If you look at the most beautiful Christmas tree displays, you’ll notice the trees are lit to the nines. Designers and visual display experts know that loads of lighting is what makes a Christmas tree magical. You’re about to get a crash course on how to light a Christmas tree in 10 simple steps. Your tree will never look better.

1. Match your light cables to the color of the tree

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how to light a christmas tree

Homeowners used white light cords to hide in the silvery grey tree. Image: Jennifer M. Ramos

This one sounds like a no-brainer, but many people don’t think about it. Have a flocked white tree? Go with a white cord. Traditional green pine? Use green cord or cable. Your tree will look far more magical when it looks like the sparkles just float.

2. Use more lights than you think you need

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how to light a Christmas tree

This stunning tree is all lights and no ornaments. Image: Rikki Snyder

The Christmas trees you see on TV and in magazines look magical because they are dazzling. When lighting your tree, more is more. LED lights are safer – they don’t heat up like traditional lights – plus they tend to last longer and cost less to run. And nowadays, LEDs are fairly inexpensive, making them worth the upgrade.

As a general rule of thumb for how many lights you’ll want to use, get two to three 100-light sets for every foot of your tree’s height.

3. Check your lights BEFORE you hang them

One of the most common (and annoying) mistakes is to string your lights on the tree only to discover some don’t work. Lay your lights out on the floor or a table, plug them in and check them before you hang them.

4. Use a special tree light extension cord to make life easier

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how to light your Christmas tree

The Woods 9-outlet extension cord for Christmas trees is only $8 on Amazon and will make lighting your tree easier.

If you have several strands of lights to work with, pick up a 9-outlet Christmas tree cord. String it up along the trunk of the tree with outlets at the bottom, center and top of the tree. Using this trick saves you from having to run all your plugs to the bottom of the tree.

5. Put your lights on a timer

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christmas tree lighting ideas

A timer will let you enjoy the glow of the tree longer and will turn the lights off automatically when everyone’s in bed. Image: Balsam Hill

A simple timer helps you enjoy your tree more without having to keep your tree on at all hours. Set which times you’ll be coming and going and enjoy waking up in the morning or coming home from work to your beautifully lit tree.

6. Focus on lighting your tree in two places

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christmas tree lighting tips

Colorful lights add a whimsical look to your Christmas tree. Image: Unexpected Interiors

Most people string their lights along the outer branches. This works well, but the inside of the tree will appear dark. Consider lighting the inside of the tree by stringing lights close to the trunk to cast an outward glow.

For a cool light display, consider lighting the trunk in white and the branches in color. Keep tabs on which plug powers the sections so you can light each section separately. Wait ’til you see how cool your tree will look late at night if you only power the trunk lights.

7. String your tree with the lights plugged in

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 secrets to lighting a christmas tree

When you light your tree, leave the lights on and step back regularly to look for dark spots. Image: Llama Group

If you’re working with LED lights that don’t heat up, light them up before you hang them. It will help you see how the lights are looking as you go. Step back now and then, squint your eyes to assess how you’re spacing the lights out, find dark spots and adjust as you go.

8. String your lights vertically and in sections

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how to light a christmas tree

Focus on lighting small sections of your tree one at a time. Image: Regina Gust

Most people spiral their lights around the Christmas tree horizontally in circles until they get to the top. The lights often end up too close to the trunk, with most of the twinkly glow getting lost inside the tree.

Visualize your tree in three sections: top, middle and bottom. Run lights up and down each section. Your lights will sparkle more and will be easier to remove later. As you run your lights vertically, wrap around branches and slightly zig-zag your lights so you don’t get an obvious line.

9. Strategically place your ornaments

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Christmas tree lighting ideas

Place reflective ornaments near and behind the lights to reflect the glow. Image: Robeson Design

To create the best Christmas tree glow, hang your shiniest ornaments deeper in the tree and next to a light bulb to reflect the tree lights back out.

10. Don’t skimp on the bottom of the tree

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how to light your christmas tree right

Light the bottom of the tree well enough to showcase presents and floor ornaments. Image: Lorde Interior Design

Use plenty of lights underneath the lowest branches to create a downward glow that highlights your nativity scene, presents and more.

Now that you know how to light a Christmas tree like a pro, let us know how your tree looks and which tip helped you the most.