In our last blog, we wrote a detailed article on The Art of Wall Grazing. This outdoor lighting technique is, however, very different than wall washing, another popular landscape lighting technique. While wall washing and wall grazing may sound very similar, these two lighting techniques are used for two very different applications and are achieved in two very different ways. In this blog, we’ll cover the basics of wall washing versus wall grazing.
What is Wall Washing?
Simply put, wall washing is an outdoor lighting technique typically used to light flat walls. The result is visual uniformity: a nice, evenly distributed light, which draws attention to the wall’s large, smooth vertical surface. A true wall wash effect eliminates shadows and highlights the smoothness of the wall by flooding it with bright uniform light at a wide angle. Generally, light fixtures are placed no closer than 12 inches from the wall being lit. This landscape lighting technique is used to create the illusion of space, making the wall or building feel larger and more grand.
When Not to Use Wall Washing
Wall washing should not be employed if the goal is to accentuate features or textures. As its name suggests, it washes details out rather than emphasizing them.
What is Wall Grazing?
The opposite of wall washing is wall grazing. Wall grazing is a landscape lighting technique meant to enhance a wall’s texture by creating shadows. Wall washing eliminates 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. (For a more detailed description of how to achieve perfectly executed wall grazing, read our blog.) Wall grazing is ideal for highlighting unique textures and surfaces such as a property’s walls, a home’s facade, veneers, or bark on trees. You can also graze stone graze pillars and columns for a more stately or Romanesque feel. Grazing also works really well with statues and carvings, adding more character, depth, and drama to the piece.
Where Should Wall Grazing Not Be Used?
Wall grazing is not recommended for walls with extremes—walls with a lot of hangings or ledges—as these can create excessive shadows and extended darkness which can be visually unsettling. Wall grazing is also not recommended for poorly designed or constructed walls; wall grazing only accentuates this poor quality rather than make up for what it lacks.
As you can see, wall washing and wall grazing are outdoor lighting techniques used to emphasize architecture and wall elements for decorative and landscape design reasons; but, they produce two very different effects. Fixture placement plays a large role in creating these two distinct effects: For wall washing, the fixture is typically a minimum of 12 inches away from the wall, creating an evenly distributed light that makes the wall texture appear flat and expansive—ideal for creating visually smooth surface. For wall grazing, the fixture is positioned close to the wall—a maximum of 12 inches away—to highlight and accentuate the wall’s most interesting features, such as color and texture, through shadows. Each effect is very beautiful and distinctly different.