Other Design Elements
Theatrical Design Logo
Other Design Elements

Other Design Elements

General Thoughts

All of the other design elements are directly influenced by light. The lighting designer should take into account these other areas (scenery, costumes, makeup, hair, sound, movement) while designing the lighting for a production.
Overall setting. Does the scenery reflect a specific time (day, season, year) or source of light?

Are there practicals (lighting fixtures, television sets, fireplaces)? Perhaps you, as lighting designer, feel the need to ask the set designer to add practicals.
Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf produciton photo
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” production photo. Lighting by Michael Grogan
In case you think that the year does not affect lighting design, I would have to ask how cavemen would have incandescent lights, and how Restoration England would have fluorescent sources.

What is the complete groundplan for the set, including what lies beyond the audience's vision?

Doors may lead to the outside, bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, etc. Doors offer different possibilities for light sources that may spill into the room when the door is opened (or seep through the crack near the floor when it's closed).
Glowing DoorCloset doors rarely have light sources seeping from inside them - unless, of course, a light is left on inside them.

Color and Intensity

Color palettes used by other designers must certainly be taken into account. Is there a great deal of contrast in colors used to make patterns (wallpapers, curtains, linens) or are the patterns subtle? This will affect lighting color choices as well as intensity settings (which are also affected by color choices).
Costume Rendering Night of the Iguana set color pallette Cat Makeup Flat Painted

Some sets have cool and warm colors mixed throughout the paint washes - this coloring gives the lighting designer more control over the “feeling” of the setting. In this case, color washes on the setting that contrast with the performers can make the characters seem warmer or colder than their surroundings.

Perhaps you may desire to have the characters appear as if they do not fit into their surroundings. This effect can be pronounced by the use of contrasting color washes between them and the set.

4 photos - Set lit warm, actor cool then reversed.
Production photos from “Nickel and Dimed”, set & lighting designed by Kade Mendelowitz.
The set had 8+ different locations; lighting helped highlight the changes.
Nickel and Dimed production photo Nickel and Dimed production photo Nickel and Dimed production photo Nickel and Dimed production photo

In costumes, some fabrics like satins and piles (fabric with raised surface nap or texture – examples include corduroy or velvet) are greatly affected by lighting colors coming from different angles.
Fabric Sample Fabric Sample Fabric Sample Fabric Sample Fabric Sample

Often times, character relationships are shown through costumes. So if the lighting changes the color of the costumes from scene to scene, those relationships may be difficult to be read.

“Romeo and Juliet's” Montagues and Capulets are a classic example where costume colors show relationships. One family is usually dressed in reds, the other in blues, and the leads in lavenders.
The Nutcracker parents
In "The Nutcracker" ballet, you can tell which child belongs to which family by the color of his/her clothing.
* Not all of the 'parents' are in the top photograph.
"The Nutcracker" production photos by Paul McCarthy
The Nutcracker children

If costume and scenery colors are too similar, the characters may end up blending into their surroundings. Backlighting with a different color or a light set wash can help alleviate this problem. A different lighting gel is much less expensive and quicker than re-dying costumes!
Costume scenery and character
Above: Jenna looks more washed out, and her blouse and skin are too similar in tone to the background.
Costume scenery and character
Above: moving the plant to throw a shadow, lighting the background with blue and adding a backlight to Jenna’s hair really make an improvement.


A set with a great amount of fine detail will go virtually unnoticed if the lighting is too dim. On the flip side, if there is not much detail, perhaps the scenic designer expects a certain location to appear dark and shadowy to make that area look more suspicious or suspenseful.
Laughter on the 23rd Floor production photo
The details of some of the set dressing is important – and would be missed in the comedy “Laughter on the 23rd Floor”.
Set and lighting by Kade Mendelowitz.
The Laramie Project production photo
Pools of light for “The Laramie Project” work well in this large piece, flat black set tragedy.
Lighting by Adam Gillette.