DIY Lighting Gels

by Jonathan McLelland ; Updated September 28, 2017

Lighting gels turn white light into multicolored light.

Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images

Lighting "gels" are tinted acetate sheets that photographers and filmmakers beam white light through to produce colored lighting effects. Professional lighting gels are available for purchase at any photography equipment retail store, but, if you are working on a budget, you can make your own professional-quality lighting gels with easy-to-find supplies.

Determine the color value for the lighting gels. The Cloford.com website offers a detailed list of colors and their hexadecimal (Hex) numbers, which are used by computers to help determine the main color shade, as well as their Red, Green and Blue (RGB) values, which are used to determine the amount of each color used to create a final color. Both the Hex notation and the RGB values are used by computers to determine the exact shade you request.

Download samples of the colors as a .jpg file onto a USB storage device. A USB storage device, also known as a Universal Serial Bus, connects directly to a computer through the USB port and downloads information directly onto its memory chip. In essence, a USB is a condensed portable hard drive. To find color samples, type the RGB value of the color into an image search engine, such as Google Image. Right-click the image and select, “Save As” and then select your USB storage device. The color sample is then saved to the device.

Purchase 8 x 10-inch acetate sheets from an office supply store. These sheets are transparent, and are commonly used for projectors. The number of sheets needed is determined by the number of lighting gels you require for the photo shoot.

Visit your local printing shop, such as Kinkos. Tell the clerk you need to make copies of the colors located on the USB storage device onto the acetate paper. The cost of a color copy may vary; however, most printing services do not charge more than $1 per print.

Allow the acetate sheets to completely dry, which may take up to five minutes. Attach the sheets to a light, and you have perfectly colored lighting gels.

Tips

  • You can purchase colored acetate sheets if you do not wish to have the colors printed onto them.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images

About the Author

Jonathan McLelland has been a professional writer since 2005. He has worked as a story writer and editor for the international sitcom, “Completing Kaden,” as well as a proposal writer for various production companies. McLelland studied communication and theater at St. Louis Community College.