Tinting China Lanterns

I would like to have some Chinese lanterns that have a warmer tint to them -- like an unbleached muslin type tint.

Does anyone know a good way to color the lanterns without running them, or a good source for inexpensive tinted lanterns?

David Jones

Cost Plus, Pier 1, Ikea all have paper lanterns - or some do sometimes.

I tinted some for a job a while back by getting some brown RIT dye (sewing store, Woolworth’s type place etc) diluting it, and spraying it with a pump bottle sprayer on some lanterns - you have to stretch them on their wire stretchers, hang them, and not collapse them until they dry, but it works pretty well. You can, of course, use a dimmer to dim your lanterns down a bit and they will warm up also.

Mark Weingartner

David Jones wrote :

>Does anyone know a good way to color the lanterns without running >them, or a good source for inexpensive tinted lanterns?

Try http://www.paperlanternstore.com/section.html or clip some gel to them. Or get some "canary tracing" at an art store.

It warms up real good. I love Chinese lanterns -- great soft source, super light and cheap. I use a 250watt bulb I found in my house in porcelain socket on zip cord plugged thru a sliding dimmer designed for table lamps -- small, light and needs no rigging, bought at Home Depot. I hang it from two carbon fibre (the hi-tech part of the rig) golf club shafts fit together to a length of a bout five feet and clamped into a grip head. Separated, the shafts are about three and a half feet long and can fit in a tripod tube. the whole rig (less stand and grip head ) weighs less than eight ounces.

Rob Lindsay
Rob Lindsay Productions

I read in American Cinematographer that Allan Daviau's gaffer used liquid CTO.

I do much about it but it might be your solution.

Does anyone know more on liquid CTO?


Argyris Theos
Athens Greece

Haven't heard of liquid CTO but there's always the coffee or tea option.

Seriously, soaking the lanterns in tea or coffee might be a nice way to tint them. I haven't tried it myself but I've heard about it.

I have actually used coffee on bleached muslin before when I wanted the more unbleached look.

Phil Badger
gaffer, LA

Agyris Theos wrote

>Does anyone know more on liquid CTO?

I don't know about liquid CTO; however, there is Rosco's Colorine (a liquid tint for glass and bulbs). It comes in a variety of colours.

See www.rosco.com and search on colorine (I believe it is on the 'Scenics' page).

Studio Depot (The Mole Store) carries it, or you may be able to order it from a local lighting supply store.

NOTE: Colorine is not designed for higher wattage bulbs. Rosco says to use it w/ max 40w bulbs. I have used it with higher wattage bulbs, but only for short periods of time.

Matt Efsic
Ventura, CA

> -Does anyone know more on liquid CTO?

Some years ago, I was asked to do such a thing for a guy I worked for many years ago. But I had problems. I dipped the lanterns in various solutions from tea to food colouring. The lantern glues usually released after dipping and it created problems, and I never got two lanterns to look exactly the same. I suggested that we simply put a dimmer on the lamps. The guy I worked for said we'd loose output, so I suggested slightly higher wattage lamps and then when you dim, you still get the lumens you want and the color tone you want out of the lanterns. Haven't looked back since that day and the way I suggest you

If you want to build a low cost highly effective dimmer try my article at


Walter Graff
BlueSky Media, Inc.

Walter Graff writes :

>If you want to build a low cost highly effective dimmer try my article at

Reasonable enough layout, but may I suggest that at the very least the dimmer be cased? Since most of these dimmers have the electronic module held onto the faceplate by a threaded collar and nut (certainly here in the UK), it might be possible to remove the module and fit it into a compact plastic enclosure with ventilation holes drilled generously round it. This might even allow the unit to be slightly more compact, but would be primarily to assist in insulation of the connections. I realise the whole concept was for a multiple of dimmer modules to be stashed in an already tight kit, but it's always a good idea to assume that after a reasonable amount of use a wire might pop out of the back of the dimmer. (Not fun for the next person who grabs it to make an adjustment.)

Again I'm in the UK so I don't know how many of your light fittings have an earth connection, but I'd be tempted to play safe and continue the earth through the dimmer arrangement.

I must stress that I'm not criticising Walter's kit. Just suggesting some possible improvements.

I'd love to know how they can make a 2kW dimmer that small! At your USA 120V it must pass over 16 amps, and with a voltage drop of at least 1V over a triac that gives a power dissipation of 16W. Then add a reasonably sized RF suppression choke and it's thermal effect, and the fact that a dimmer like this is usually enclosed in a wall box. That sounds like it could get pretty hot in normal use.

Clive Mitchell

A case is always an option but I do not case them because of space limitations. Everything has a solid 12 gauge ground to take care of any problems.

Walter Graff
BlueSky Media, Inc.

>120V it must pass over 16 amps, and with a voltage drop of at least 1V >over a triac that gives a power dissipation of 16W...That sounds like it >could get pretty hot in normal use.

The ones we have here depend on the metal faceplate to radiate the heat...and when mounted in a metal box, the box itself becomes a heatsink/heat radiator

I have built maybe a dozen "hand squeezers" and the ones that have lasted by far the longest were the ones I built into one-gang steel utility boxes rather than the one-gang plastic boxes which are lovely little insulators and actually take up more room (at less weight.)

Mark Weingartner
LA Based
Don't build that stuff no more...unless I need one.

>Does anyone know more on liquid CTO?

Yes it came in a spray can and was called Full CTO Spray.

I have had it for years, obviously didn't use it much. Unfortunately the paper label is gone but the liquid spray certainly is the colour of 'Full 85'. From memory the manufacturing company was 'K-Line' they also made Neutral Density in a spray can.

I can remember spraying many a prac, on the side facing camera, with this stuff. Black dulling spray then took over as the weapon of choice.

As an aside…a great dulling spray for chrome...an anti-perspirant spray called "Norsca". It leaves an even matt powder coating on just one application, on chrome that is, I don't know how effective it is on humans. I worked on a commercial for the stuff and we discovered it by accident, now all the Props guys use it instead of dulling spray for shiny surfaces.

Graham Rutherford


I am going to give this URL to apprentice electrics and students who ask me how to make dimmers. It's very useful. Thanks for doing it, Walter.

This got me thinking, I should make a list of useful websites for students and apprentices in cinematography: other suggestions welcome.


Blain Brown

Thanks Blain.

I have a number of articles on my site for beginners and pros alike. Today fourteen universities, in three countries use my articles in their teaching syllabus, with many secondary schools also letting me know they use the articles to teach the basis for production and lighting technique. I enjoy touring a number of colleges in the north east where lecture. All tolled I get about 200 hits a day (genuine readers) on the instruction page. My monthly subscription newsletter has become somewhat of a hit too as I am up to 300 subscribers.

The reward is dong what was done to me when I was starting out; caring people letting you know what is going on inside their head so you can do it too.

Walter Graff
BlueSky Media, Inc.

Just trying to get the issue back to its topic :

Copying from American Cinematographer magazine, May 2004 issue, page 42 ... comment to the picture located on top of the page :

"...the bulbs are dipped in liquid CTO..."

If liquid CTO is quoted on A.C., then I guess it is existing, even if I have never heard of it.

Does anyone know anything on it?

Best Regards
Argyris Theos
DoP Athens Greece

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