Lighting is a key component in any space.  But, what’s the difference between general lighting and accent lighting? With the right lighting, your home can have a different vibe at any time. Whether you’re having a small gathering, hosting a large party, or want to make the room feel more intimate or comfortable, the right lighting can help.  And since it’s your home, you can easily change the look and feel as often as you’d like.

The fact is, you’ve spent lots of time and energy seeking and selecting the perfect couch, matching end tables, and that amazing coffee table. Now, you need to make sure those items are viewed in the correct light. Overlapping and using multiple-lighting capabilities are common among a variety of light fixtures. There are many different ways to use chandeliers.  They can be used as a primary source of light or accent light, depending on the dimmer employed. LED Strip Lights can be used as an accent or general lighting, depending on their position.

General Lighting

General lighting (Ambient lighting), and it’s the most basic of the three types of lighting. Generalized illumination is the natural light from your windows or the lighting that substitutes for natural light. Among the fixtures that provide ambient lighting are chandeliers and other ceiling fixtures. You can also use non-directional lights such as downlights and wall sconces for general illumination.

Accent Lighting

Directional illumination utilized to highlight one specific object is called accent lighting (also known as highlighting or spotlighting). It is possible to employ accent lighting to produce dramatic effects by highlighting paintings or other artwork, plants, furniture, etc. All types of lamps can be used in a variety of spotlights. The light and its effect, can be changed just by moving it or re-aiming it.

Color Rendering Index (CRI) of General Lighting and Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is meant to stand out from the ambient light and has more possibilities than general or task lighting.   The higher the CRI (between 0 and 100) the better the artificial light source is at rendering colors accurately.  The CRIs for ambient and accent lighting might be the same or different. Natural CRIs near 100 are favored for aesthetic reasons. But, as noted, you have greater freedom here.  A CRI of 85-95 is ideal for the natural light from your windows and the lighting that substitutes for natural light.

Color Temperature of General Lighting and Accent Lighting

Color Temperature is one of the most determining qualities of how a light source appears to the human eye.  Color Temperature measures the heat-induced color palette of a light source and should have a CRI above 80.  It is measured in degrees of temperature – Kelvin (K) on a scale from 1,000 to 10,000.  

The best way to get the desired effect and increase visual appeal is to use the light of a varied-color temperature bulb to change the brightness or illumination.  

It is preferable to use a color temperature that improves the target’s color. Green houseplants prefer warm white or yellowish temperatures (although that is not always the case). The best color of “white” to showcase a painting is with a natural white, or even a frigid white.  There is freedom, but it should be defined by interest.

Natural melatonin production – red light is shown to help the body produce more melatonin when compared to other types of lights, like blue light. Red or near red wavelengths don’t make the brain sensitive and alert, but rather calm and keep you in tune with the natural sleep-wake cycle.

Bedrooms should not utilize cool white bulbs, but entertainment or living spaces should. Lights below 3000 Kelvin can help you relax. Change color temperatures to create the perfect home or office.


Now that you know the differences between general and accent lighting, it’s time to choose your fixtures.  But, choosing accent and general lighting fixtures for your home should only be done after you’ve determined what your primary lighting requirements are. You must have a vision for your living area’s overall lighting design.  Everything should work together to improve your style, statement pieces, and, of course, the comfort level in your space.