Go-To Gel Colors for Front Lighting


Have you ever stood frozen in front of the paint swatches at the hardware store? No matter how long you spend making up your mind, without fail the color never quite looks as expected once you’ve painted the whole room. Opening a gel swatch book can be equally intimidating, and equally frustrating to get the color you’ve envisioned.

While white, no-color front-light is perfectly acceptable for many applications, some subtle color toning can do wonders to add some theatrical modeling or correction for video recording. Unfortunately, there is often quite a disconnect between what the swatch looks like in the book and the color of light that it creates due to the warm color of tungsten fixtures.

Though there is no substitute for trial and error to develop a feel for this relationship, below are a few tried-and-true gel combinations to get started with.

Some subtle color toning can do wonders to add some theatrical modeling or correction for video recording. @robmerow Click To Tweet

Two-point lighting is a theatrical technique for adding depth. Lighting one color from the left and another from the right (typically 90 degrees apart) in each area helps sculpt the face. The downside to this technique is it typically requires twice as many fixtures to achieve.


R02 Bastard Amber & R60 No Color Blue
The peanut-butter & jelly combination – won’t win any awards for creativity; but always enjoyable.


R333 Blush Pink & R55 Lilac
A cheerful combination – nice for musicals.


R08 Pale Gold & R53 Light Lavender
Another no-nonsense theatrical combination with a more serious edge.

Single point, or, “straight-on” lighting is very common in churches when limited fixtures only allow one fixture to cover each area of the stage.


R302 Pale Bastard Amber
For just a touch of warmth.


R54 Special Lavender
A neutral tint flattering on skin tones.


R63 Pale Blue
A subtle cool wash.

When lighting for video, usually a CTB, or, Color Temperature Blue correction helps the camera more accurately represent colors once white-balanced.


L203 or R3208 1⁄4 CTB
The go-to for front lighting when video is a priority.

Buying gel can be just as expensive as buying gallons of paint. And just like when painting a room, buy a single sheet or sample pack of colors to try out before buying enough for your whole rig. It’s worth mentioning too that this list is based on good old-fashioned tungsten sources. If you’re using LED front lighting (even “white” LEDs), traditional gel will behave different and often unpredictably. At least you don’t have to wash out the brushes to try something new.

About the Author_02

Author Photo - Rob Merow

Lighting Designer
OneLux Studio | New York, NY

Rob discovered his love of theater and passion for creating dynamic environments early on as a volunteer at his home church in Pennsylvania. His degree in architecture and years of experience as a volunteer prepared him for his calling to full time ministry where he led teams in the areas of lighting & scenic design, audio production, graphic design, branding, and interior design. He and his wife Emily have recently moved to New York City, where he has come full circle into architectural lighting. Rob enjoys blurring the line between theatrical, experiential, and architectural design; keeping one foot in ministry as often as possible.