5 Expert Tips To Choose String Lights

String lights are a backyard favorite for many good reasons. They add ambiance and mood lighting. They're easy to put up and take down. They come in a wide array of custom styles to create just the right atmosphere. These lights even come in many fun themes to match whatever backyard party theme you choose.  But string lights are also perfect to use in your bedroom or any other room at home, creating the perfect ambiance for you to enjoy.

With so much variety, it can be hard to choose which type of string light option is right for your backyard or indoor space. Below we'll cover the different styles, how to display them and different lighting types.

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How to Choose the Best Style of String Light?

Which style of string light you choose will depend largely on which decorating theme you are going for. Below are the main styles in string lights and in which situation each works best. 

Globe

These types of bulbs are rounded in some way. Typically, the glass is clear and you can see a white LED or filament light through them. They tend to fit in with any type of decorating scheme since they have an understated look.

White Clear Glass Bulb Globe String Light
Gold Bulb Globe String Light
Glass Bulb Globe String Light
Bulb Globe LED String Light
Clear Bulb Globe String Light
Glass Plug In Globe String Light

Standard bulb

These are simply in a classic bulb shape and are also often clear with a white light inside. This is an understated look that goes well in classic or timeless spaces. It's also a favorite choice for industrial decor.

Warm White Bulb Standard String Light
Battery Powered Clear Standard String Light
Multicolor Glass Standard String Light
Elegant Modern Standard String Light
Industrial Bulb Standard String Light
Solar Powered Bulb Standard String Light

Fairy lights

These are very small lights that sit along a string. They're called fairy lights because they give a soft, ethereal glow, like you're looking at the smallest fairies from a distance. Use these in romantic or playful styles.

White Bulb Fairy String Light
Warm White Bulb Fairy String Light
Purple Battery Powered Fairy String Light
Mini LED Fairy String Light
Electric Multi Strand Fairy String Light
Gold Bulb Fairy String Light

Novelty

Novelty string lights have a bulb inside a shaped casing. The string lights could look like anything, from popsicles to pineapples to stars. Use novelty bulbs for fun and casual spaces or themed parties.

Cone Battery Powered Novelty String Light
Plastic Bulb Novelty String Light
Flamingo Bulb Novelty String Light
Starfish LED Novelty String Light
Plastic White Novelty String Light
Yellow Bee Novelty String Light

Rope

These have a light set into a plastic tube. The light glows from within the tube and creates a soft lighting style. They are often of one color like blue or changing colors. These tend to work in fun, artsy styles.

Daylight Bulb Rope String Light
Cool White Bulb Rope String Light
Multicolor Battery Powered Light Rope
Plug In Bulb Rope String Light
Solar LED Bulb Rope String Light
Blue Waterproof LED Rope Light

Paper lantern

If you're going for a classic and rustic vibe, paper lantern string lights give off a historical look.

Plug In LED Bulb Paper Lantern
Purple Bulb Paper Lantern String Light
Green Bulb Paper Lantern String Light
Solar Powered Bulb Paper Lantern String Light
White Bulb Paper Lantern String Light
Red Paper Lantern String Light

Multicolor

This category actually encompasses any lighting type where bulbs are in a different color. So the light itself might be a globe light or a novelty light, but the overall appearance is one of a rainbow look. These look great in artsy party themes, casual spaces or even kid's rooms.

Multicolor Mini Candle String Lighting
Multicolor Plastic LED String Lighting
Multicolor LED Fairy String Light
Multicolor Plastic Standard String Light
Multicolor Bulb Globe String Light
Multicolor Bulb Wide Angle Mini String Light

Shaded

These have bulbs that sit under casing. They work well in both timeless or casual designs. However, the shade can give something of a barn light feel, so it works in rustic spaces, as well.

Solar Powered Shaded String Light
Metal Bulb Shaded String Light
Vintage Metal Bulb Shaded String Light
Geometric Metal Shaded String Light
Solar Powered Metal Shaded String Light
Galvanized Metal Bulb Shaded String Light

How to Display String Lights to Get Different Effects?

Half of the fun of working with string lights is finding fun ways to display them. You have many different options for creating effects.

The most common way to hang them is to simply string them somewhere high. String lights normally go over eating areas outside, along walls inside or over walkways. If you're trying to use the string lights functionally to create the most lighting, this is the way to hang them.

String lights also do well in less conventional areas. Try putting string lights under stairs or railings for some romantic ambient lighting and to light walkways more directly. This method works well with rope lights. Some people add string lights around the trunk and branches of a tree to make it look like the tree is lighted from within. They also look beautiful inside a canopy bed. Some people spell out words on walls with the lights. A very popular use is to put fairy lights inside or around candles and mason jars for some tabletop lighting.

Which are Better, Indoor or Outdoor String Lights?

Whether you choose indoor or outdoor string lights depends on your purposes. A simple way to think about it is if you want to use them indoors, get indoor lights. If you use them outdoors, get outdoor lights.

Where this gets a little more complex is where the lights are rated to be used. Some lights are specifically outdoor lights, some are advertised as indoor lights and some can be used for both. Be sure to carefully check the labeling on the lights before you purchase them. They should list whether they can be used indoors, outdoors or both. 

The reason for the difference is that many outdoor lights are made with heavier materials to withstand being on for longer periods, like all night. Outdoor lights are also built to withstand the elements. Indoor lights are more delicate because they don't have as heavy electrical loads or element exposure. Trying to use lighting outside of its intended purpose could result in a fire, in worse cases, so this is a safety issue.

How to Choose The Lighting Style in String Lights?

You also have a few different options for how these actually light up.

  • Plug-in: Choose plug-in if where you plan to put the lights has a convenient outlet nearby.
  • Battery: If you don't have an outlet, a battery option can keep those lights going. The drawbacks are that you have to replace the battery and this leads to a shorter time that you can leave the light on.
  • Solar: Some string lights are even powered by solar power via an added panel. If you live in a sunny area and want to conserve electricity, look into solar lights.
Warm White Solar Bulb Globe String Light
Plastic Battery Bulb Globe String Light
White Battery Bulb Novelty String Light
Plug In Bulb Standard String Light
Plug In Bulb Curtain String Light
Pineapple Plug In Bulb Novelty String Light

What Are Some Top Features in String Lights?

You also have some additional features in your lights that you might want to consider. Some main features include:

  • Dimmable: If your main concern is customizable mood lighting, choose a dimming feature.
  • Photo clips: A trendy idea is to clip photos to string lights to display some stunning memories under accented lighting. As such, some string lights have clips included.
  • Timer: You might also look into string light kits that include a timer. If you tend to have parties that run to a certain time or only want the lights on for a portion of the night, this is a great option.

Lily is a modern designer with great appreciation for sleek architecture, a love for art in its many forms, and a passion for sharing her experience with people. If you’re looking for advice on how to modernize your old-fashioned place or make your new restaurant a visual blast, she’s definitely the one to ask.