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Stage Lighting: How to Choose a Color Scheme

We live in a colorful world. From brighter display screens on our smartphones to the eye-grabbing HDR experience on new OLED televisions, we enjoy more color saturation and intensity than ever before. Just take a look at a news broadcast these days and pay attention to how much visual input is competing for your attention. From weather maps in bright reds to announce dangerous weather and wildfires to news anchor backdrops in shades of blue to give viewers a feeling of authenticity and trust, there’s nothing left to chance in the professional use of color schemes.

Of course, the same applies to colors of stage lighting. The only difference is that in live performances — from theatrical venues to houses of worship — lighting designers must be careful to choose stage lighting color schemes that don’t lead to confusion or cause color fatigue in their audiences’ eyes. When illuminating live performances, subtlety still goes a long way. That’s why it’s important to always remember that the use of color in stage lighting should complement the actors’ skin tone, costumes, set paint treatments, and anything else you want the audience to focus on, as well as help accentuate the action being performed.

How to Choose a Stage Lighting Color Scheme

To help both solidify and unify your audience’s response to a performance, it’s always a good idea to first carefully consider what some of the most universal and accepted responses are to basic color choices. While the following aren’t fixed definitions, they’re widely considered some of the more popular emotional responses to these particular colors:

  • White: Innocence, pureness, neutrality
  • Red: Intensity, passion, love, anger
  • Green: Naturalness, wealth, fertility
  • Blue: Dignity, sadness, coolness
  • Orange: Warmth, excitement, creativity
  • Black: Power, deadliness, hostility
  • Brown: Fullness, unfriendliness, confidence
  • Yellow: Cheerfulness, energy, stimulation
  • Purple: Melancholy, royalty, pride

In addition to individual colors and their associated meanings, it’s highly useful to understand how they occur on the color wheel and how to use them in select pairings or more complex color schemes. However, as already stated in our color fatigue warning, unless you’re trying to create a circus-like atmosphere, the use of too many colors can result in overstimulation.

Here are some handy tips on pairing colors to effectively set the scene and mood for your audience:

  • Monochromatic: The use of a monochromatic coloring takes all shades of one main color and offers it up as a way of introducing the meaning of that color with intense focus, but also with a bit of depth and the slightest variety.
  • Complementary: Using two colors that are opposed to each on the color wheel can result in a powerful mix of emotions. Think of the resulting feelings of love and wealth, often associated with celebrations and winter holidays, marked by the colors red and green. Think of blue and purple. They are often used in combination to suggest many different emotions and to add saturation especially when layering a scene from upstage to downstage.
  • Analogous: An analogous use of colors takes one color along with the two colors that border it on the color wheel. This often results in a fuller, more highlighted feeling of a color’s associated meaning, as well as a serene feeling, since the color scheme is typically pleasing to the eye.

Let Illuminated Integration Help With Your Color Scheme

As a full-service audio, visual and lighting (AVL) company, Illuminated Integration has the experience and expertise to help you select the right color scheme for your performance space. We’re proud to put our years of design-build AVL experience to work for you.

Let us help you see the full potential of a permanently installed lighting system that matches your expectations and budget. Fill out our contact form today!