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
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.
Subtractive mixing of the primary and secondary pigment and dye colors.