Using Color in Landscape Lighting
Our expert urges those who dream of pepping up landscape lighting with color to get their heads out of the Technicolor clouds.
The lighting on this facade doesn’t exactly say,“Come on in.” It’s more like a scene from “The Omen.”
Randall, a few weeks ago I saw an episode of “Outer Spaces” with Susie Coelho in which she used color gels to change the color of outdoor lighting. Can you tell me where to purchase them? I am trying to decorate my landscaping for different holidays, and I thought that this was a very good idea.
Okay, I’ll tell you where to get what you want—and then try to talk you out of it. Color gels come from theatrical supply houses. The gel material comes in sheets and you cut them to fit your fixtures. Go to and click on GELS; Rosco and Lee are the two big companies who make them. You can call toll free, (888) 56-STAGE, to get a sample ring of all the hues they have to figure out the colors you need. Now that I’ve told you how to get what you asked for, I am asking you not to do it. Strong colors of light create a very unreal look. They draw too much attention to the light sources, rather than what they are lighting. The effect is much like that of a miniature golf course. Call me old-fashioned, but at Christmastime, I like the snow white and the trees green. When the trees are red and the house is green, you have a surreal look. On the other hand, I do love trees strung and houses decorated with colored lights. I even love them flashing and blinking. But please let the landscape lighting stay more natural in color. So, on the 4th of July, how about putting a nice crisp white light on the American flag, instead of alternating the path lights with red, white and blue color gels? I think my only exception would be Halloween. This is one holiday when you can let out all the stops. Turn the house orange and the trees purple. Go crazy with color—hang ghosts in the trees lit with blue lights activated by motion sensors. Scare the neighborhood children out of their wits! Now look what you have done. You’ve gotten me all excited about a Halloween lighting extravaganza. If you call the toll free number and it’s busy, it will be me on the line ordering gels.
Randall Whitehead, IALD

Randall Whitehead, IALD, is a professional lighting designer and author. His books include "Residential Lighting, A Practical Guide." Whitehead has worked on projects worldwide, appeared on the Discovery Channel, HGTV and CNN, and he is regular guest on Martha Stewart Living Radio. Visit his website for more information on books, upcoming seminars and the latest lighting trends.

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