Lighting Research Center NYSERDA Lighting Patterns for Homes Image Map


Wall Washing

Wall washing illuminates a vertical surface with uniform brightness. Wall washing draws attention to the wall, and can be used to accentuate an entrance, fireplace, or artwork. The light reflected from matte surface walls can make a room appear bright and will provide a soft, diffuse light in the room. Paint walls white or light color for greatest efficiency. Wall washing can make spaces such as hallways or narrow rooms appear spacious. Wall washing is achieved by placing fixtures in or on the ceiling or on the floor at regular intervals. The spacing between the fixtures and the wall determines the brightness of the surface. The spacing can be calculated so that the wall is evenly illuminated, or illuminated in a regular pattern that creates a scalloped effect. If wall washing is used for ambient light in a room, provide additional lighting for special purposes where needed, or locate tasks that need high illumination, such as reading, near the walls. Mount the fixtures close enough to the wall so that people seated nearby will not receive direct glare.


  • Do not light windows or mirrors because the image of the lamps and fixtures may be reflected.
  • Dark surfaces reflect far less light than white surfaces, so more light should be directed onto them if they are to be perceived as being wall washed.
  • Fixtures mounted close to the wall create a grazing effect on textured surfaces. This can be an advantage if the texture is attractive, but should be avoided where the wall has surface irregularities.


Example Patterns