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Controlling the Color of Stage Lighting

We learned in school that the primary colors of pigment are red, blue and yellow. Mix these together in the right combination to create any color. Mix them all together to get black.

Light also has primary colors, however, they are different. Mix red, blue or green light to create any color. Mix all three together and you’ll get white light (not black). The physical properties of light and color are beyond the scope of this article. Excellent books on the science and art of lighting can be found in the recommended reading section at the end of this guide.

Stage lighting is usually colored by placing a thin sheet of plastic in front of the lens. These sheets are called “color filters,” or “gel” because they were originally made of dyed animal gelatin. Modern gel has a polymer base of acetate, vinyl, polyester or polycarbonate. Stage lighting fixtures produce very high temperatures and the light filtered by the gel is converted to heat. Therefore, do not use anything except color filters designed for use in entertainment lighting.

Gels come in hundreds of colors/hues and the use of color is very subjective. However, if you are a novice and need some advice, we recommend the following colors to get you started:


Application

Color

Manufacturer Name & Gel Number

Warm Front Light

Bastard Amber

Roscolux 02

Lee 162

Apollo 7050

Cool Front Light

Special Lavender

Roscolux 54

Lee 702

Apollo 3350

Backlight

Daylight Blue

Roscolux 65

Lee 196

Apollo 4500

Background Lighting

Light Red

Roscolux 26

Lee 026

Apollo 8300

 

Primary Blue

Roscolux 80

Lee 079

Apollo 4250

 

Primary Green

Roscolux 91

Lee 139

Apollo 5300



Additionally, there are color filters made for video and photography designed to balance the colors of different light sources, or "correct" the color of an artificial light to make it appear as daylight by the camera. These filters are called color correction filters. "Diffusion" or "silks" are filters used to soften the hard-edge of the beam of light to varying degrees.

  • Still have questions about color? Contact us, our lighting experts are ready to help!