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WPI Technical Theatre Handbook: Color
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Choosing colors for costume elements requires a careful balancing of artistic qualities, physical properties, and psychological association. In keeping with the theme of this book, the artistic aspect will not be stressed. Additionally, the psychological aspect is a design issue, and as such, it is covered in a later section.

Since it is rare for the stage to be lit with perfectly white light, the interaction of lighting color and costume color must be considered. To understand how colors of light and colors of costume elements will interact, basic theories of both must be understood. A pigment can either reflect or absorb colors of light. A color will appear more brilliant when lit by a light of its own color. For example, if a red costume is lit with red light, the costume will appear as a very brilliant red. Similarly, if a color is lit with its complementary colors of light, it will appear very dark, as the light is mostly absorbed.

Often it is difficult or impossible to find fabric in the desired color. When this is the case, dyes can be used to color material to almost any shade. Several brands of commercial dyes are available, such as the infamous RIT dye. Most come in powder form, requiring mixing with water before use. If several colors of the same dye type are available, they can be mixed to form new colors. Dyes mix by what is known as the subtractive mixing process. If the three primary dye colors (red, blue and yellow) are mixed in equal quantities, black is the result. Secondary colors (green, magenta and orange) by mixing the primaries. Still more colors can be formed by mixing the secondaries with themselves, or with the primaries. There are an infinite number of colors that can be created with this scheme. Figure 2.2 depicts the mixing of primary colors to obtain secondary colors.

Figure 2.2: Subtractive mixing of the primary and secondary pigment and dye colors.

next up previous contents index
Next: Patterns Up: Costumes Previous: Fabrics   Contents   Index
Steve Richardson 2000-07-06

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