Lighting Plans

Example of a stencil for stage lighting plans

It is always a good idea to draw a scale plan of your stage and auditorium to help you decide and remember where you want to put your lanterns. You can buy special stencils for many lanterns, but you can just as easily draw your own simple symbols for lanterns and other relevant equipment.

The symbols below are usually understood to represent the main lantern types.

Flood Fresnel Pebble Convex Profile Par Can
symbol for a Flood Lantern symbol for a Fresnel Lantern symbol for a Pebble Convex Lantern symbol for a Profile Lantern symbol for a Par Can

Refer to your plan when rigging your equipment, but bear in mind it is very likely that not everything will be as you expected, so be prepared to adapt or make compromises.

For clarity the examples below just show one lantern symbol, representing a simple fresnel lantern, but your plans will usually have several different types of lantern. The diagrams are not to a realistic scale.

Proscenium Theatre

This is the most common style of acting area, the stage is separated from the audience by the proscenium arch. Lanterns over the audience illuminate the down-stage area, and more lanterns on stage illuminate further up-stage. The lanterns are angled to give even illumination from each side. A larger stage may need more lanterns in the auditorium.

In the example below there are three pairs of lanterns on each lighting bar.

Counting from the left:

  • the first and fourth lantern on each bar are focussed on Stage Right,
  • the second and fifth are focussed Centre Stage,
  • and the third and sixth are focussed Stage Left.

In general you can repeat this pattern to give an even spread of light on the stage. If you control each pair on separate circuits you can vary the intensity on certain areas to create the atmosphere you want.

Lighting In-the-Round

As the name suggests the audience sit all round the stage (or sometimes on three sides). This causes complications for the director and actors as well as making it more difficult to light. This simple plan shows lanterns rigged above the audience to illuminate the actors nearest to them. The lanterns over the stage will illuminate the actors further away. Care has to be taken not to dazzle the audience as just about everyone will be facing light from at least one source.


By lighting "In-the-Round" you will automatically create a backlighting effect on most of the stage, but it is really valuable on any stage to use backlighting to help give the stage the feeling of depth. Just the addition of a few lanterns as backlights will make a dramatic improvement to the look of the stage.

More Details

It will help to add a bit more detail to your lighting plan to save you time when you are rigging the equipment. It is especially useful to add additional details to your plan if you are not familiar with the venue, but this may involve a special visit to the venue to make notes.

Image showing suggested mark up for additional details on a stage lantern
  • Inside each lantern write the number of the colour of gel you want this lantern to have; in this case 57: Lavender.
  • Next to the lantern write the number of the dimmer channel this light will be controlled by (12)
  • If the venue has pre-wired sockets or wired bars these are often numbered so that you can more easily identify the correct connectors at the dimmer racks. Write the circuit number of the socket in a circle next to the lantern (B6).