Light Painting 101: How you can create rainbow lighting in three easy steps

You can create bold vivid rainbow lighting when light painting at night. This works especially well with plain surfaces such as cinder block. Here’s how you can create rainbow light painting in three easy steps.

Night photo of jail in ghost town.
Rainbows of the Crossbar Hilton. This abandoned jail in a desert ghost town had some plain surfaces. I decided to punch up the interior a little by creating a rainbow effect inside each room.

Adding color interest to a plain building

Looking at the remains of the abandoned two-cell jail, I saw that it was a rather plain gray surface all the way around. Light painting is endlessly creative and gives you the opportunity to add extra color if you wish. Here, I decided to create a rainbow color rather than a single color for one of the photos. 

The light painting device that I use, the ProtoMachines LED2, produces any light within the RGB spectrum. I realize that many people do not have one of these. However, there are other lights that do this, including LED panels such as the Luxli Viola.

Step one: The exterior

I light painted the exterior from the right side of the building with a warm white light. I did this not only to make it brighter, but also to pick up some of the detail.

Rather than blasting it from straight on, I illuminated the building from a 90-degree angle to the front. I cover light painting at specific angles in this article.

Step two: Inside the left cell

Walking inside the left cell of the jail, I hid behind the door so the camera lens wouldn’t pick up me or any direct light from my ProtoMachines LED2 light painting device. I held the light closely to the wall. Starting from the top, I slowly illuminated the wall while simultaneously altering the color control so that it would gradually shift by the time I got to the bottom of the wall.

Step three: Inside the right cell

I walked to the cell on the right and did the same as above.

Other thoughts

Most of the time, I tell people that they can replicate the sort of lighting I do with a decent LED flashlight as a Streamlight or Coast flashlight and some gels from a Roscolux Swatchbook sample booklet. While it might be technically possible if you continually swap out gels and do some blending of colored lights, it would be considerably more challenging. Also, it would be even more challenging to replicate the same colors on both cells as I have done here.


Head on over to the Ken Lee Photography website to purchase books or look at night photography and long exposure prints and more.  My books are available there and Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, Booktopia, Books A Million, IBS, and Aladin. If you enjoy the book, please leave a nice review, thanks!


Night photographers Tim Little, Mike Cooper and I all use Pentax gear. We discuss this, gear, adventures, light painting, lenses, night photography, creativity, and more in this ongoing YouTube podcast. Subscribe and watch to the Nightaxians today!

Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like)

Behind the Shot video podcast – interview February 2020


How We Got the Shots: Five Photographers, Five Stories – Night Photo Summit 2022


Ken Lee’s Abandoned Trains Planes and Automobiles with Tim Little of Cape Nights Photography
Conversation about night photography and my book with Lance Keimig of National Park At Night

A Photographer Captures Haunting Nighttime Images of Abandoned Buildings, Planes, and Cars in the American Southwest – Business Insider by Erin McDowell
A Photographer Explores Southern California’s Desert Ruins – Los Angeles Magazine article by Chris Nichols



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