A Beginner’s Guide to Task Lighting

We’re discussing applications, industries, design elements, benefits of lighting control systems, and everything else you need to know about task lighting!

For any lighting project—whether it be commercial or residential—task lighting is required. If you are new to lighting terminology and haven’t encountered the phrase “task lighting” before, you likely have a lot of questions. Luckily, we are here to help! Today, we are talking about what task lighting is, how it works, and how it is used in different scenarios. If you’re in charge of a lighting redesign, are meeting with a lighting control retailer, or are just looking for some background on task lighting—keep reading! We’re going to be covering everything from lighting design principles to what you can expect from a lighting control system when it comes to options for task lighting. To get started, let’s first define task lighting.

What is Task Lighting?

Before we get into options for lighting control systems, we need to learn more about what it is and take a look at a few examples.

We all use elements of task lighting every day—often without noticing. Task lighting is defined as any lighting fixture that is placed in a way that allows for a specific task to be accomplished. The most common example of task lighting is a desk lamp. We have all used a desk lamp whether we go into the office or whether we are working from home. A desk lamp is an example of task lighting because the illuminated area allows better reading, writing, and other workplace tasks.

On a larger scale, we can talk about retail stores. Retail stores require task lighting where employees need to complete different aspects of their jobs. In most cases, this is around the checkout area where employees will need additional light to assist customers in making purchases. In commercial task lighting applications, lighting control systems are used to optimize levels so employees are able to complete their tasks easily and without interruption.

How is Task Lighting Used?

With the help of lighting control systems, task lighting can be used across industries and in residential properties.

Anywhere you go, you are going to encounter many examples of task lighting. Ambient lighting is good for illuminating large spaces, but in order to complete precise work task lighting is required. To give you a better idea of how task lighting is used, we’re showing you a few ways that task lighting is used in different industries.


As we just mentioned, a desk lamp is the most common form of task lighting in an office. However, there can also be task lighting in conference rooms for the purpose of giving presentations. You may also find that offices use track lighting and floor lamps to create a complete workplace lighting landscape.


For residential properties, there are a whole host of different task lighting applications. Task lighting can be used in every room in the house to properly illuminate areas where additional visibility is needed. For example, hanging pendant lights in the kitchen create better visibility for cooking and baking.


Warehouses and large garages rely heavily on ambient overhead lighting to illuminate large spaces. While ambient lighting is important, it can’t replace task lighting. That’s why warehouses and garages need special work lights to properly illuminate working areas so employees can get the job done. 


Working in construction presents a number of dangers that simply do not exist in other professions. Because working in construction can be dangerous and requires a high level of precision, task lighting is required on a large scale. In order to ensure safety on construction sites, workers use work lights, floodlights and spotlights as fixtures for task lighting.

What Are the Benefits of Task Lighting?

Using task lighting, designers can create highly functional, safe, and visually appealing spaces.

For someone who isn’t familiar with lighting principles, it can be difficult to imagine why task lighting is so essential across all industries. Since we use task lighting every day,  we tend to take it for granted. Because of this, it is worthwhile to take a look at how task lighting improves our lives. Here are just a few of the advantages of using task lighting as opposed to other lighting styles.

Reduced Eye Strain

If we are only provided with ambient or background lighting as we work, it can lead to eye strain. Eye strain can even lead to chronic headaches. When task lighting is used, every workstation is properly illuminated and there is no need to strain your eyes.

Visual Appearance

Spaces tend to look more appealing when there are different lighting layers. A “layer” in this case refers to lighting that is designed to highlight different areas of a room. If an area has only one level of ambient lighting, then the space tends to look bland.


The most important benefit of well-planned task lighting is definitely the added safety. Many professions require precise work that can’t be compromised by poor lighting. In addition to the construction industry, there is also manufacturing, shipping, and healthcare that require deliberate task lighting in order to ensure that no mistakes are made. 

How Can Task Lighting Be Integrated with Lighting Control Systems?

With the help of lighting control systems, ideal lighting levels are guaranteed through data collection and sensors.

One of the best and most widely used developments in the lighting industry are lighting control systems. Lighting controls refer to automated “smart lighting” systems that allow for intuitive lighting thanks to internet connectivity either over WiFi or Ethernet cables. When it comes to task lighting, lighting control has the capability to automatically adjust task lights based on light sensors that respond to natural light coming in from the outside. This helps workers save time since they are not constantly adjusting their light level as light from the sun changes throughout the day.

What Are the Basic Design Principles for Task Lighting?

We’ve already discussed the benefits of task lighting, now it’s it time to discuss how designers are able to create task lighting.

Now that we have a good idea of what task lighting is and why it is so essential across industries, let’s take a closer look at the rules of good task lighting. First, we are going to be talking about the placement of the lights. It is important for designers to carefully consider where the lights are placed in relation to where the light is needed most. In order to get the best possible task lighting, designers need to consider the height, distance, and angle of the light. The first thing that needs to be taken into account is the possibility of glare. If the lighting is at eye-level, it will create glare and make it far more difficult for an individual to complete the task at hand. The second thing to consider is the distance between the light source and the illuminated surface. To provide illumination without being overpowering, the light fixture needs to be close enough to the surface. The same applies for the angle of the light, which needs to be direct but not in a way that creates an eye-straining glare. 

We hope that these task lighting basics were helpful for you to understand the purpose, benefits and design principles of task lighting. Without the help of task lighting, many professions would be much more difficult—and dangerous for workers. Not to mention every day tasks in the home or in an office would be more likely to cause eye strain in just a few hours. While we may not notice task lighting as we move through our lives, we definitely rely on it every day—which makes task lighting one of the most important lighting design principles.


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