Recessed Lighting Trim

Recessed lighting trims serve three purposes:

  1. They conceal the recessed fixture behind them.
  2. They direct and shape the light downward.
  3. They provide a finished/decorative look.

In this tutorial, we’ll first look at the various trim options that are available and the differences between them. Then, I’ll show you how to choose the best trims for each lighting layer in a room.


Trim Types

Baffle Trims are the most common trim used in residential applications. To minimize glare, the lamp sits recessed inside the trim and the inside surface is ribbed which traps and shapes the light.


Reflector Trims are similar to baffle trims except they have a smooth surface inside.


Open Trims are low profile and economical. They fit tight around the lamp which sits flush with the ceiling.


Eyeball Trims allow you to control the direction of the light. Their range of motion is typically 30° tilt and 359° rotation.


Gimbal Trims are similar to eyeballs except they pivot within the housing so they protrude much less below the ceiling. Their range of motion is the same as the eyeball but at full range the trim may cut off part of the beam of a wide angle lamp.


Surface Adjustable Trims (also known as “elbow” or “scoop” trims) offer a maximum range of motion at 70° tilt and 359° rotation.


Slot Aperture Trims are ideal for concealing the light source in the ceiling. Their range of motion is 35° tilt and 179° rotation.


Pinhole Trims provide a tight punch of light from a concealed source. The aperture fits snug around the lamp which is recessed above the surface.


Lensed Trims have a plastic or glass lens that covers the lamp and are most often used in wet locations.


Wall Wash Trims have an eyelid which eliminates the “scallop” design typically created when a light is aimed directly at a wall.


Decorative Trims are available in many shapes and finishes and are usually constructed from a combination of metal and glass.


Trim Colors

A trim’s color can have a big impact on its output of the light. Dark colored trims absorb light and can result in as much as a 44% loss in light output.

The term Photometric Efficiency is used to describe the loss/efficiency of a trim.

Trim Color Sample Light Absorbed by Trim Photometric Efficiency
Clear (Chrome)   0% 100%
White   1% 99%
Copper   10% 90%
Gold   10% 90%
Satin Nickel   13% 87%
Bronze   25% 75%
Black   44% 56%



Trim Finishes (optional)

A trim’s finish can directly affect ceiling brightness. There are two finishes that work very well for maximizing light reflection while minimizing unwanted glare:

Alzak® Finish – Alzak is a proprietary anodizing process developed by Alcoa Aluminum. It creates a finish which is very efficient at reflecting light while at the same time reducing ceiling brightness and glare.

Specular Finish – “Specular” is a term used to describe a reflective, mirror-like surface. Specular trims are available from all of the major manufacturers for reflector and baffle trim types.


How to choose the best trims for each lighting layer in a room.


Recommended trim type for each lighting layer

General Lighting Task Lighting Accent Lighting
Baffle Trim Baffle Trim Eyeball
Reflector Trim Reflector Trim Gimbal
Lensed Trim (wet locations) Pinhole Surface Adjustable
Slot Aperture
Wall Wash


When choosing the best trim for each lighting layer in a room, you should:

  1. First, select the type of trim needed based on function. For accent lighting, it is important to pay attention to the range of motion of the trim to be sure that it will work with the placement of your light.
  2. Next, choose a color that is closest to the color of the ceiling. For general lighting, I recommend using white trims if the ceiling is white. If the ceiling is painted a color other than white, you can use a clear (chrome) trim with a specular finish which will reflect the ceiling color and blend well. You can also paint the trim ring to match the ceiling if you’d like, but don’t paint the inside surface of the trim.
  3. If available for the trim type, choose a finish that will minimize glare and ceiling brightness.