Patio Lights Planning Tips
First, Measure Your Space
The first step to a flawless patio light design is making sure you know the dimensions of your space. We recommend drawing a rough sketch of the area where you plan to hang your lights and writing the measurements on your drawing for quick reference later. This sketch will come in handy when you pick your hanging pattern, which we will discuss further in the next section. Part of what makes patio lights so appealing is the natural curve created by the strings. To make sure you have enough length to account for the swag in your light strings, add 2 - 6 feet of length to your measurements and purchase strings that coincide with those final numbers.
Decide How You Will Hang Your Patio Lights
Take inspiration from the pros when designing your backyard patio lights! Event spaces, restaurant patios and public squares are all areas where patio lights are likely to be found in a variety of patterns and designs. Take a look at our list of the most popular patio light patterns and pick the one that best suites your taste and space!
The V Pattern - A versatile option for any space. The V pattern is fairly easy to achieve and does not require equal string lengths on both sides to look good. Keep in mind that the pinnacle point of the V, where each side connects bears the weight of the entire light string and should be anchored sufficiently to support the additional pressure.
Zig Zag or "W"- Zig Zag patterns are a fun choice when you want to add full coverage illumination across your space but desire a more interesting light design. This can be achieved with one long light string or through the use of multiple strings connected end to end.
X Pattern Patio Lights- X marks the spot! This design works especially well in wide spaces or areas that are square shaped. If you have multiple light strings, hang several X's in a row to create a diamond pattern. The result is a light display that appears intricate but is actually incredibly easy to achieve!
Square or Grid- Hang patio lights in straight lines across the length and width of your space to create a grid, or keep it simple by outlining just the perimeter of your space in a square shape.
The Horizon Point- Similar to the V in that the light strings all anchor to one central point and fan out, however, this design requires more hanging locations opposite of the central horizon point. This technique for hanging patio lights is typically used in professional installations for events and restaurant patio seating. However, with some planning the horizon point can be easily achieved in residential outdoor spaces as well!
Tent or Maypole Design- The tent or maypole design features multiple light strings anchored in a spoke and wheel arrangement from one central point. This point, typically either a pole or beam needs to be sturdy enough to support the weight of multiple light strings and may require professional installation.
Scalloped Edge Design- Scalloped patio light design is a popular choice for wedding lighting and garden parties and can be achieved with a variety of lighting styles. Create scallops by making a swag in your light strings every 2-3 bulbs. Scallop lights along a fence, wall or other flat surface.
Where to Hang Patio Lights
Now that you've picked your hanging pattern, it's time to revisit our sketch and measurements from earlier! Take some time to plan out where your patio lights will hang, how many anchor points you will need and how you will attach your lights to those points. Some popular hanging locations for patio lights include...
If your yard does not have many readily available options for hanging patio lights, you may need to create your own. Attach poles to deck railings or cement poles into painted buckets or decorative planters using the DIY method below.
DIY Patio Light Pole
What you will need
Attach a hook to one end of your pole, this will provide an anchor for the light strings to attach to. Mix the cement into your smaller clay pot and while it is still wet place your pole or wooden post in the cement. Hold the pole still or find something to keep it centered while it dries - which shouldn't take too long if you're using quick dry cement. Once dry, place the smaller pot inside the larger pot and fill to the top with soil. Plant flowers or place stones around the base of the pole on top of the soil. Now you have a functional pole for hanging your patio lights that also serves as a decorative planter!
Pick Your Patio Bulbs and Light Strings
Patio bulbs are available in several shapes and sizes to complement any size space or decorative style. Globe patio lights are a classic choice and range from small G30 (30mm) bulbs to large, G50 (50mm) bulbs. S11 bulbs are a close cousin to globe lights with a slightly larger bulb size and balloon shaped curves ideal for hanging upside down. If you prefer edison-style light bulbs, choose elongated S14 party bulbs to achieve a vintage lighting look. In addition to the traditional patio light styles above, C7 and C9 lights - previously only thought of during Christmas - are becoming a popular option in backyard and patio lighting.
Patio Light Bulb Finishes
Patio Light Strings
Matching your bulbs to your patio light strings in both size and style is an important part of creating a cohesive outdoor lighting design. If you already have your bulbs or have decided on a certain type of patio light, start by determining the base size for your bulbs so that you can match them with the correct socket size on the light strings you choose. After you've confirmed the technical requirements, it's time to talk design! Patio light strings are typically available in three colors (white, black and green) and three socket styles (in line, suspended and with copper shades). Although each of these options will work well in most spaces, there are certain environments and situations where one style may surpass another.
In Line- With in line light strings, the socket sits even the rest of the wire. This design is a popular choice perfect for almost any patio bulb style and outdoor space. If you are working within the confines of a small patio or deck, in line sockets are best.
Suspended- Suspended sockets drop the bulbs 4" from the string creating a feeling of sitting at a European cafe. Wires with suspended sockets work well in contemporary spaces with extra height and provide unique lighting for modern wedding themes.
Copper Shades- Reminiscent of a French bistro at night, patio lights with copper shades inspire a feeling of vintage nostalgia in outdoor spaces. These light strings work well in retro inspired designs and provide an antique lighting element when paired with vintage edison style bulbs.
Light String Color Options
Black- Blends against dark surfaces such as wrought iron fences and provides dark woods. Works well in modern industrial spaces and provides a rich contrast when hung in areas with lighter wood accents.
Green- Perfect in use along areas with lush natural greenery and set among trees or across grassy fields. Green wire is most commonly used with clear transparent bulbs.
White- A popular wire color for use as wedding lights, illuminating garden parties and in outdoor living spaces featuring pastel colored fabrics and decor. White wire also blends flawlessly with sheer fabric, allows multicolor bulbs to pop out against their surroundings and creates an elegant display when paired with pearl white globe lights.
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Now, let's learn how to hang patio lights!
How To Hang Patio Lights
The installation process can vary depending on where and how you decide to hang your patio lights, however we have provided a list of the basic steps, supplies you might need and methods to use below. As mentioned previously, you may want to consider the use of a guy wire or galvanized steel cable to hang your patio light strings. Using a guy wire can prolong the life of your light strings by removing the tension that is created on the string as your patio lights hang over time.
Supplies You Might Need
Hanging Patio String Lights Basic Steps
Have a helpful patio lights installation tip or idea that you'd like to share, or questions about hanging patio lights? Let us know in the comments!