can be any type of light, including spotlights, recessed downlights and wall sconces.

How should we deploy these three types of lights?

There are no hard and fast rules, but generally speaking, you should place task lighting near the areas where you need to focus on something specific. This might be an area where you do work or study (such as a desk lamp), or it could be a part of your home that needs attention (like an accent light). And it’s important to take into account the size of your space and what you want to achieve. For example, if you have a small room with low ceilings and lots of windows, you may want to focus on task lighting instead of accenting features in the room. Basically, we can make our decision according to the concept, layering. A sense of layering can be created with the three components mentioned above.

Here we see an outdoor pool lighting example.

This space is an excellent example of well-rounded lighting strategy. It makes great use of all three main components.

For ambient lights, the main living spaces not far from the swimming pool are well lit and provide general outdoor areas with ample light for gatherings.

The circulation passage on the right side of the pool uses recessed cans in the ceiling to illuminate the functional passage.

Portable lights on side tables located left from the swimming pool are used for great task lighting and can help users navigate back and forth.

The placement of wall lights to the left of the pool and vegetation lights to the right of the pool adds depth and sprinkles to the overall scene. We set both on opposite sides of the pool to balance the fact that they are.

The layered light concept tends to feel the most natural because that's how we're used to perceiving the world around us, it's a mix of dark and light.


By applying the concept of layered pool lighting, you can create an interesting, dynamic swimming pool space by highlighting different elements. You don’t have to stick with one type of lighting; try mixing and matching different types in the pool area, make good use of the three main components in lighting design, to see how they work together!

Related Products

You can find some solar lighting ideas for yard, pool, patio, garden, etc.