July 1, 2010
By K. C. Hooper
You're designing the lighting for a show, and it's time to choose the colors for your palette. But as you look through your color filter swatchbook, you may feel overwhelmed by the many, many colors to choose from. How do you choose the best ones for your show?
Notice I didn't say the RIGHT color. Lighting design is an art form, and we as artists must be free to choose whatever color we feel will work for the effect or look we're trying to create. We need to be able to explore color and absorb all the ways that different colors can impact a scene, dance piece, or song.
The psychology of color is a wide-ranging subject that many folks have written about (here's one informative example). There are some obvious emotions connected to certain colors. For example:
Red = anger, danger, evilGreen = jealousy, illness, good luckBlue = tranquility, coolness, cold
Learning about the impact of color is something that lighting designers are constantly working on. You may see a painting, scene, or museum exhibit and note the emotional effect it has on you. Analyze what's causing these emotions. Is it the colors, light angle, dimness or brightness? File that thought and use it down the road.
Many years ago, I saw a movie called Cat People. The movie itself was terrible and forgettable but the opening credits were done with green lettering on an orange sand background. As a designer I remembered how vivid the lettering was and thought that it might be something I could use down the road in a lighting design.
Several years later, I was designing lights for a dance piece loosely based on the book Dune. I remembered that green/orange lettering concept from Cat People and created a design based on that metamer (the mixing of two colors).