Guide to String Lights

The ambiance of an outside space can define a guest’s whole experience. String lights have the ability to enhance your outdoor area by adding a vintage charm while illuminating the space. Here is a beginners guide to string lights and six things you should know before getting your own.

LED vs. Incandescent?

LED takes the cake. Besides producing more vivid and brighter color tones and having a variety of shapes and styles, they are overall more budget friendly and energy efficient. You can also hang more at a time due to their reduced consumption of power.

Area Sizes

Large areas over 50 feet in diameter allow room for possibilities when it comes to string light sizes and shapes. You can use small bulbs but you will need more of them to fill in the gaps. We recommend large globe lights (G50 through G125) to add that vintage charm and take up more space. However, if you want a more traditional style, go for A or S patio bulbs. The larger it is, the less bulbs you will need.

Smaller areas under 50 feet in diameter has to have a bit of strategy in choosing the bulbs because they need to be overall smaller. For any general space, choosing mini lights and small globe lights will be the most versatile (G30, G40, and G50). If there are railings or staircases in your small outdoor area, you can choose any of the above, or icicle lights, to wrap around the length. You can also save some space by draping string lights across fencing, if applicable.


One of the most forgotten rules to hanging string lights actually has to do with measuring the length of your area. If the area is 25 feet from one side to the other, and a 25 foot string light is purchased, it will be too small. This is due to the fact that what makes the string lights unique is the natural dip or give in the line. Choose string lights that are around 2 to 5 feet longer than the length of the area. 


Choosing strong hardware is important. Most string lights hang from two points that pull one another. Whether they are being hung from a solid object that will need hardware, or poles in the ground, making sure that they are heavy duty and anchored well is crucial to the natural dip in the string. 


Working in your electrical safety limits is important when choosing which string lights to purchase. If you need 50 bulbs and you choose 75 watts per bulb, that is 3,750 watts plugged into a single socket in the wall! Keep in mind that the average outlet can only hold between 1800 and 2400 watts, maximum. Choosing LED bulbs can help this problem as well.


If you don’t pay attention to the way that your lights are hung up, they will always look sloppy and random. By focusing on the natural swing of the strings, these are are the five most common types of patterns to hang string lights in.

The V and the X


Allowing room for asymmetry, these two styles work for smaller areas and smaller string lengths. The V has three points in which to hang the strings, with a focus on the pinnacle. Typically the V is one single strand of lights.

The X has two separate strands and four hanging points, which cross either at 45 degrees or 90 degrees. The X works best in a square or rectangular area.

The W

Extending the “V” pattern creates the zig-zag of the W. Typically with one strand of lights, this pattern requires at least 5 hanging points, spaced out evenly. If you have a string of 150 feet, you can hang your string at points 30 feet apart. This pattern is easiest to accomplish on a set structure rather than on trees or throughout large yards.

The Square

This pattern uses string lights to define a perimeter of an area, where the dip in the string is often more prominent. This is best when there are obstructions in the center such as fans or foliage. Make sure your anchors are strong enough to hold two tension points each, and an even give in the line is key for symmetry.

The Horizon and the Tent Point

Best for large areas such as restaurants, bistros, churches, fields, and more, botht the Horizon and the Tent Point require strong structures and many different strings, and may require professional contractual assistance. The Horizon uses many strings hung in a straight line  to meet at a single point. The height and distance of the hanging points should be equal so the dips in the strings are consistent. This look can use as few as 5 strings and as many as several dozen based on the diameter of the area.

The Tent Point uses a single post in the center of the area to hold many sets of string lights around it. By making the central point higher than the rest, this pattern creates a curved roof-like look. Make sure the height of the hanging points is even to create a consistent dramatic dip in the strings.

Now that you’re ready to hang your string lights, let us help you find the perfect set. Check out our collection of string lights and contact us today to get started!