3 Expert Tips To Choose An Outdoor Lantern 

Outdoor lanterns can be a tricky puzzle to solve. There are so many options available and each can vary according to style, fuel source, color temperature and more. We've put together this list of expert tips to help you sort through the clutter and choose the best outdoor lanterns.

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What type of outdoor lantern is best for my home?

One of the first things you should consider when choosing an outdoor lantern is how you intend to use that lantern. Not all lanterns are made equal, so having a clear idea of how you intend to use yours, will help you narrow down your options.

Ambient lighting

If you're hoping to entertain guests in your yard or patio, then appropriate ambient lighting can turn the ordinary garden sit down into a luxurious setting for wine or whiskey and a cigar. If you're considering a lantern for ambient lighting, then intricate or patterned designs are probably not the best bet.

Lanterns cast large shadows in dim light, especially if they have a patterned or scenic design on their glass chimneys or mantles. The visual impact of shadows is emphasized in the warmer color temperatures, which happen to be the best for outdoor ambient lighting.

Cooler light temperatures have a bluish hue, which can make outdoor environments appear sickly and faded at night or evening time. The ideal lamp for ambient lighting outdoors will produce a light temperature of 2700k and ideally have little to no designs that could cast long shadows.

Note: Consider using halogen light bulbs for ambient lighting purposes. As popular as LED bulbs have become, they produce directional light, not diffuse light, which makes them more appropriate for task or functional lighting than ambient lighting. Halogen lights are available in warmer color temperatures and produce diffuse light, which is ideal for creating ambience.

Some LED bulbs can be paired with chimneys that diffuse light for them and alter the temperature of the light to match warmer tones, but they make for a weak substitute for halogen bulbs.

Warm Flame Plug-in Outdoor Lantern
Light LED Outdoor Hanging Lantern
Big Solar Outdoor Lantern
Cool Light Patio Lantern
 Outdoor Floating Tray Lantern
Warm Green Outdoor Lantern

Decorative lighting

When choosing lighting for your outdoor space, it can be easy to jump straight into choosing bulbs and lanterns obviously intended to be decorative, as opposed to functional. This can be a mistake that devalues your decorative lighting and makes it less effective than it could be.

The first step in choosing decorative lighting is to ensure that your ambient or task lighting is already covered. Decorative lanterns often have designs on their glass chimneys and mantles, which can alter the color or pattern of light produced by the bulb within to create accent lighting or to cast patterned displays on your garden or patio.

If you have a plant rich environment, a sprawling light display can be somewhat wasted on greenery at night. Wooden decks or patios, however, handle colors well, especially when finished with a natural wood grain.

Decorative Solar Powered LED Outdoor Lantern
Hanging Solar Powered Decorative Outdoor Lantern
Pink Glass Decorative Outdoor Lantern Set
Large Contemporary Decorative Outdoor Lantern
Gold Stainless Steel Decorative Outdoor Lantern
Black Metal Decorative Outdoor Lantern

Functional lighting

Functional or spotlighting is best handled by daylight or cool white LED bulbs in mantles that allow unobstructed directional lighting. Lanterns intended for functional lighting will find their best value positioned over outdoor staircases, reading nooks, card tables or grills.

Consider placing an LED lantern anywhere you'll be using your hands for something intricate.

Pest control

Lanterns don't have to be all about ambient or decorative lighting. They can also work to keep you safe from dangerous or annoying pests like mosquitoes and sandflies. Some lanterns emit a specific wavelength of UV light that most flying insects find incredibly enticing. Once the insects get close enough, an electric shock is delivered that usually kills them quickly and humanely.

Normally bug zappers aren't exactly pleasing to the eye, so if you've given up on finding one that is aesthetically pleasing or that matches your décor, we understand. If you're hoping for an easy fix to your aesthetic dilemma, consider using a bug lantern that rests on a shepherd's hook.

These lanterns usually come in black and are finished in ways that allow them to fit easily into rustic, contemporary or modern decors. Shepherd's hook bug lanterns can be set up as interesting but discrete accents in corners of your garden without becoming a visual intrusion.

Small Battery Powered LED Outdoor Lantern
LED Spotlight and Lantern for Tent
Small Black LED Outdoor Lantern
Big Hanging Gray LED Outdoor Lantern
Bright LED Rechargeable Work Light
LED Outdoor Bug Zapper Lantern

What power source to choose for my outdoor lantern?

Lanterns inevitably require a power source and knowing which power source matches your circumstance and need best will save you a lot of future headaches.


Kerosene lanterns are still surprisingly common, considering how far light technology has come. Their warm light temperature and naturally diffuse profile lends to their use as ambient light sources. Liquid fuel sources are also available regardless of weather or access to electricity, so a kerosene lantern always guarantees you a solid source of light.

 If you're concerned about a carbon footprint, you can rest assured that kerosene is actually one of the cleanest and safest fuels available. It burns almost entirely cleanly and does significantly better than wood or coal as regards carbon emissions.


  • Once kerosene is available, you always have a light source
  • Produces a warm, welcoming light temperature
  • Diffuse light source
  • Burns cleanly
  • Minimal risk of carbon monoxide emission


  • Requires occasional refueling
  • Lanterns can be hot to the touch

Battery-powered lanterns and LEDs

Battery-powered lanterns can be a convenient solution if you're not interested in lengthy installations or setting up extension cords. When paired with LED or halogen bulbs, batteries can have lengthy lifespans, so you will not find yourself needing to replace them very often.

Battery-powered lanterns can grow dim as batteries lose charge and sometimes don't have charge indicators to help you stay ahead of the curve. If you're not diligent, you can catch yourself needing to replace batteries when you need your lighting the most.


  • Minimal or no installation required
  • Variety of style choices
  • Can be relocated easily


  • Can require battery changes at inconvenient times

Solar power

Solar Powered lanterns are ideal for individuals who value a minimal environmental impact, or who want the convenience of automatic outdoor lanterns. Many lanterns that are powered exclusively by sunlight also automatically turn on once it becomes dark outside, which can save you the trouble of remembering to do so nightly, or when you have surprise visitors.


  • Minimal carbon footprint
  • Automatic activation
  • No extension cords required
  • No or minimal installation


  • Cloudy days can compromise charge depending on model
  • Automatic activation is model dependent
Solar Powered Integrated LED Outdoor Lantern
Battery Powered LED Outdoor Lantern Candle
Solar Accent Globe Hanging Lantern
Battery Powered LED Outdoor Lantern in Black
Contemporary Black Battery Powered LED Outdoor Lantern
Solar Umbrella Outdoor Hanging Lantern

What lantern styles are best for my décor or garden?

If your choice in lantern is being determined solely by style, it can be difficult to sort through the plethora of options available for decorative lighting.

  • Filigree mantles

If you're choosing a lantern for a seating area rich with wooden finish or whicker, a filigree mantle, with a warmly toned light source can create a wonderful combination of twinkling "fairy" lighting while casting a stunning, geometric pattern on walls and furniture.

  • Antique lantern designs

Antique lantern designs can make for captivating ambient light sources while hearkening back to bygone eras of humanity. Times when storytelling and song singing by firelight gave birth to our modern traditions. Antique lanterns often come with LED bulbs molded to resemble candles, which cast realistic flickering light effects that mirror the light provided by candles.

Rustic mantles, whether white, bronze or black, all fit well into contemporary outdoor designs and match well with wicker bistro sets or wooden decks.

Antique Round Metal Outdoor Hanging Light
Woven Globe Asian Outdoor Lantern
Glass and Rattan Outdoor Hanging Lantern
Metal and Wood Outdoor Lantern
Tall Bronze Antique Outdoor Lantern
Woven Oval Asian Black Outdoor Lantern
  • Stainless steel

 You may think that stainless steel lanterns are a bland "no-go", but when finished in rose gold, these lanterns can make for quite the interesting accent piece in a modern outdoor setting. Beige, pink and brown furniture all match well with these lanterns, especially if the light source is designed to give off warmer temperatures of light, which do well with color.

Modern Stainless Steel Outdoor Lantern in Gold
Rose Gold Stainless Steel Outdoor Lantern
Metal Outdoor Lantern in Pineapple Shape
Small Gold Stainless Steel Outdoor Lantern
Silver Metal Solar Powered LED Outdoor Hanging Lantern
Metal Outdoor Lantern with Electric Candle
  • Rope tied

Rope tied lanterns are another way to add a stunning accent piece to your outdoor décor. These fit best with contemporary themes and poorly into rustic or modern themes. The rope handles are often designed with a "worn" look and feel, which adds a look of age and timelessness to your outdoor décor.

Jessica started out as an interior photographer, but her love of pretty settings took her to the field of interior design, where she can combine two of her greatest passions, creating and then capturing the beauty of homes.