What is the difference between ambient lighting and task lighting?

When choosing to light the interior of your home, it is crucial to know where to use ambient or task lighting. The right balance between the two can not only make your home look better, but can also increase functionality.

The difference between the two is ambient offers a warm glowwhich is great for setting a mood and general lighting. While task lighting is used for a specific task, like lamps for reading or pendants for a kitchen island.

Ambient lighting is also known as general lighting provides light to an entire area, such as a room. To achieve the greatest effect, this light should be evenly distributed and glare-free. Similarly, there is a difference in color temperature.

Ambient lighting usually uses LED within the 2200-2700 kelvin range compared to task lighting, which uses higher depending on the task at hand.

Below is the breakdown of both ambient and task lighting. With this information, you’ll understand why you need both.

Ambient Lighting


Ambient lighting serves as the basis for your room’s lighting, enhances a room’s sense of warmth, and produces an inviting feeling.

Its functions are to provide a comfortable amount of lighting, create mood, and are the foundation for other light sources.

Ambient fixtures include recessed wall sconces or stylish chandeliers. When choosing where to install ambient lighting, it is best to create a plan to develop an equal distribution of lights.

When mounting ambient fixtures, don’t forget to choose the bulb color temperature. For general lighting, you will need a higher bulb color temperature compared to a mood-setting lamp.

You can also choose whether you want your fixture to have a warm or cool glow. Yellow light is warmer and is lower on the Kelvin scale. While blue light appears to be cooler and is higher on the Kelvin scale. With lighting, the color temperature of light determines the results you are looking to achieve.

Task Lighting

task lighting
In the picture, the pendants serve as task lighting while the can fixtures provide general lighting.

Task lighting should never be confused with lighting that gives your room basic ambient light. These fixtures serve a particular purpose or task, not as a general source of light. Rooms like your kitchen, office or workplace have more than one source of lighting.

For instance, in your home office, there are reading lamps to help you get your work done. In my case, I have a small lamp next to my office phone that provides some extra lighting for my desk.

Similarly, task lighting in your home includes fixtures like reading lamps, under the cabinet lights, kitchen pendants, and vanity makeup lights. Again, compared to ambient lighting, the color temperature is higher. But with dimmers, you can always adjust your lighting to better suit your needs.

Task Lighting Advantages

Task lighting is a simple and affordable way to improve your workspace. It’s also versatile, and you can use them in any room of your house. However, there are some advantages associated with using task lighting in your home.

Research shows that lighting has a significant effect on our moods and emotions. Take, for instance, task lighting has a color temperature of 3100K-4500K these bulbs produce a bright white hue. This color helps you stay awake and evokes a sense of alertness.

It can help you see better when doing precise tasks.

Task lighting is more focused, so it can help you see better when working with small objects, such as a needle and thread, or using tweezers.

Similarly, task lighting gives off concentrated light instead of diffused light from ceiling fixtures. In some rooms, you can use them for general illumination like hallways or storage spaces.

You Can Turn Them Off When Not In Use

When you are working on a task, task lighting is a great way to provide just enough light for your area of focus.
Task lighting has the advantage of being able to be turned off and on as needed. This makes it ideal for those who need to conserve energy.

Improves safety

Because these fixtures shine a light on a specific area, it is a great asset to have when working with machines.

There is a difference between ambient and task lighting, they both serve a purpose. Task lighting provides focus light so you can see better performing a certain task. While ambient fixtures offer general lighting for your home, distribute light evenly as well as help create a mood.

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