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Wall washing vs. wall grazing

Wall wash and wall graze. Lighting technique terms you may have heard before, but what do they mean and when do you use them? Illuminating a wall adds a visual impact to the space, and is typically done in either of these two main ways. You must couple the wall lighting method with the correct type of wall (smooth or textured) to get the desired effect. Continue reading to compare these two techniques:

Wall Wash

Wall wash is when the entire surface from top to bottom uniformly lit in a smooth graded wash, which hides any imperfections by eliminating their shadows. Wall washing is a technique commonly used for smooth walls because the lighting will hide any blemishes and make the surface appear to be perfect. To achieve this effect, the luminaire is usually a minimum of 12 inches away from the wall, so the beam angle can cover more surface. The fixtures also need to be mounted at or above ceiling height, so they can effectively cover the whole surface. This visually pleasant effect provides ambiance and can make spaces feel larger and brighter.

Linear wall wash down a hallway to evenly illuminate the wallpaper.

Wall Grazing

Grazing a wall has a completely different effect, and as the name implies, light “grazes” and skims the wall surface by having the luminaire mounted less than 12 inches away from the surface. This shift in beam angle will now accentuate textures and special architectural elements on the surface for a dramatic punch. So when using materials such as brick or wood, wall grazing really brings out the natural texture of the surface and adds an eye-catching visual impact.

To recap, if you have a piece of artwork you’d like illuminated you would use wall washing luminaires. If you have a textured wall that you really want to pop, you would use the wall grazing technique. It all depends on the wall’s texture and your personal desired effect that you’re going for.  Wall washing and wall grazing are not limited to interior applications, they can also be used to highlight a building’s exterior, and can be mounted from ground level pointing upwards. Each method is a unique way of manipulating how surfaces appear to the human eye.

Adjustable fixtures such as track lighting, are perfect for wall wash and wall grazing applications. For more a more discreet aesthetic, recessed wall wash options are available. FLUX carries a variety of wall wash vs wall graze product lines that will suit your space and your budget. Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions if you’re planning on using these techniques in your next project.

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