Expert Advice: Lighting Murals with

Murals and large scale artwork can be unfamiliar territory when it comes to appropriate lighting solutions. Just how does one go about lighting these pieces of art while ensuring that they receive the attention they deserve?

To find out, we asked the experts at for their expert opinion.  What we found out was nothing short of enlightening.

DCM: When it comes to lighting a large scale piece of art like a mural, what are the basics?

LO: When lighting a mural, you need to think about what kind of lighting effect you wish to create.  There are two main looks: wall washing and wall grazing.  Wall washing spreads light evenly over a vertical surface, minimizing any surface texture and creating a very smooth look.  Wall grazing is more acute, emphasizing the surface texture and creating highlights and shadows.

DCM: Many designers are familiar with wall washing.  What kinds of fixtures produce a wallwashed effect?

LO: One way to wash the wall is to use recessed accent lights, which are available in three general types.
1. Eyelid Type: has an opening that is halfway concealed by a cover so the light bounces off the wall. Space eyelid wall washers evenly and put them two to three feet apart.
2. Open Type: no cover but uses a special reflector to direct the light.  It actually creates wallwashing as well as general downlighting.
3. Lensed Type: provides the smoothest wall washing look by using a combination of an internal reflector and a spread lens. (edit: a spread lens is a lens placed in front of a luminaire to evenly spread light in all directions)

DCM: Tell us about Wall Grazing.

LO: Wall grazing creates a more focused, obvious spotlight, emphasizing the texture of a surface.  It also creates dramatic highlights and shadows.  You often see wall grazing on stone or brick feature walls and you can graze a wall with lighting at ceiling or floor level for dramatic looks at both levels.

For wall grazing, try a recessed downlight that will create a narrow and more focused beam of light.  A PAR bulb, which has a built in lens and reflector, is also a great choice for creating the sharp edged and focused beam that wall grazing demands.

DCM: What about track lighting?  How can it be used to light murals and large scale art?

LO: You can use track lighting to create either wall washing or grazing effects.  Track lighting is available in a huge variety of styles and lengths to suit your design preferences and artwork.  Unlike fixed recessed lights, you can freely re-adjust the focus of track lighting after installing the fixture.  For optimum effect, space the lights of track fixtures 2-3 feet apart for washing effects and no more than 1 food apart for grazing.

DCM: And finally, where energy conservation is a concern, what are your recommendations?

LO: Wall washing and grazing fixtures that use LED are also available, including fixtures with colorful LEDs for a super dramatic look.  This would be a great way to light a mural while conserving energy and heat since LEDs emit much less heat in the course of operation than their incandescent counterparts.

Many thanks to the team at LightsOnline for their help!

LightsOnline | is part of family owned Progressive Lighting, inc., the largest residential lighting showroom in the Southeasern United States with a 45 year history of providing elegant and unique lighting fixtures, superior value, and unparalleled customer services.  Operating in Atlanta, Dallas, and Charlotte, Progressive Lighting is the recipient of Residential Lighting's Social Media Star of the year.

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