Light and Color
Part II of II

By Alaine Haddon-Casey
B.App.Sci(SW) Curtin University
Diploma Makeup Design and Technology

A grasp of basic color theory and its application to the art of applying makeup is invaluable to the performer. There is little point in applying a perfect face in natural light to find that you are performing under artificial lights of varying color, hues and intensity that may significantly alter the appearance and colors on the face.

When these concepts are applied to everyday life:

   -Daylight is the most scrutinizing light. Makeup needs to be perfectly applied and blended. The main colors intensified     by daylight are red, yellow, blue and green.

   -Electric light bulbs emit warmer rays of light, intensifying reds and yellows, whilst subduing blues and greens.

   -Fluorescent neon strips emit light rays similar to daylight - although green and blue is intensified and red and yellow     become more subdued.

   -Candlelight emits a warm hue, flatters the skin and reduces imperfections.

ON STAGE under:

Amber and straw lights-

   -pink toned rouge turns to orange or fades away completely
   -brown blusher takes on a darker tone
   -blue turns to green -blue-gray turns to slate gray
   -natural foundation appears pasty

Red lights-

   -light rouge and lipstick fades
   -blue and gray turn to violet
   -light brown disappears completely
   -deep green turns to a yellow tone
   -brown becomes very dark
   -natural foundation becomes orange

Blue lights-

   -pale rouge turns to dark violet
   -dark rouge turns to black violet and at times, depending on its tone, can even turn to a dirty smudge on the cheeks
   -dark brown/red lipstick turns to black
   -natural foundation turns purple

Green lights-

   -red turns to black
   -brown becomes black
   -light and dark foundations become greenish

Color bleed

The basic understanding of color and light extends to the concept of color bleed; that is, the effect similar colors may have on each other. Foe example, from a lighting perspective, a red light on red lipstick will reduce the intensity of the lipstick; the color seems to 'bleed' or fade.


The intensity or brightness of the lighting has the greatest impact in terms of our overall appearance. The main thing to look for is the position and color of the light; to put it a succinctly as possible, if you want to look really, really old and haggard, dance under a bright white or halogen light that is placed to shine down on you. This is guaranteed to create shadows and lines where there aren't any and 'bleach' out all but the strongest colored makeup. In one recent performance the use of such lighting managed to turn a fresh faced, unlined twenty year old dancer into a much older and tired looking woman. The effect 'bleached out' her foundation and blusher, transformed her plum lipstick into a harsh looking slash across her face and created shadows under her eyes, nose and chin that were particularly aging. This type of lighting is unmerciful.

   (Tip: If this type of spotlight is being used in the venue, dance behind it - not under it, or ask politely if a pink or straw     gel is available for your performance!)

Oh, and if you think it may be better if it is shone from beneath you, for example, from the footlights, just cast your mind back to the effect of holding a torch under your chin during Halloween!

Clearly it is in the performers best interests to find out what type of lighting is being used in the venue. And as you can see from the effects described, there are certain colors and levels and placement of lights that we would prefer not to dance under if we have a choice.

Where there isn't a choice, advance notice of lighting used will enable us to modify the colors and choreography we use to counteract any undesirable effects; we are rewarded with greater control over our appearance and the environment within which we perform.