We asked, and the readers have spoken. We wanted to see what colors designers use in their palettes. While some folks simply stated their faves — Bill Simmons of Clair Brothers likes GAMColor 890 Dark Sky Blue, while Trench Brady replied with Roscolux 51 Surprise Pink — others gave us their reasons why and how they use their colors of choice.
My top five favorite useful colors have recently changed a bit, since finding Apollo's gel selection. AP8310 Cherry Lewis is useful for fire effects and enhancing scenery during moments of rage (there are those in theatre!). AP7050 Fatherless Amber warms up my sets and enhances skin tones for the majority of actors involved. AP8450 Spanked Pink keeps the set clean while enhancing our costume selections. Lee 079 Just Blue for evening scenes and Lee 256 Half Hampshire Frost for lots of things round out the top five selections I use most.
— Leslie Williams, freelance theatrical LD
Well, working without Lee 17 Surprise Peach, Lee 204 Full CT Orange, and Lee 242 Lee Fluor. 5700K is no design — they belong to a color/correction sector that works very well as backlight, keylight, and backdrop light.
— Nuno Salsinha, lighting designer/manager
I like to use Rosco 79 Bright Blue, R26 Light Red, and Lee 179 Chrome Orange in my three-circuit ground rows. This is the closest I found to get a generic CMY for a blank cyc. Mix them, and come up with some great horizon looks. My favorite blue combination is Rosco 83 Medium Blue base with Lee 161 Slate Blue gobo shafts for a night look.
— Joe Basinger, lighting designer
Sight and Sound Theatres, Lancaster, PA
My favorite color? Roscolux 77 Green Blue — people seem to go to a straight blue for backlight, something so primary that it starts to look like something made by Fisher-Price. R77 has enough green in it to give it an edge that keeps an audience a little on their toes, either when combined in a scene or used on its own, such as during a scene shift or a night cue.
— Michael McNamara, assistant professor of lighting design
Division of Theatre, Department of Visual and Performing Arts
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
One of my favorite colors is Roscolux 339 Broadway Pink. It has proved extremely useful in single-spot backlighting applications, especially when paired with primary blue. This is a great look for the end of a ballad in a cabaret or variety show. For a very warm look in musicals, pair 339 with Roscolux 21 Golden Amber, from both front sides, and stare at the results in awe.
— Scott Eckers, president
SME Enterprises - Intelligent Lighting Concepts, Swan Lake, NY
All in the Rosco family: For sidelight and texture in realistic shows, I tend to use Roscolux 68 Parry Sky Blue, R321 Soft Golden Amber, R88 Light Green, and R55 Lilac, depending on the environmental parameters; R80 Primary Blue, R95 Medium Green, R24 Scarlet, and R317 Apricot show up often for non-realistic situations; R53 Pale Lavender and R305 Rose Gold are used frequently as front area light along with R09 Pale Amber Gold, R337 True Pink, and R362 Tipton Blue; and R83 Medium Blue, R27 Medium Red, and R90 Dark Yellow Green are my typical cyc light primaries, often used with 104 Tough Silk. R114 Hamburg Frost and R119 Roscolux Light Hamburg Frost are popular frosts in short throw applications.
— D. Andrew Gibbs, department chair and lighting director
Department of Drama University of Arkansas
Roscolux 318 Mayan Sun — great high sidelight for theatre and dance, magnificent sunsets, and early evening through the trees.
— Robert A. Thorpe, resident LD
Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ
My usual palette is four color backs plus white backs and blinders (Lee 201 Full CT Blue). The other backs are: L106 Primary Red, L119 Dark Blue, L126 Mauve, and L180 Dark Lavender. I also use L180 and L106 in my sides — atop the side-fills — as well as two front washes: Rosco 09 Pale Amber Gold and again with the L119, both with silk. All the specials and low backs are no-color. I enjoy having a palette that goes together, so that all can be used in unison. I do really like the amber/white combo and occasionally swap out the L180 and L126 for R21 Golden Amber and R90 Dark Yellow Green on certain shows, but the trade-off for blind harmonious bumping and fading of matching colors wins out. I can also make up for the missing colors with the eight movers in the rig.
— Dustin Snyder, resident LD
Mezzanine, San Francisco, CA
My new favorite color for the last two years has been Lee 134 Golden Amber. I first discovered it when I was lighting a tour for TV that needed a warm and a cool audience wash for I-Mag. We tried a few others that didn't work, but when we threw up the L134 wash on that cold arena, it instantly warmed up, and I was hooked. I really like it on stage as well as a front accent color to warm the tone (skin, not vocal) of the performer. If you're ever in need of a strong, versatile amber that's not too yellow and not too pink, Lee 134 is your choice.
— Joseph “JoeMac” McGinley, lighting designer/programmer
More Than Light, LLC, Milwaukie, OR
As a student at Wayne State University, I learned to use Lee HT 119 Dark Blue. It's so saturated and versatile; I can use it in three different ways in the same show and still have variety without making the show look flat. First, I use it as my dark blue cyc color because it mixes so well with my other colors — L027 HT Medium Red, L139 HT Primary Green, and L079HT Just Blue. I also use it as a downlight color because it works well as a constant with any other downlight color I chose specifically for the show, whether it is a warm amber like Roscolux 318 Mayan Sun for a natural look or a deep pink like R339 Broadway Pink for a more rock feel and anywhere in between. I also like to use it in a low angle light to help fill in shadows and to make actors' eyes pop and sparkle. Now, I have to admit that, depending on the application, I may want to go with a slightly more saturated color and use L120 HT Deep Blue. It's such a great color; I don't have a problem paying extra to make sure that it can withstand the high temperature to make sure the saturated color will last the entire run of a show.
— Neil Koivu Jr., lighting designer
Lee 071 Tokyo Blue and Lee 777 Rust — a classic and violent dichotomy between warm and cool.
— Oscar Dominguez, lighting designer
Los Angeles, CA
Lee 143 Pale Navy — although I do not light a lot of theatre these days, when I do, this color and clear/no color are often all I need.
— Bill Armstrong, lighting designer
William Armstrong Lighting Design
New York, NY
Michael Kimmel and I are big fans of Apollo AP5400 Rock and Roll Green. We use it mostly on a cyc. It gives a vibrant green wash as a solo color, and mixed with other colors, it blends well — not to mention it has a long life span, and it doesn't need to be changed out every other day.
— Lisa Weinshrott and Michael Kimmel
Sharp Edge Lighting Design LLC