Lighting Gels: Colors In Lights


If you work on the set of movies and TV shows, then lighting gels are what you would need to brighten up those lighting fixtures. 

Lighting gels are functional when strapped onto any fluorescent light, white light, or black light source. The original filter color system creates color washes and develops strong diffusion of on-screen colors for enhanced vibrancy, shadows, and tint of modern colors. You can learn more about the world of LED lights through LEDASK, but for now, here are the basics of what you should know about lighting gels.

What Are Lighting Gels?

Lighting gels – also called “color gels” or “gel filters”- are see-through sheets of colored, thin plastic used for fluorescent light adjustment. Lighting gels use output light sources to create beautiful background colors and superb night scenes.

Gel filters are the precursor to primary follow spot color and warmer tones based on the material of choice. Colored materials are used with lighting gels to conjure swatch books and create light entertainment in spaces like arenas and ballroom sets.

Perforated material will survive up to 356-degree Fahrenheit, and high-temperature materials, like polycarbonate gel filters, can withstand 536-degrees Fahrenheit. The transparent color correction has become a filter for LED fixtures and is installed in modern color-changing LED bulbs!

Color lighting gels

Color lighting gels

Use of Lighting Gel Sheets

A light source uses a gel filter to fix lighting issues and create various color washes. It is possible because of the color gels’ ability to balance temperatures while placed on light fixtures or a fluorescent source. Major manufacturers predominantly create the gels for light in the filmmaking and T.V. industries as a “mood creator.”

The gel filter helps to adjust colored light through strong diffusion and rich blends of light transmission, forming an explosion in colors! You can even wrap the sheets over the light to mix them to formulate standard colors or unique color swatches.

Types of Lighting Gels

Neutral Density filter

Neutral Density filter

Here’s your list of the significant types of lighting gels:

  • Diffusion Gels: Clear or colored gels that reduce shadows by softening light through strong diffusion of an added color shade.
  • Artistic Gels: Gels for color schemes, range of colors, and artistic effect.
  • Color Temperature Adjustments
    • CTO (Color Temperature Orange) – Softens light intensity to give the illusion of daylight via an orange color correction gel filter. This color shade is best used for medium diffusion and establishing sunsets and sunrises via an orange color-correction gel filter sheet.
    • CTB (Color Temperature Blue) Uses a deep blue color card to reduce fluorescent light intensity and promote neutral light in daylight sources. Great for developing an atmospheric mood or impressive underwater scenes.
    • Minus GreenRemoves the spectrum of powerful green tint. This gel filter also softens the light of environments with hints of green to those green with depth.
    • Neutral Density (ND) – Controls light intensity by decreasing the brightness and creating a cool tint by balancing the color spectrum.

Polyester material has also been infused into gel filters to form a heat shield against lights of higher temperatures. Additionally, when you mix other color washes with it, polyester material creates passionate hues of deep lavender for mood effects when placed on lighting fixtures.

White Balance with Camera

Black, white, and gray balance cards

Black, white, and gray balance cards

Your digital camera can change its setting based on the type of light conditions thanks to the color balance effect,

When taking a picture, whiter skin engages in white diffusion and appears warmer to the camera, while darker skin tones appear more relaxed. Mid-range skin tones are present as balanced in the camera lens. Because of this, white balance is excellent at adjusting light for romantic scenes or midnight scenes!

Today’s digital cameras use diffusion filters to sense light waves and adjust the color settings and mood effects, while older cameras may not have diffusion characteristics. Yet, the process was still possible with appropriate light levels and placing a sheet of gray, white, black, or colored sheets or cards in front of the lens.

White Balance with Gels

Three-point color temperature lighting

Three-point color temperature lighting

“White balance with gels” is a fancy way of saying “control the heat temperature with gel.” Stage assistance uses CTO and CTB to make theatrical lighting during a primary event production.

White balance with gels also makes it easier to color correct. The white balance of any temperature while keeping the integrity of the color thanks to the white diffusion technique. Fortunately, this process works during shooting or in post-production.


What Ingredients Make Lighting Gels?

Polycarbonate, polyester, or other heat-resistance plastics create lighting gels. These properties help the gel to withstand heat at an average of 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

How Do You Attach Gels to Lights?

The recommended way to attach gels to lights is to use a gel frame or color frame. Magnets and tape also do well at holding gel sheets in the morning.

UV lamp for attaching plastic nails with gel method

UV lamp for attaching plastic nails with gel method

How Do You Make Light Gels?

Create light gels by mixing standard or custom colors with clear polyester or polycarbonate film paper. Once dried, they are ready for use on both home and studio lighting.


Lighting gels have been around since the late ’60s and have become more efficient in enhancing and relaxing color tones. Color gel sheets are a staple in film and television for light fixtures to promote realistic colors, thanks to the different lighting gels.

With the artistic technique now installed in modern technology, your pictures, images, and movies will always be a stunning array of colors and fun!

Have more questions about lighting gels? Contact us today!

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