When it comes to outdoor lighting solutions, wall washing and wall grazing are two effective techniques that can transform the look of a property. While the terms may sound very similar, these two lighting techniques are used for different applications and are achieved in two very different ways. 

This article will cover the basics of wall washing vs. wall grazing. It’ll help you decide which technique suits your outdoor lighting needs best.

What Is Wall Washing?

Wall washing is an outdoor lighting technique typically used to light flat-surface walls. The result is visual uniformity. This means a nice, evenly distributed light that draws attention to the large, smooth vertical wall space. 

A true wall-washing effect eliminates shadows and highlights the smoothness of the wall by flooding it with bright uniform light at a wider angle. 

A wall-washing effect is achieved by mounting lights so the beam of light falls on the wall at a wide angle. The minimum distance for a fitting from the wall is typically 12 inches.

This landscape lighting technique creates the illusion of space, making the wall or building feel larger and grander.

When to Use Wall Washing

Washing lights are ideal for showcasing decorative wall hangings in your outdoor area. They distribute the light, helping the viewer focus on, say, a piece of art. You can also use wall washing to illuminate outdoor signs and other focal points.

Wall washing is also a great way to illuminate foliage close to a wall. It will create a drop shadow of the object against the wall.

That said, wall washing should not be employed if the goal is to accentuate features or the wall texture. As its name suggests, it washes details out rather than emphasizes them.

What Is Wall Grazing?

Wall grazing is a landscape lighting technique that enhances a wall’s texture by creating shadows. This is the opposite of the wall-washing lighting style, which aims to eliminate shadows.

The wall-grazing effect is achieved by placing directional lights close to the wall and lighting it at a narrow angle. This angle draws the eye to the wall’s texture by creating shadows. 

Shadows can be intensified or softened by moving the lights closer to or further from the wall, which changes the angle.

In this light display technique, the fixture is positioned close to the wall surface at a maximum of 12 inches away. This way, the wall’s most interesting features, such as color and texture, get highlighted and accentuated through shadows. 

Where Should Wall Grazing Be Used?

Wall grazing is a smart choice for highlighting textured surfaces. 

A few ideas for wall grazing include property walls, a home’s facades, veneers, or bark on trees. 

You can also graze stone pillars and columns for a more stately or Romanesque feel. Grazing also works well with statues and carvings, adding more character, depth, and drama to the piece.

With wall grazing, position your light fittings closer to the wall. Typically, the light is fitted less than 12 inches from the wall. Positioning your light so close to the wall will highlight the wall’s texture. You shouldn’t use wall grazing with a flat, featureless wall.

Wall grazing is not recommended for walls with extremes. Plenty of hangings or ledges on or near the bright wall give more excessive shadows. The effect of extended darkness can be visually unsettling, too.

Wall Washing vs. Wall Grazing: Which One to Choose?

The main difference between wall washing and wall grazing is the position of your lights. With wall washing, your light is positioned at least 12 inches from the wall. With wall grazing, the lighting fixture is positioned 12 inches or less away from the wall.

Wall washing and wall grazing draw attention to certain elements of your outdoor landscape. But the question of which technique is best will depend on the effect you want to create.

Wall washing is used to illuminate large portions of a wall. It’s ideal for illuminating objects like outdoor signs. Wall grazing, on the other hand, is used to illuminate attractive wall features. You should use it on walls that have a texture.

Ultimately, the right technique depends on the desired effect and the area or feature being lit.

Summing Up

Wall washing and wall grazing are the two top outdoor lighting techniques. Both are used to emphasize architecture and decorative wall elements of your landscape design, but they produce two very different effects. 

Fixture placement plays a major role in creating these two distinct effects. Mounting light points closer to the featured wall will produce a grazing effect. Placing them further away will widen the angle of the light beam and wash a wall out.

Each effect is very beautiful and distinctly different. So which one will you go for?