December 9, 2014

No Gels? Use Spray Paint: Dirt Cheap DIY Lighting Tricks

Lighting can be expensive, especially if you're using professional gear. Luckily, our buddies over at Film Riot have shared a few DIY tricks that'll keep your costs low, light your whole scene, and let you play with spray paint all without a single pro light.

The point here is modifying the lighting that already exists at your location (home, office, etc.) to fit the look you're going for, as well as finding a solution that works for filmmakers with limited professional resources -- not everyone has access to pro lighting kits, ya know.

I have to say, I really like this high heat spray paint idea. Granted, it doesn't seem to be a perfect or overly precise way to color your lights, but the accessibility seems worth it. (Which would be faster and easier: tracking down a local photo supply store for gels (I have ONE in my town) or running into Walmart or Home Depot for spray paint?) Since I use clamp lights quite a bit, especially if I don't have access (or am too cheap/lazy to get access) to pro lighting kits, popping in an inexpensive bulb spray painted whichever color I want for my scene sounds like a simple way to light. However, I probably wouldn't go that route on a project for a client or on a film that requires a little more cinematographic finesse.

Now, if you're thinking, "Why not just use gels?!! They costs pretty much the same as high heat spray paint and you don't have to go through all the trouble of painting stuff!" Well, yeah -- that's true, but according to Film Riot, a single can will take care of well over 10 separate lights, which is well worth the cost. Plus -- spray paint. It's fun.

A quick safety note: Be sure to use the same amount of caution when handling these DIY lights as you do with professional ones , people. Using home fixtures and 35 watt bulbs may ease you into a false sense of security, but those things get hot, so use gloves (said the person who has burned herself on many a PAR bulb -- at home -- like an idiot). Also, I'm no electrician, but the fixtures at your house may not be able to handle the higher wattage bulbs. If you're determined to use them, don't keep them on for long, or you could risk starting a fire -- probably.

What cheap DIY lighting tricks do you use on set? Have you used high heat spray paint before? How did your shots turn out? Let us know in the comments below.     

Your Comment

16 Comments

you can gels off Amazon and have them the next day.

December 9, 2014 at 12:12PM

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Chop N Shoot Films
Director / Cinematographer / Editor
79

And as long as you get them from someone like Lee, they'll be precisely colored for color temperature matching or balancing the green cast you get from standard flourescent lights. Rattlecanning some cheap lights is fine if you're playing with rockstar lighting or something, but you can't really replace a milkcrate or roll full of some good gels.

December 9, 2014 at 1:46PM

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Chuck McDowell
1st AC
436

Light bulbs break, burn out and are too delicate to travel with.

I do love spray painting things though...

December 10, 2014 at 5:18PM

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Josh Paul
Most often DP, Direct or Gaff
1099

I'm working with a DoP at the moment who recommends K-Line Black Dulling Spray (for muting a lightbulb a bit, so you can bring down its brightness and actually register it as a bulb, rather than a hotspot), or car manifold spray - which can withstand incredibly high temperatures.

December 9, 2014 at 12:32PM

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Alex Richardson
Director
3427

Nice tip! Looking into this further there is also a K-Line ND spray that reportedly can be used for windows and wipes off w/ a little light methyl spirit. Does anyone have experience NDing down windows this way? It may not be faster, but definitely a cheaper option then buying full $100 rolls and cutting it up to match all the windows.
http://www.shopbleedingart.com/k-line-neutral-grey-dulling-spray/

December 9, 2014 at 2:28PM

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Daniel Reed
Hat Collector
1253

An in-line 600 watt dimmer is an inexpensive, fast, reliable way to get a practical to the brightness you need.

December 11, 2014 at 11:52PM

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comments broken?

December 9, 2014 at 2:48PM

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Daniel Reed
Hat Collector
1253

NVM

December 9, 2014 at 2:48PM, Edited December 9, 2:48PM

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Daniel Reed
Hat Collector
1253

Wow, this just seems like an awful idea. Those bulbs have one color option forever. Gels let you try different colors or even just double-up by folding the gel in half. They're about $6 a sheet at Filmtools. Plus the work involved. Ugh!

December 9, 2014 at 4:32PM

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Most stores have colored bulbs.

December 13, 2014 at 2:12AM

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Ryan Gudmunson
Recreational Filmmaker
626

If you have the time and expense to go this route, it may fit your needs. Especially if one does not have to travel with many spray cans or painted bulbs. If you like this answer to your projects, consider saving Christmas Light bulbs and the cord. They are already painted and can withstand the heat from the bulb, and come in various colors. You can also add a dimmer to control the lights. Place in a protective plastic container if you plan to travel with them.
Good luck

January 9, 2015 at 1:10PM

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to clarify a bit more: use C9 strands of Christmas light bulbs (original large size). Be creative and make a harness to hold the bulbs in a circle, which will direct the light into a straight beam, looks like a doughnut style light fixture.
This is another idea to consider if you have the time, desire, creative ability but lack the resources for the commercial product.

January 9, 2015 at 2:06PM

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Really it is an amazing technique to reduce cost and improve your light with lighting tricks. Spray paint is very good method for better lighting. I have seen these kind of spray paint in walmart stores. If you find any issues then contact them(http://walmartoneloginhelp.com).Thanks for the tutorial.

April 10, 2017 at 3:40PM

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lanas
Photographer
74

Get a Walmart Master card to get best offers in Walmart store.

August 1, 2017 at 12:47PM

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john26
8

do WalmartOne Login now to get the best offers.

February 17, 2018 at 1:18PM

1
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wal30
8

Or marry a WalMart employee to get that deep discount. Savings and all your great film looks for less!

“5 hot tips that’ll make your DP fall in love with you”

May 10, 2018 at 9:06PM, Edited May 10, 9:06PM

3
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WalmartOne is the best.

June 26, 2018 at 12:23AM

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wall33
74