Colour is a powerful tool in lighting design and is something that can alter atmospheres and even convey meaning. From the cues we take from traffic lights and neon street signs, to the feelings inspired by concert light shows, colour has the power to make us think and feel a certain way.
However, tapping into this is easier said than done and striking the balance between garish and lacklustre is a real art form. Luckily, there’s plenty of technology out there that gives designers better flexibility with how they use colour in their designs.
With a broad colour spectrum of LEDs and remote controlled technology available, it’s exciting to see the different ways colour is incorporated into contemporary schemes. Read on to discover some of the ways we’ve seen colour weaved into stand-out lighting designs…
White to subtly set the tone
In architectural lighting schemes, colour is used to set the tone or ambiance of a room, building or space. Even in schemes that don’t look outwardly colourful, subtle shades of white light are used to different effect.
White-blue tones are colder, brighter and considered the closest to daylight. Tones at this end of the spectrum are thought to improve concentration levels and are commonly used within commercial or public buildings like offices, hospitals or airports.
Yellow white tones are at the opposite end of the spectrum and are more comparable to candle light or a fireside glow. These tones are warmer, relaxing and better suited to domestic interiors or recreational settings like restaurants, bars and hotels.
Using colour to accentuate structures and surface patterns
In addition to this array of ‘white’ tones, lighting designers have the option to play around with a huge selection of bright primary and secondary colours. From cobalt blue to aquamarine, citrus orange and emerald green, modern LEDs are available in a whole rainbow of colours.
Although statement colours are trickier to get right, used effectively, they can transform a design completely. Bright, colourful tones look fantastic outlining buildings and accentuating design features. They can also enhance how a space looks at night time.
This office building in Perth, Australia, was built in 1963 and has won architectural awards as recently as 2015. It was updated in 2010 and fitted with 22,000 computer controlled LED lights, enabling it to change colour like a chameleon.
The colours highlight the buildings cubist surface pattern and elevate it from period office building to landmark light installation. Council House is a perfect example of how a colourful lighting scheme can take a building from ordinary to extraordinary with the simple flick of a switch.
— PerthNow (@perthnow) November 6, 2015
Creating statement features using coloured light
Many architectural lighting schemes opt for a subtle approach, using hidden light sources to foreground the structure of a building. However, every now and again, a lighting designer will get the opportunity to create something spectacular using light.
Coloured lighting is fantastic for this type of project as it naturally adds drama. For instance, teaming a water feature with cobalt blue or emerald green LEDs, or adding purple illumination to a bar surround, would instantly make these features more memorable.
— South Bank BID (@SouthBankBID) November 2, 2017
Many cities now host ‘light nights’ where landmarks are brought to life using light for the purpose of local tourism. These installations are packed with pattern, texture and colour, celebrating lighting in all its technicolour glory!
Adding movement to a lighting scheme
Movement naturally draws our eye towards it, which is why it’s used so often in public spaces to capture attention. A scheme with fluctuating colour patterns is not only an attractive design feature, but it also creates a noticeable display for passers-by.
The Leeds First Direct Arena is a great example of this. Whenever the arena is being used, the whole surface of the building shimmers and glows with a rainbow of colour. The spectacle can be seen for miles around and is an ingenious way to advertise ongoing performances.
We recently created something similar, albeit on a much smaller scale, for our client StudioFractal. Recreating the colours of the Northern Lights, we built a series of bespoke RGBW luminaires, all DMX controlled to create the shimmering movement.
— Kemps Lighting (@kempslightingUK) February 21, 2018
We hope we’ve given you a brief glimpse into some of the exciting ways we’ve seen colour used both by our clients and elsewhere in the industry. These are by no means exhaustive examples and we’re always on the lookout for new ways to weave colour into the products we design. Why not keep an eye on what we’ve been up to by following our Twitter and Facebook accounts?