Christmas Lights Design Guide

Shopping for the best Christmas lights for your project?

Whether you are a first-time buyer or a seasoned pro, the choice of options you have in Christmas lighting has exploded in recent years.

I'm Shellie and I'm here to help. I've been answering Christmas light questions for 11 years. I'll try hard not to overwhelm you and keep things simple. I get so excited about lights and all the ways you can use them and all of the pros and cons of this and that but let's keep things simple here and then I'll show you where you can learn more as you go. Let's look at the places people choose to light then we'll lay out your main product areas.

The Christmas Tree

Q. What are the best lights for my tree?

A. String lights are the most commonly used lights on Christmas trees and now you can purchase incandescent or LED.

1. Choose what type of light strings: Incandescent vs. LED

First, head over to the categories to see what they look like and meet me back here.

Incandescent (glass filament bulbs) Mini Lights vs. LED Christmas light strings?

See the difference in shape, color and appearance? You'll also notice a big difference in price.


Incandescent lights are the light strings you grew up with. They are perfect for a retro or vintage look.

The top colors in traditional lights is white - which looks warm and yellow-y - and multi which is a Christmas tradition. We also see people combining their lights in different ways to match their ornaments, home decor and sometimes their favorite sports teams.

Traditional lights are cost effective, have a lovely glow and continue to be a strong favorite when lighting your tree.

LED Light Strings

With a variety of colors and lens shapes, it is really fun choosing LED string lights. The colors are strong and "electric".

  • LED lights are more expensive to manufacture but they use up to 90% less electricity
  • LED lights look a little brighter on the tree so you can probably use fewer strings of lights

Your choice will ultimately depend on your:
Budget & Taste or Preference

Once you choose LED vs. Incandescent you need to carry that decision through the rest of your

Keep in mind that if you choose to mix white incandscent mini lights and LED lights, you'll need to choose WARM WHITE. Pure white has a sharp overtone that looks pure until you put it next to something yellow then it takes on a glacial quality with over tones of just a tiny bit of blue.

So, let's pretend that you have a wreath with a bunch of traditional lights on it and you'd like to mix that with your Christmas tree but want to go LED. Choose warm white LED strings and while they won't be identical, they will blend. (That's with our LED warm white lights, we can't vouch for anyone else's color)

If you are an innovative thinker, consider adding larger bulbs to your tree. Throw on 25 to 50 feet of C7 or C9 bulbs. You can match with glass bulbs to mini lights and or LED bulbs to LED strings.

Here is a blog post about Texturizng Your Tree. Stop. Head over there and come back.

Adding larger bulbs, mixing bulb shapes, mixing colors, all of these textures will make everyone super-impressed when they see your tree. Who doesn't like that?

2. Choose your number of lights

Q: How many lights on my tree?

A: That's a tricky one. See our How Many Lights On My Tree Calculator as a first step.

We suggest starting with 50-100 lights per foot of tree adjusted for width and style of lights. Many folks use 20-30% fewer LED strings than traditional mini lights. If you took the time to head over to our handy calculator, we give a full explanation of the variables you need to consider when choosing the number of lights strings. If you're like me. Choose a number and add one more.

Handy things to read about lighting your tree with either LED or Incandescent:

What do wide angle LED lights look like?
For folks with a black tree: Mini lights on black wire
If you are using a natural tree be sure to checkout Christmas Tree Safety and Fires!

3. Choose your spacing

Incandescent Mini Lights come in 2.5, 4 and 6-inch spacing. The most commonly used spacing for trees is 4 inches. Six inches is great for larger projects. Folks are using 2.5 inch light strings as a rule of thumb for smaller trees, yard art and projects that require a maximum light to wiring ratio.

Most LED Christmas lights are manufactured with 4 inch spacing with a few wide angle varieties made in 6.

4. But I want twinkle!!

Twinkle is fun and you can add this with either twinkle mini lights,

twinkle LED lights or C7 or C9 twinkle bulbs installed in 25-foot cords for your tree. To see the C7 or C9 twinkle bulbs, you'll have to fish around -- either under glass or under LED.

We've made super-easy to find if you start here.

The House

Q. Where do I start when lighting my house?

A. Most folks start with the roofline and branch out from there to coordinate with that choice.

Lighting the Roof line or Shingle Edge

Choices for outlining a roofline:

  • 1. LED Light Strings or LED Bulbs and Cords or Incandescent Bulbs and Cords.

Most of the time, this is where folks use larger bulbs for maximum impact along the roofline. That's C7 and C9.

Here are those larger bulb choices. Go check them out and come back.

C9 LED Lights strings - the bulbs are permanent and can't be moved

C7 LED Light Strings - the bulbs are permanent and can't be moved

Separate C7 and C9 cords that you can fill with either C7 or C9 bulbs

We've been seeing customers use closely spaced LED lights strings and rope lights along their roof edges but this is like 1% of people. If that's the look you love, choose a clip that works with mini lights or LED light strings with smaller bases then send us a photo to convince me this is a look we'll love.

Videos and articles to help you with that decision:

2. Q. How many feet do I need to order?

A. Measure as much as you can and estimate the rest. Consider adding 5-10% to your estimate beyond what you are guessing for your roofline. Times like these may call for a pro. If you have really high peaks and a lot of complicated installation, a good installer might be worth every penny.

3. Q. How do I install them?

A. If you don't install them by calling the guy your neighbor suggests, use commercial Christmas light clips - easy to find and purchase here in bulk

All of our commercial clips and hooks are used by professionals across the country for polished Christmas light installations. Using the right clip makes all the difference in the world when it comes to installation speed, safety (no more staple guns, please), and the finished look.

We've added a few more clips to our line since we shot this video -- the all application, multi-application, and speed tabs - but it's a great video that will give you an idea of what to look for as you install your lights:

4. Q. A row of lights isn't doing it for me along the edge of my roof. Any other suggestions?

Take a look at icicle lights. They look great on their own or mixed with larger C7 or C9 strings installed alongside them.

Lighting Railings and Columns

Q. How do I light up railings and columns?

A. Depending on the size of your railings and columns you can choose either string lights or Bulbs and cords (just like your roof!)

Most people carry out their choice of roof lighting to their columns and railings with the same style (LED, Incandescent) and color.

Q. How many lights do I need to wrap them up?

This question is trickier than the Christmas tree question. As a first step, I suggest you grab a string or a string of lights, start wrapping it up your column one foot. Measure how much of your cord or light string length you've used and multiply it by the height of your column.

Tree Trunks and Shrubs

You can always use mini lights and LED lights to wrap your tree trunks and highlight you shrubs and bushes but Net Lights make the job easy.

Here is a handy guide to help you with your Christmas lights selection:

We've included other ways to use lights - like on cars and on your patios. Let us know if you have any specific questions by asking your question on the product itself or via our contact page.

Traditional vs. LED Christmas light strings

Christmas Tree Mini Lights (Traditional, glass, incandescent)

Whether you call them Christmas tree lights, twinkle lights or fairy lights, traditional incandescent lights have been the most popular choice with our customers since we began selling lights online in 2005.

They work great for projects like:

  • Christmas trees (of course!)
  • Wrapping tree trunks and limbs
  • Draping above patios
  • Decorating Weddings and receptions
  • Lighting up a reading nook for a special reader
  • Parties!
  • Every holiday - don't forget Halloween, Valentines, St Patricks and Patriotic Celebrations

String lights come in different light spacings (depending on the number of lights per strand, the spacing determines the length of the strands).

There are several specifications to consider when choosing the perfect strand:

  • Bulb Color (white is always #1)
  • Bulb spacing
  • Wiring color
  • Number of bulbs

LED Christmas Light Strings

Take advantage of the cost savings and easy installation and consider installing our LED Christmas light sets this Holiday Season. Our sets feature jewel-toned colored lenses, a wide variety of shapes from small M5 lenses that work to accent anything to larger C7 and C9 lens styles that are larger and show up nicely in their own right. From traditional white to red and then to electric purples and pinks, you will have a tough decision choosing the best shaped lens and color for your project.

With the ability to run 1000's of LEDs off a single breaker, these sets make installation easier - less need to run extension cords all over your roof. Non-breakable lenses means that they are more durable during wind storms and storage.

Traditional Incandescent and LED Bulbs and Cords

Nothing says Christmas like a roof line crisply outlined in C9 bulbs all snapped to attention by the right installation clips. C7 bulbs have E12 or candelabra bases and are the size of a nightlight - they even fit in most night lights. C9 bulbs have intermediate bases (also known as E17) and the bulbs are almost 2 inches tall.

With a tapered look, these lights are perfect for decorating for Christmas and other Holidays - don't forget Halloween - it's now the number two market for Christmas lights.

We sell our bulbs and cords separately to keep down costs for you and allow you the ultimate in versatility. Want blue, yellow and orange lights? It's easy to order boxes of 25 bulbs in each of these colors and then order enough cord for your project. Keep in mind to use seek out the wise counsel of a master electrician if you have any questions about how to install these lights.

Net Lights for Shrubs and Wrapping Tree Trunks

A grid of evenly spaced bulbs, net lights are a quick and easy way to decorate:

  • Trees

  • Shrubs

  • Fences

Non-traditional uses include:

  • Walls of light

  • Ceilings of stars

  • Summer garden decor

  • Wrapping trees with larger trunks

Icicle Lights

Accenting a roofline is easy with icicle lights. These light sets look especially nice on homes with varying elevations in the roofline. Historic homes with circular turrets and Victorian gingerbread are really highlighted with white icicle lights on white wire.

Try using icicle lights on and in:

  • Porches

  • Fences

  • Gazebos

  • Bedrooms

Battery Operated Lights

Whenever you need some lights but have no outlet? battery lights are the best solution. Perfect for projects like:

  • Table centerpieces

  • Wedding receptions and banquets

  • Mosaic Projects

  • Filling Glass Blocks

  • Lighting up wine and liquor bottles

Our LED battery lights have been used in these kinds projects:

  • Theatrical productions

  • Costumes

  • Glass blocks for showers and parties

12 Volt LED Lights

Lights for parades, camping and Holiday fun in your car!

One of our most popular products, these 9.5 feet of lit length 12-volt sets have a car accessory plug and are perfect for parades, motorcycles, and golf carts. We've even had some customers use them in the cabs of their pick up trucks while on search and rescue.

These lights are not tailored for landscape lighting and do not have standard plugs. See photos of these lights on their category page. Their connector is a standard car accessory plug.

Rope lights

We carry a wide line of rope lights - also known as plastic neon lighting. We carry rope light in incandescent and LED varieties.

Our customers are using this style of lighting in their:

  • Christmas displays

  • Restaurants

  • Along stages

  • Above kitchen counters

  • Signs

  • Along boat dock

  • Pin ball games

Installation Hardware and Accessories

The key to a professional-looking Christmas light display is to use professional clips and stakes.

Add tree clips, timers, and extension cords to finish out your project.

Our stakes are commercial grade and the universal stakes can be hammered into the ground - great for icy conditions.

Check out the installation clips application grid on this page - it has some suggestions about what to use for different applications.