Definition of "Mood Lighting"

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Mood lighting creates an intimate mood, whether that mood is relaxing, romantic or sultry. Restaurants use mood lighting when they dim the overhead lights and place candles or small lamps on the table. The technique is frequently used in film and theatre to communicate mood to an audience.

Create mood lighting in your home or business to help any room become a more relaxing, intimate space.

Light Sources

Mood lighting generally uses a small number of light sources that are not overhead, or are dropped lower than the ceiling, such as pendant lights. The light fixtures are dimmed or coloured, distinguishing them from general lighting, although you can use general light fixtures for mood lighting if they are dimmable.


Light affects perception of your surroundings, not just by making things visible, but also by enhancing or detracting from what you see. Bright, general lighting can make all objects in a room appear to have the same quality, and if the lighting is diffused so there are few to no shadows, objects and people can look flat, because shadows are a large part of your perception of depth. This type of bright, diffused lighting can make people in a room feel bored, sleepy or restless because of the lack of visual interest. Mood lighting uses dim, distinct lighting sources to create shadows and enhance the perception of depth in a room.


General lighting tends to be perceived as white, although it may be somewhat yellow, in the case of incandescent lights, or blue, in the case of cool fluorescents. These colours of light can help the eyes perceive colours the way they would in daylight. With coloured mood lighting, warm colours such as the red, yellow and orange candle glasses or lampshades in restaurants--or flames--can bring out the rich, warm colours of food, making it appear more appealing. Cool colours such as blue and purple can simulate a feeling of nighttime, which many people find relaxing.


Aside from personal relaxation and food or dining experience enhancement, mood lighting can be used in places like massage therapist studios, doctors' offices and other places where creating a relaxed mood is important. Several airlines are employing mood lighting in their aeroplane cabins to influence the passengers' perception of the flight experience. Mood lighting may be brighter, using blues as the passengers enter, then shifting to warmer colours at mealtimes, or it may be purple or red to lend a sultry, exciting feel to the experience of flying.


Create mood lighting with common household fixtures or specialised LED (light emitting diode) lighting. Place your desk lamp on a dimmer to create dimmable light that casts plenty of shadows that add depth to a room, or place coloured bulbs in fixtures that enhance the mood. Purchase LED bulbs that change colour at party supply stores, and use them to create a festive atmosphere with pulsing colour changes or a single atmospheric colour. String lights and rope lighting are popular choices to supplement mood lighting with a little bit of extra light, especially along walkways.