Event Lighting 101: Test Your Lighting Knowledge

Do you speak Kelvin? How about Gobo or Parcan?

The event lighting industry has a distinctive language all its own. To help translate the most common trade show and event lighting terms, we turned to Steve Halling, president of AVFX.
Bookmark this event lighting glossary.

Accent Lighting

Lights that highlight or draw attention to specific areas.

”Many companies use bright, cool, white-tone accent lighting to make products — especially items like cars or medical equipment — look brighter and shinier, and define details,” Halling says.

Image: AVFX

Ambient Lighting

All the existing light surrounding an environment.

Halling says ambient lighting presents a real challenge for event marketers. Because you can’t control the bright ambient light from overhead fluorescent fixtures at trade shows, “color and contrast is often lost within an exhibit.” We recommend using stage lighting, including LED strip lights, in and around a booth to create contrast and natural highlights.

Arm Lights

A light with a clamp or mounting bracket that is generally positioned on the top edge of an exhibit wall to cast light down onto a display.

Take caution when using traditional incandescent arm lights to light up booth panels. They cast a very limited area of light, and the heat they generate can quickly degrade paint and graphics.


Illuminating a material or image from behind or within.

Backlighting is also “an important technique to create contrast between event speakers and the stage background, while giving definition to their physical presence,” Halling says.

Image: AVFX

Color Wash (Fill Lighting)

A general "fill" of light and color evenly dispersed across an area. Colored lighting gels are often used to create an alluring ambience, draw attention or add a pop of brand color.

Image: AVFX


An electronic device used in stage and theatrical lighting to gradually increase or decrease the intensity of the light being projected.

Many LED lights have built-in controls, which Halling says makes it much easier to adjust and control the light intensity.


Making sure all lights correctly hit the spots you want to highlight or accent.

Properly focused lights can make a big difference in an overall impression. “If you’ve been at a trade show and seen an overhead booth banner with crooked lines lighting up the logo, that’s a clear sign the lights haven’t been properly focused,” Halling says.


A physical steel or glass template placed inside or in front of a light source that is used to project logos, patterns or other shapes.

Halling says Gobos are a very popular and cost-effective way to brand a space with lighting.

Image: AVFX

Installation & Dismantle (I&D)

The labor required to set up, take down and repack exhibits or event lighting.

Halling recommends considering I&D when you build an overall lighting budget. “When it comes to hanging a truss, I&D can quickly add up,” he says.

Kelvin Value (Temperature)

Measures the relative warmness or coolness of light sources.

“Warm, yellow temperatures make event spaces feel comfortable,” Halling says. “Attendees are drawn to these spaces because they feel like home.”

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)

Because of their flexibility, reliability, cost-effectiveness and low power requirements, the primary type of lighting used at events today.

Lekolite (Leko)

A type of a stage light with one or more lenses to shine focus on specific areas.


An enclosure with a light source and a translucent face made of plastic or glass. LEDs are usually used to light up small spaces like these because they don’t emit heat.

Low Voltage

Electrical currents of 24 volts or less, usually used in animation and specialty lighting.


Shaped like a bucket, these light fixtures put out a broad wash of light to illuminate large areas.


The general term used to lift and hold lights in a truss.

Robotic Lighting

Lighting fixtures that can be programmed, controlled and adjusted automatically versus manually.

Halling shares, “We did a test where we set up two events exactly the same, with the second using robotic LED lights. We found a big cost savings in setup labor because we were able to remotely program the lights with iPads.”


A lamp that provides a defined circle of light.

Sometimes spotlights can wash out the area you’re trying to draw attention to, while creating dark spots in other areas. For more flexibility, consider other alternatives like LED strip lights or rigid bar lights.

Stage Lighting

The use of event lighting to create contrast or draw attention, usually through different light colors or light/dark areas.

Image: AVFX


A collection of structural beams that form a rigid framework that typically hangs from the ceiling to hold lighting equipment and fixtures.

Image: AVFX


Lights placed on the floor so the beam of light is directed upward.

Halling says there are multiple opportunities to create effects with uplights. “For example, uplights placed at the base of black drape across a stage can be lit up with different colors, giving your event audience visual clues on where to direct their attention.”

Download our new e-book with the three most common event lighting dilemmas — and the upgrades to make to improve your brand presence.

About HitLights
HitLights delivers LED lighting solutions for event exhibits, displays, signs, theater and film productions, and manufacturing. CEO Bin Yu formed the company through the Louisiana State University Business Incubator Program in 2010. Since then HitLights has grown to become a major player the LED industry. Customers come to HitLights for quality products, helpful customer service and creative solutions.

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