The way we use colors and color combinations in our church services is incredibly important. Our emotions and unconscious mind take visual cues from the environments we are in.
With many design elements, though, recognize that there are exceptions to the rule.
In this article, we will explore how to best use color in ways to support your church’s message.
Lighting can convey emotion, mood, setting, energy, and many other important feelings.
Color is one of the most impactful attributes of lighting. Warm colors (red, amber, yellow), for example, can convey warmth, energy and intimacy. Colors that have a cool tint (blue, green, purple), by contrast, can convey darkness, growth, majesty.
The more saturated a color, the more intense and depth-filled the emotions are conveyed. Pastels on the other hand, can convey gentleness and calmness.
Our use of color in worship can cultivate a climate where people connect deeper with God.
With that, some colors can communicate a feeling or idea even more directly.
Here are some examples:
Red: Anger, passion, blood, love, intensity
Amber: Warmth, safety, intimacy
Yellow: Excitement, action, energy
Green: Growth, money, life,
Blue: Peace, serenity, cold, calm, soft, energy
Magenta: Royal, playful, fun, love
White: Purity, clean, energy
As you can see, a single color can communicate a lot in your design.
As you work with different shades, hues, and intensity of colors the emotions you can help to support and convey grow even further. For example, a light blue (Cyan) is great for a high energy song where you are trying to communicate energy and worship to Our King.
A darker Blue (Congo) is a perfect fit to create a dark, emotion-filled scene. Both blues communicate emotions, but those emotions are very much different, based on the amount of blue in each lighting look.
That being said, color combinations can have an even larger effect on the environment.
A stage that is lit all red, can look very oppressive. If you add some magenta to the red, though, you will change it to a playful and energetic look. Or add purple to the red, and get a more intense feel.
Adding similar shades normally works well. White and amber, red and orange, blue and teal, and magenta and purple are all great color combinations from similar hues.
At the same time, though, some color combinations don’t work well together. A great example of an awful color combination is red and green. Although this color combination is culturally acceptable during the Christmas season, it still makes me cringe on the inside.
Many times, a pair of colors will work remarkably well together during most of a worship song, but lack enough energy during a build or chorus. Using a small amount of white as an accent can also help you insert interest and energy in these instances.
When designing lighting, trying to limit your colors within looks can give you a great starting point. I use two colors plus white, as my theoretical color limit per look.
Many people fall into the trap of using lots of colors at the same time, when lighting an element during a service. Occasionally, multiple colors can be impactful when used well and deliberately. More often, however, these collections of colors turn into visual noise.
Our goal in the church should be to communicate a clear visual that communicates our message, this noise can be a huge hindrance.
Using lots of colors seldom communicates any of the feelings you are trying to convey. A mix of red, magenta, amber, and yellow could be used to try and communicate intensity, playfulness, energy, and warmth during a loud call to worship song.
Often in such instances, though, it just appears as white light near the stage as so many of the colors mix. Instead, experiment with the two feelings you want most to convey. A mix of red and yellow lights can convey energy and intensity clearly.
As with many types of art, starting with simplicity helps to create the best end product.
With many design elements, though, recognize that there are exceptions to the rule. A few moments do occur when I forgo my two-color rule. To simulate a sunset look during a song, I have used a gradient of color, fading from amber on one side to a deep purple on the other. By using a gradient, there were many shades of very similar colors on the stage.
The vital consideration here, is to keep the look from overwhelming the stage with too many colors in each area. As a color fades across a stage, it feels more cohesive, which is something that is always a good thing.
Another way to add visual interest and convey your desired message is through using color positioning. Although a look with red and blue backlights may look good on stage, try to use one color as only sidelight.
A blue backlight with a red side light creates deep and drastic shadows that will convey a sense of deep intensity that will work great in songs that are somber or heavy.
The same concept works with multiple layers of lights. Using lights near the top of your lighting rig in a darker color and lights in a lower position as a lighter hue of color helps to make the room feel shorter and deeper.
As each of these examples exemplify, color is complex and the combinations are endless. Some colors and color combinations will look stellar, while some will look atrocious.
There are too many color combinations to adequately go over all the variables in one article.
Luckily, we each have the most visually complex capture mechanism ever created — our eyesight. Trust your eyes and experiment with colors, color combinations, and positioning.
If you still feel lost, look at what others are doing. Try to replicate that. From there, you will create your own design ‘likes’ and style.
Start with a few color combinations from those listed in the list below, then explore and experiment with what looks good and what doesn’t.
Teal / Incandescent White
Amber / Yellow
Blue / Amber
Green / Teal
Incandescent White / Purple
As with any design in the church, always consider the following as your filter, by asking this question: “Could this be a distraction from the message we are trying to communicate?”. If so, there is an even better look waiting in your creative mind!