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How to light walls, vertical features and artwork

Architects and interior designers naturally want to create impressive lighting schemes that highlight walls, vertical features, and artwork within an interior space. Together with the ambient ceiling lights, creates natural layers of lighting that enhance their client’s interiors.

When it comes to creating effective lighting concepts for walls and vertical features, or accent lighting for artwork, an understanding of some basic concepts and techniques will help to bring a designer’s vision to life.

Detail Lighting has over 25 years of experience in lighting design. Here we will demystify the effective lighting of walls, vertical features and artwork.

How to light walls and vertical features

The illumination of walls and vertical features is now part of many contemporary lighting design schemes. It creates depth and enhances the three-dimensional aspect of the space, rather than presenting a plain, flat wall or vertical feature.

Wall lighting is used to either indirectly illuminate a room, as opposed to the direct light from central hanging pendants, or to highlight particular features or textures.

Two techniques that are used to light walls and vertical features are wall washing and wall grazing, each creating different effects. Architects and interior designers will decide on the effect they want to achieve to determine which technique to use.

What is wall washing?

Wall washing is indirect lighting that is placed away from the wall, perhaps at a specified angle, to create a wash effect that is smooth, hides any imperfections and removes shadows. Wall washing provides an even distribution of lighting of an entire wall.

You may choose to use wall washing in your lighting design to highlight a feature wall or to illuminate a collection of artwork or mounted objects, with an even coverage. Without individual lights for each piece, this gives you the flexibility to move the artwork around.

A popular wall washer is the Pintor Wall-Wash – a round LED recessed light. It creates a discreet, anti-glare light beam with a perfectly even illumination.

It can be rotated 355 degrees giving lighting designers flexibility in illuminating wall areas.

The mounting distance away from the wall of wall washing lighting should be at least a third of the ceiling height. Typically this is around 700mm. In rooms with higher ceilings, the distance from the wall should be reduced to compensate for lower illumination. Another popular wall washing product from Detail Lighting is the Corona Pro. This is a round LED recessed directional downlight that is adjustable to a 30 degree tilt.

What is wall grazing?

Wall grazing brings the drama! It is used to create unique soft or intense shadows to highlight textured surfaces. Wall grazing creates a non-uniform distribution of light across a wall or vertical feature with greater illuminance nearest to the light source and less illuminance further away.

The technique for wall grazing involves placing downlights with narrow beams around 150mm to 300mm away from the wall and pointing them downwards towards the floor straight, without a tilt. Wall grazing is best used on walls that have nothing mounted on them to avoid unwanted shadows or reflections.

How to light artwork

Individual pieces of artwork can be illuminated by directional downlights or surface picture lights.

Directional downlights should be mounted 500mm away from the wall to create pools of light that emphasise artwork. The directional Corona Pro is again ideal for this with its dim-to-warm dimming controls that can be adjusted to create the desired effect.

Alternatively, the VISIO picture light, also dimmable, is wall or frame mounted to illuminate the artwork from just a few centimetres above.

Contact Detail Lighting for advice on lighting walls, vertical features and artwork

Get in touch with the team for any further advice on this or any other aspect of lighting design.

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