Lighting Design 101: Principles and Techniques for Event Planners

Lighting design is the deliberate use of light to achieve a practical or aesthetic effect. This involves choosing the right types of lights, deciding where they should be placed, and determining their intensity and colour. It’s more than just making sure guests can see; it’s about creating an environment that complements the event’s theme, highlights key moments, and influences how guests feel.

Event lighting design sets the overall tone, affects mood, and can transform a plain space into something extraordinary, emphasising decorations, architecture, or even direct attention to specific areas or actions, like a speaker on stage at a corporate event or a couple’s first dance at a wedding

Event planners and lighting designers work closely to make sure that lighting contributes effectively to achieving the event’s goals, so understanding the principles and techniques will create an engaging and appealing event experience.

Lighting Design Principles 

The lighting design principles are a foundation for creating an effective lighting plan. These principles guide event planners and lighting designers in making decisions that embellish the visual appeal of the event space.

Colour

Colour theory is an important aspect of event planning as this can set the mood. Different colours evoke different emotions—cool blues and greens for calmness, warm reds and oranges for energy and excitement. This helps select lighting colours that align with the event’s theme and desired atmosphere.

Intensity

The brightness of the light affects how colours are perceived and how much attention is drawn to illuminated areas. Adjusting intensity can highlight central elements or create focus points to keep the audience’s attention, like illuminating a podium during speeches or dimming lights for a dance floor.

Direction

The direction from where light is cast can dramatically alter the appearance of objects, spaces, or performers. Lighting from above, below, or the side can create shadows and highlights, adding depth and dimension to the space.

Texture

Using gobos (stencils placed in front of lights) or patterned filters can project patterns or textures onto surfaces, adding visual interest and depth to flat areas. This technique can transform a simple wall into a backdrop full of leaves, stars, or geometric shapes.

Lighting Design Techniques

Event planners can use different event lighting techniques to achieve specific effects and enhance the ambience of any room or location. 

Uplighting

This involves placing lights on the ground, facing upward to illuminate a venue’s walls, columns, or specific features. Uplighting can add colour and drama to a space, creating an immersive environment. It’s especially effective for transforming bland spaces into visually stunning settings.

Spotlighting

Using focused beams of light to highlight important elements or areas, such as speakers on a stage, auction items, or artwork. Spotlighting draws guests’ attention to where it’s most needed, ensuring aspects of the event are noticed.

Gobo Lighting

Gobos are templates that light passes through to project patterns or images onto surfaces. This technique can create intricate designs on floors, ceilings, or walls, adding a personalised touch to the event’s theme or branding.

Wash Lighting

Wash lights evenly illuminate large areas with a soft glow. This can set the base ambience of a room or outdoor space, providing a uniform background before adding more targeted lighting effects. It’s ideal for ensuring spaces are well-lit without harsh shadows.

Lighting Design: Step-by-Step Guide

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help event planners navigate the lighting design process from start to finish:

  1. Conceptualisation: Understand the event’s theme, audience, and objectives. What mood do you want to create? Which features of the venue should be highlighted? This stage is about defining how lighting will enhance the event.

  2. Planning: With your vision in mind, start detailing your lighting plan. Decide the types of lights needed (e.g., uplights, spotlights, LED washes) and their placement. Consider factors like power sources and whether additional rigging points are required. This is also the time to decide on colours, patterns, and intensity levels.

  3. Collaboration: Work closely with the venue staff, lighting designers, and other vendors. Good communication will assure everyone understands the lighting plan and how it fits into the overall event design.

  4. Setup: During the setup phase, install all lighting equipment according to the plan. Pay close attention to safety and ensure all fixtures are securely mounted, and cables are safely out of the way to prevent tripping hazards.

  5. Testing and Adjustment: Once everything is installed, test the lighting to see how it looks in the actual event space. This might look different from the planning stage, so be prepared to make adjustments. Change the positioning, intensity, or colour of lights as needed to achieve the desired effect.

  6. Execution: On the event day, ensure a team is available to manage the lighting, making adjustments as the event progresses. For example, dimming lights for a presentation or changing colours to signal different stages of the event.

  7. Post-Event Review: After the event, review the lighting design’s effectiveness. What worked well? What could be improved? This feedback is valuable for planning future events.

Case Studies 

At STLS, we take pride in our expertise in lighting design and equipment hire, transforming every event into a memorable spectacle. Our case studies showcase our journey with various projects, highlighting how we navigate unique challenges and leverage innovative solutions to meet our clients’ needs.

The Irish Post Awards

We aimed to reflect this year’s invitation colours in our event design, incorporating them into the lighting scheme to seamlessly transition the venue from a versatile daytime space to an enchanting, glamorous gala by night. Special attention was given to emphasising the venue’s breathtaking architecture through carefully chosen lighting.

Moving lighting effects signalled winner announcements, while patterns cast focused light on dining tables. Throughout the dinner, singing waiters provided entertainment spotlighted during their performances to enhance the experience.

King Charles Coronation Carnival

We used a mix of Martin lighting fixtures, Oxy Pixylines, and Sunstrips, all operated by Avolites, to achieve an efficient setup within the limited time. The fixtures were thoughtfully placed to boost the overall mood and spotlight essential parts of the carnival. With thorough planning and teamwork, STLS crafted a mesmerising visual environment that fulfilled the event’s needs.

Lighting Design for Events with STLS 

With our AV equipment hire, you can turn your next event into a visually stunning experience. Our expert team is ready to help you choose the perfect lighting solutions to match your theme and impress your guests, along with professional installation. Don’t just host an event; create a memorable atmosphere that lights up the night. Contact us today, and let’s make your event shine!