Recessed Lighting Trims

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.

This post will cover the most common trim options that are available and the differences between them. I’ve also included recommendations for which type of trims to use for various types of recessed lighting.


Trim Types

Baffle TrimBaffle Trims are the most common trims used in residential homes. The lamp sits recessed inside the trim to minimize glare, and the inside surface is ribbed to trap and shape the light.


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


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


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


Gimbal TrimGimbal Trims are similar to eyeballs except they pivot within the housing so they protrude less from 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.


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


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


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


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


Decorative TrimDecorative 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 ColorSampleLight Absorbed by TrimPhotometric 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

There are two finishes that work very well for maximizing light reflection while minimizing unwanted glare:

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

Specular FinishSpecular 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.



Recommended Trims for Various Types of Lighting


General LightingTask LightingAccent Lighting
Baffle TrimBaffle TrimEyeball
Reflector TrimReflector TrimGimbal
Lensed Trim (wet locations)PinholeSurface Adjustable
Slot Aperture
Wall Wash


Here are a few tips for choosing trims:

  1. 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. If you want your lights to blend with the ceiling, choose a color that is similar to the ceiling. For example, use 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.