Spotlights and downlights are often mixed up, with people searching for one, but meaning to find the other. In this article we will look at the differences, the benefits, and which situations suit each of them better than the other.


Spotlights are surface mounted lights. These come as single, double, triple or quad lights. Downlights are recessed lights, mounted into the ceiling. Spotlights tend to be better at highlighting certain areas, although tiltable downlights can do this to an extent too.

What are spotlights?

Spotlights are often mounted on a fixing plate or a bracket and are commonly used in kitchens and bathrooms. As these are mounted, they tend to look less subtle than downlights, and don’t tend to work as well on very low ceilings. These give off a directed beam of light to light the room, so for large rooms, you are likely to need either more than one spotlight, or lots of different light fittings.

Spotlights in a cafe

Spotlights work well when directing light onto specific furniture, areas or features, for example onto paintings or bookshelves.

When using a large amount of spotlights, it is common to use a track lighting system, which allows a row of them to be positioned along a length of lighting track.

What are downlights?

Downlights are recessed lights that direct light downwards. These can be fixed downlights or tiltable downlights. The light tends to have a wide beam angle however it is common practice to light a room with more than one downlight.

These can work in a wide range of situations but are better suited to low ceilings as the fitting is recessed, so is unlikely to get in the way.

Downlights are slightly more limited in options for different designs and styles than spotlights, however there are many different finishes available as well as shapes and styles.

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