Stage Lighting Colors

Written by john jackman
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Stage Lighting Colors
Stage lighting helps create atmosphere. (Three dancers image by Warren Millar from

Stage lighting is used to create atmosphere. Whether used during a concert or theatre performance, coloured lighting keeps the stage from looking stark and lifeless. Colour gives a space energy and helps set the mood for a performance. When effectively used, coloured lighting can enhance a song, alter our perception of a character and set the tone for a scene.

Cool colours

White light on its own, or white light shining through a blue gel, produces what are known as cool colours. Gels are thin sheets of coloured polycarbonate (sometimes polyester) placed in front of the light to manipulate the wavelength, altering colour. At a concert, cool colours would not be noticeable to an audience. They tend to be used in conjunction with warmer colours to give a more rounded feel to the performers on stage. Actors and musicians look a bit flat--they appear to lack depth--when only cool colours are used. Cool colours often are used to depict moonlight, or a scene taking place at night.

Warm colours

Yellow, orange and red lighting are known as warm colours. These are the main colours used at concerts and in theatres as they create an inviting ambience, literally showing people in a good light. In the theatre, warm colours commonly are mixed with a small amount of blue light to indicate daytime. Sunrise and sunset are created by increasing the ratio of warm lighting to cool lighting.

Cool and Warm lighting

Cool lighting and warm lighting commonly are used together. A little blue or white light is useful for creating shadow and definition when predominantly warm lighting is being used. Even when showing a nighttime scene in the theatre, most lighting directors use small amounts of orange or yellow to give a softer edge to the characters on stage.

Green and colour combinations

Green is a colour rarely used on its own, unless for a specific effect. It makes actors and musicians either look ill, or as if they have landed from another planet. Green is commonly used in conjunction with red and blue gels to create a range of other colours, such as yellow, cyan, magenta and pink. The latter two colours give a romantic feel to the stage, so are used in theatre love scenes.

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