What Is Ambient Lighting & How Can You Create It?

What Is Ambient Lighting & How Can You Create It?

What Is Ambient Lighting & How Can You Create It?

Lighting has the ability to influence our mood both at home and in a commercial space. With the right colour and temperature, you can create a cosy and welcoming atmosphere to relax in at the end of a long day. And, in the hospitality industry, creating a warm ambiance is important for keeping your clientele feeling happy and encouraging them to stay longer. So, it's important you get your lighting right. But how do you create ambient lighting?

In this guide, our LED experts will give you their best advice for creating ambient lighting. We’ll cover:

What is ambient light?

Creating ambient lighting (also called mood lighting) involves using colour, temperature, and brightness to create a comfortable and even level of light throughout a space. The main sources of ambient lighting are usually ceiling lights, wall-mounted fixtures, or recessed spotlights.

Advantages of ambient lighting

At home, your ambient lighting will typically come from the main light source in your room, which will probably emit a bright white light throughout the whole space, helping you to see clearly and avoid eye strain. But, in the likes of restaurants and bars, ambient light is usually dimmed to add warmth and depth to a space and encourage customers to relax. And, if they're relaxed, they're more likely to stay longer, and therefore spend more money. So why not try ambient lighting yourself?

How to create ambient lighting

Ambient lighting shouldn't be too bright or glaring. There are five main factors you'll need to consider when creating your ambient lighting.


You'll first need to decide where you'll be installing your lighting by picking out the key areas you want to illuminate. Like dining areas, main living spaces and, in commercial spaces, your bar or checkout area. You'll want your ambient light to be evenly dispersed and balanced, so try to avoid lighting up only one corner of the room and leaving the rest of the space in darkness. Don't worry if there are any small areas that seem a bit dark, as you can easily brighten them up with accent and task lighting, like  lamps and strip lights, later on.

Colour temperature

Choosing the right colour temperature is essential to mood lighting and, to create a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere, you'll want to pick out warm white LED bulbs or warm white LED strips that give off a cosy yellow glow.

The warmth of a light is measured in Kelvins, ranging from flame white at 2000K all the way to cool, blueish lights reading 6000K. For your ambient lighting, we recommend opting for LEDs with a colour temperature between 2000k (flame white) and 3000k (warm white). This kind of lighting is great for creating a cosy atmosphere around seating and living areas while still offering enough illumination for people to be able to perform basic tasks.

Colour rendering index

Ambient lighting can’t just be pretty — it needs to be practical too. The colour rendering index (CRI) of a light source refers to its ability to truthfully reveal the colours of various objects in comparison to a natural light source (sunlight). It's measured on a scale from 0–100, with 0 being a poor CRI and 100 being the best.

In your home, we'd recommend a CRI of at least 80 or above. In retail stores or restaurants where the colours of the products you are selling are important, we recommend using  lighting with a CRI of 95 or higher.

If you would like to learn more about this, read our  guide to CRI ratings for some additional information.


It's likely that the atmosphere in your space during the day is very different to the mood in the evening, so you'll want your lighting to reflect that. Dimmable LED bulbs are perfect for this, as you can keep them bright for a livelier ambience during the day, but they can be dimmed to create a more cosy, relaxed space in the evening.

Accent lighting

Once you have installed your ambient lighting, you can add extra character to your space by installing accent lighting. There are many ways you can do this, whether it's by using table lamps or LED tapes to highlight important aspects of the room.

LED strip lights can work especially well for accent lighting in drop down ceilings and around kitchen and dining spaces. You could consider concealing them under cabinets or counters for a stylish effect, or placing them along the floor to light up walkways. You can even use colour changing LED strip lights for an extra touch of drama. Plus, they're really easy to install yourself, even without any previous experience. Just take a look at our expert guide to find out how to install LED strip lights.

When picking out LED strip lights for your accent lighting, it's important that you consider the number of LEDs per metre. If there are too few LEDs for the length of tape, you'll end up with small dots of light rather than one continuous line, which won’t give you the sleek look you're going for. To avoid this, we recommend using a  COB LED tape and considering the diffuser you use.

Diffusers will affect the brightness of LED tapes when installed, as a general guide, please see the information below on how much the brightness is affected by each type of diffuser.

Transparent: 5-10% of the brightness will be taken away

Semi-Clear: 25-30% of the brightness will be taken away

Opal: 50-55% of the brightness will be taken away

Black: 65-70% of the brightness will be taken away

Alternatively, if your restaurant or bar has an industrial look, LED neon flex lights can work well. You can use these in place of strip lights or to create a sign on a highly-instagrammable feature wall.

Getting the lighting right in your home or commercial space key. The tips in this guide will help you achieve the perfect cosy atmosphere no matter what project you're working on. For more expert advice, take a look at our buyer's guides. If you're looking for more specific advice or have a question about an order, you can call us on 0800 088 3300 or email us at