A Practical Guide to Stage Lighting

To create a good stage lighting for a particular production, you need to have a sound knowledge and it also requires you to have technical expertise and a good production team that specializes in electrics and stage design. Stage lighting always requires you to pay more attention especially to the smallest detail along with the overall presentation look of the production. Coordination and teamwork are the most important things in stage production where the lighting designers have to work closely with other designers and the production director for ensuring all aspects of the production runs smoothly from costuming, stage scenery and lighting colors must all gel together without any problems.

What you need to do:

  1. Lighting used must be viewable by audience
  2. Determine the lighting design method used
  3. Understand the design process by understanding the script play
  4. Do a draft on the lighting design
  5. Hanging or creating the Light Plot
  6. Create writing cues for the lights to work according to the play

Stage Lighting


  1. The most important thing about stage lighting is the goals of ensuring that all the audience would be able to see all the action presented on stage during the production play. Once you have covered this section, you can continue with other secondary goals, which include the scenic elements of the play, for example, the trees or windows surrounding, creating the mood of the play and also establishing the time of the day.
  2. The common design method used for most theatrical designers is the McCandless lighting theory, which breaks the stage using its lighting theory into several acting areas. Each of the lighting areas may require at least two lights aimed at the selected area from the front at 60-degree angles while the other light should be aiming straight at the area from behind. Apart from that, its side and top lighting can be added into the design for more color or depth during the play.
  3. In order to do lighting design, a designer has to do several readings of the stage play script, understand its message and also communicate with other different departments through meetings to enable you to determine where the exact location of the lights should be placed and also to decide on the details on each of the lights to use. Once done, the designer should prepare his or her first draft on all the information onto drawing of the stage and after you have finalized the concept the final drawing will be agreed upon, which is known as the ‘Light Plot’.
  4. When the ‘Light Plot’ is ready, it will be used by the theatre electricians in order to determine the right place to hang, plug in and aim each of the light fixtures going to be used for the play. The electricians that have been assigned to the task should have the knowledge and understanding of the basic of electricity, lighting control as well as knowing how many lights should be used to plug into each of the circuit available.
  5. After you have set up all the lightings, tested and confirming that it is working accordingly, the light designer needs to set a level for each light that will be used for every scene and this is also known as writing cues. At this junction, it normally requires you to program a computerized light board in order for you to remember each of the lights look and allow you to play it back in sequential mode.

Image Credit:

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Additional Reading:

A Practical Guide to Stage Lighting

Stage Lighting Design