Lighting Design for Interiors | Primary Lighting Techniques

Types of Lighting Techniques | Primary and Secondary Lighting Techniques

Lighting is an art of illuminating the space in a way to create illusion. Lighting Techniques have been broadly classified into two categories:

  1. Primary Lighting
  2. Secondary Lighting

Primary Lighting and Secondary Lighting are used depending on the requirement of the kind of illumination required at a certain place. At some places, provision of only Primary Lighting would serve the purpose whereas where a meek ambiance is required, secondary lighting would serve the purpose.

Lighting in a Restaurant
Lighting in a Restaurant

Sometimes, for efficient and ambient lighting is the requirement and the cost of the lighting design is not an issue then Primary and Secondary lighting are both used in layers to create a dramatic effect.

Apart from the techniques of primary lighting and secondary lighting, the material used in the interiors also plays a vital role in creating a perfect ambiance.

Check this out: New materials, Aesthetics and Lighting Techniques

In this article, we will discuss in detail about the “Primary Lighting Design”…

Primary Lighting

As the name suggests, primary lighting is incorporated in every lighting design. It is like the first layer of lighting which is the most essential one. The space to be designed is first designed for proper and comfortable illumination, effects are then added to the lighting design by placing luminaries differently.

Primary lighting is also designed in two layers. They are as follows:

  1. General lighting
  2. Localized lighting

Depending on the area and need for illumination of the space, a lighting designer decides whether General or Localized Lighting is to be used or a combination of both for better illumination and effects.

General lighting

General lighting is a term to describe the general illumination of the space. It is further subdivided into two types:

  1. Downlighting techniques
  2. Uplighting techniques


As the name “Downlighting suggests, the luminaries are designed to face downwards to achieve downlighting effect.

Downlighting techniques are of three types:

  1. Direct lighting
  2. Indirect lighting
  3. Semi-direct lighting

Mounting and ceiling

  1. Recessed mounting
  2. Suspended
Concealed Lighing | Semi-direct lighting technique
Concealed Lighing | Semi-direct lighting technique


Light emitting surface of the luminare is dimed upward, light being reflected from the ceiling and walls.

  1. Uplighting luminaries
  2. Free standing uplights
  3. Suspended or wall mounted

Lights fixtures incorporated in the furniture


Horizontal illuminance can be obtained with the help of downlighting.


Vertical illuminance can be obtained with the help of uplighting.

Localized lighting

  • Lighting which is generally arranged with respect to the visual tasks or work areas is called localized lighting.
  • Reduce task illuminance to 50% of the general lighting
  • Both downlighting and uplighting techniques are used in combination to obtain localized lighting.

Localized downlighting resolve various issues such as:

  • Glare
  • Wheeling reflections
  • Annoying shadows
  • Direct glare
  • Better utilization of the light of the designed area

Disadvantages of Localized lighting system

  1. Switching system
  2. Wiring

Localized Uplighting

Reduces shadows

More directional illumination provided could provide illumination nearer to general lighting

Localized plus general lighting

Ex: jewelry showroom

It is an economical way of providing high illuminance for small areas (not monetary)

Reduces annoying glare

Positioning downlighting luminaires to produce average maintained illuminance in the working near to the visual task

Thumb rule

  1. General lighting is always 20% of localized lighting (20%-40%)
  2. The viewing of forms and textures required for particular forms
  3. 1000 lux, directional light
  4. General lighting due to obstructions does not penetrate certain areas
  5. Higher illuminances are necessary for older workers
  6. Area is occupied only for longer periods

Secondary lighting systems

  1. Accent lighting- 15 times more than task lighting
  2. Effect lighting- no functional value
  3. Decorative lighting
  4. Architectural lighting
  5. Mood lighting

We will discuss in detail about “Secondary lighting systems” in my succeeding articles…

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