Direct vs Indirect Light: How to Make the Most of Both

Views: 0     Author: Tracy     Publish Time: 2022-08-11      Origin:


What is direct light?

What is indirect light?

Compare between direct lighting and indirect lighting

Combining direct and indirect lighting to get most of both


What is direct light ?

direct lighting outdoor & indoor

Direct lighting defination: Direct lighitng is when light from a fixture or lamp falls on a specific area or object, whereas direct light is produced by a fixture or screen that focuses all light at a certain angle.

Direct lighting serves a variety of purposes. For example, it can be used to effectively light up festival activities with LED flood lights and use spot lights to help the stage performances. Direct light luminaires also provide excellent lighting for focuse tasks like writing and reading.

Direct lighting fixtures are mostly practical, elegant and varied.

What is indirect light?

indirect lighting outdoor &indoor

Indirect lighting fixtures are also suspended from the ceiling, but unlike direct lighting they project light upwards. Indirect lighting is to illuminate the surroundings by illuminating the surface of other objects to achieve reflection or diffuse reflection of light. 

Indirect light is often used to illuminate a wider area. A light source that distributes light evenly and illuminates other objects in the room is an indirect light source. Indirect lighting usually be adopted indoor, the interior indirect lighting creates a harmonious and even light without strong contrast between light and shadow. And it can be used for outdoor lighting, such as using a wall washer to illuminate part of the wall and evenly light other parts through diffuse reflection.

Compare between direct lighting and indirect lighting

Direct lighting and indirect lighting are two common lighting concepts we hear today, so what is the difference between directand indirect lighting (direct lighting vs indirect lighting)? Let’s have a look below.

direct lighting vs indirect lighting

Advantages of direct lighting

Direct lighting is one of the most popular and basic light distribution techniques today. You can see it pretty much everywhere. Here are some advantages of direct lighting.

  • Highlight

Provide lighting for specific areas that need lighting, such as work spaces, study rooms. In addition to that, it can also direct people's attention to something.

  • Focus

Focus the lighting on one target object so sharp shadows are clearly visible without wasting light anywhere else.

  • Aesthetic

Since the direct lighting installation is visible, the elegant and gorgeous design in the space can be better displayed to people through the light. Thus the fixture itself can also be part of the decoration.

  • Keep safe

Direct lighting fixtures provide excellent lighting for high-risk areas such as corridors, stairs, and driveway which can reduce unnecessary accidents and keep people safe. 

  • High brightness

Since most of the direct light is the lighting that enters the lighting area directly from the light source, it is possible to use fewer lamps to maximize the brightness of the lighting area.

Shortcoming of direct lighting

Direct lighting also has some disadvantages. When the ceiling is relatively dark, it can create a "cave-like" environment. Improperly placed wide-angle light fixtures can cause reflected glare on computer screens, dark "executive-style" desks, or glossy paper.

When the light is cast on the human face, the harsh shadow will cause a certain degree of damage to the human eye.

Advantages of indirect lighting

While there are many advantages of direct lighting, the importance of indirect lighting cannot be overlooked. Below are some benefits of indirect led lighting.

  • Accentuate specific elements

Indirect lighting is widely used to highlight certain objects and elements indoors or outdoors. For example, you can create a standout effect by placing light fixtures on the back of a headboard or wall mirror using LED strips. Light bounces off the wall behind the element, making the element more prominent in the room.

Under-cabinet lighting is all the rage these days. It not only reduces glare but also provides ample lighting.

Another way to bring aesthetics into a room is to create a "false ceiling" with light fixtures fastened behind them. It creates warm and classy lighting.

  • Create a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere

Since indirect lighting is not harsh and jarring, it can create a warm and comfortable atmosphere. In residential projects, it is possible to make the occupants more comfortable.

Indirect lighting is best used for lighting in areas such as bedrooms, bathrooms and dining rooms, because these places are closely related to people's lives, and indirect lighting with soft lights can make people feel comfortable and relaxed.

  • Reduces Glare

The ability to reduce glare is one of the main advantages of indirect lighting. The deflected light has lost some of its brightness and further spreads the light evenly over the entire area, so indirect lighting does not produce glare. Due to this feature, indirect lighting is used for indoor applications where glare must be avoided.

Areas such as libraries, TV lounges, computer labs, and office spaces should use indirect lighting to avoid glare causing discomfort to people's eyes and making it impossible to work.

  • Increase visual comfort

Use indirect light to add soft, pleasant light to any space. It works by increasing the perceived space of a room by reflecting light on the ceiling plane.

In areas lacking natural light, indirect light fixtures can provide the feel of natural light, increasing comfort and alertness.

Shortcoming of indirect lighting

Here are some disadvantages of indirect lighting

  • Compared with direct lighting, indirect lighting bulbs are less bright and less efficient overall.

  •  In scenes that require high brightness and clear visibility, indirect lighting is not the first choice.

  •  If only the ceiling is lit in the room, overall visibility may be poor.

Where to install direct lights

Direct light is important where we perform our jobs and tasks because it can improves visibility and focuses light exactly where it is needed.



We need it when direct light illuminates a specific object. For example, when reading at home or in the office, it is particularly important to install a small light fixture with a directional light next to it, because it can improve visibility.


Kitchen & bathroom

In our homes, direct light is very important in kitchen lighting and bathroom lighting. Directional spotlights above kitchen work areas and lighting below cabinets are great options for illuminating prep and cooking areas.

However waterproof down lights or til-table spotlights are also important in the bathroom.

Exhibition Gallery

Exhibition Gallery

Direct light is also used in museums, art galleries and shops to capture and focus our attention on a certain picture or artworks.

Where to install indirect lights

Indirect light is used to create ambience. It helps balance the sharp lines of brighter direct lighting solutionsbetter than bright direct light.

Indirect lighting is especially preferred in areas where ambient lighting, relaxing ambience and glare reduction are required. So what are the indirect lighting options? Such as houses, kitchens, bedrooms, study areas, schools, offices, lounges, restaurants, hotels, motels, etc.

Examples of direct lighting



LED spotlights direct a concentrated beam of light onto a specific target. They usually operate at higher voltages and have high-intensity lighting.

Their purpose is to highlight a specific function or draw people's attention to something meaningful. They're best when you want to highlight a particular piece of art or decorations in your interior, so you'll often see spotlights in exhibition galleries, stage shows, and accessories stores.

pendant lights

Pendant lights

A chandelier is a great example of direct lighting, which can illuminates a specific area.A pendant light, also called a drop or suspender, is a lone light fixture that hangs from the ceiling usually suspended by a cord, chain, or metal rod. The pendant fixture can bring the lights down from the ceiling and puts it closer to your counter or table or favorite chair, or wherever you're going to need it. This means, pendant lights are great for task lighting.



A downlight is a light fixture that illuminates the area below by lighting down. Since they are recessed into the ceiling, you can only see a small portion of the fittings below the ceiling. There are a variety of interior lighting designs to choose from. For example, downlight are often seen in bedrooms, bathrooms and living rooms.

LED recessed downlight are also loved by interior designers for their simple and elegant design. They can provide high enough lumen to perform everyday tasks effectively.

Examples of indirect lighting (examples of bright indirect light)

Indirect lighting can be achieved with any kind of luminaire. It mostly depends on the placement and design of the fixtures themselves.

Indirect outdoor lighting fixtures is the light filtered by blinds or curtains, as well as the deflected reflected light from walls and surfaces, to achieve the effect of illuminating the indoor environment. Compared with direct lighting, indirect lighting relies more on the light of nature to provide lighting.

Combining direct and indirect lighting to get most of both

It may be tempting to decorate a room with just directional fixtures for a cozy light, but it creates a stark contrast between light and shadow.

On the other hand, decorating a room with indirect lighting ideas will clearly illuminate the walls and ceiling, but there will not be enough light for special work tasks like reading or studying. So the best solution is combine direct and indirect lighting.


In this article, we introduced the difference of direct and indirect light and how to choose the right light for different projects depending on the scene.

Suntech Lighting has successfully manufactured indoor and outdoor lights for different lighting projects. Feel free to contact us for advice, consultation or quotation. We look forward to helping your business take it to the next level.

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