Product Resources and FAQs


Audio Questions


Drapery Questions


Effects Questions


Filters & Patterns Questions


Lamps, Cables & Connectors Questions


Lighting Questions


Makeup Questions


Paint Questions


Audio Questions

What’s included in a “wireless” microphone system?

A wireless microphone system includes a minimum of two or three components:

  • The transmitter: Available in a self-contained handheld mic or as a belt pack with a lavalier or headworn mic, this device is a small radio (RF) transmitter. Transmitters can be fixed or variable in frequency.
  • The receiver: The receiver takes the signal from the transmitter and outputs audio to your sound system. Receivers can also be fixed or variable in frequency. It's important to note that most wireless systems can be identified by the model number and frequency band that are on the back of the receiver.
  • The microphone: Wireless handheld transmitters are self-contained. Belt pack transmitters use an external, very small microphone element which is inconspicuous. Microphones are available from Countryman and other manufacturers to replace and upgrade your existing systems. Headworn and lightweight “Earset” microphones are also available for the ultimate in sonic fidelity and comfort. We will need to know the manufacturer and model of your wireless system to specify replacements.

You can buy or rent wireless systems from PNTA. To purchase or get a quote call our specialists at (206) 622-7850. Please note that there's a heavy demand for wireless systems in December; reserve your gear early!

A wireless microphone system may also contain the following components:

  • An antenna distribution system: When multiple wireless systems are used, it's common to have an antenna distribution system that feeds all of the receivers from one set of antennas. It's typical for these systems also to feature AC or DC power distribution to multiple wireless receivers. An antenna distribution system is an excellent upgrade when you already have three or more wireless systems. We can provide antenna distribution systems for almost any brand of wireless. Again, we'll need to know the make and model of your existing wireless systems as well as the frequency band.
  • Accessory antenna/s: Accessory antennas are commonly added for long range or very directional applications or for coordinating dozens of wireless microphones. An antenna booster is typically inserted near the antenna. Accessory antennas and boosters can provide a dramatic improvement to your wireless systems.

How many microphones can I add to my existing wireless system?

Running multiple wireless systems requires careful frequency coordination to avoid interference. Please contact us for assistance with this process.

My crew is spread out all over the theatre. How can I communicate with everyone?

You need an intercom system and we’re the people to talk to. PNTA offers a wide range of intercom equipment by Clear-Com, RTS, Telex and Anchor.

A basic intercom system includes a power supply connected by microphone cables to remote stations which usually have headsets. This type of system allows full-duplex communications; anyone can talk and everyone can hear.

Wireless intercom systems use the same basic components as wired systems, but the signal is transmitted between the remote stations and the main station by radio instead of by cables, allowing greater mobility and portability. Usable range for these is 200-1000 feet, dependent on operating environment. Since this is a full-duplex system, you can hear when you are losing connection and move to compensate.

Portable radios (walkie-talkies) can be interfaced to a wired system for a range of up to a mile or more, but allow only half-duplex communications. The wired system users press and hold the call button on their station to transmit to the portable radio user. The portable uses the press-to-talk switch to speak to the wired system.

Can I mix old and new beltpacks with new and old headsets?

Mostly. Most full-size headsets with a four-pin female XLR type connector will work with Clear-Com, Telex, HME and Anchor stations, both wired and wireless, that have a matching connector. Some stations that have been used with lightweight headsets that have electret mics may need a minor modification for proper operation. Some new lightweight headsets may require mic power which limits the selection of beltpacks that can support them.

I don’t know whether to get a wireless microphone system or a wired one. How do I choose?

Unless you need the mobility of a wireless mic, stay with wired. The initial cost is much lower, they require less maintenance and you don't have to keep buying batteries.

I’d like to use rechargeable batteries in my wireless mics. What kind do you recommend?

We've not had success with rechargeable "9 volt" batteries. They just don't have the capacity needed to run a transmitter for more than about an hour. For systems using AAs, the NiMH batteries used for digital cameras can work well. If you use rechargeable batteries, avoid surprises in the middle of a show by keeping battery sets matched and by tracking usage. This is important because a simple voltage check won't tell you how much capacity is left, as it will with conventional batteries.

A few systems are designed to use rechargeables. Please call for further information.

We’re having problems with the belt packs on our singers failing. Do you have a solution?

We sure do. Actually, this is a common problem. Singers and actors work hard under hot stage lights. They sweat and when the moisture gets into a belt pack, it fails. We carry non-lubricated latex pouches called body pack covers, available individually or in bulk. For best results, hang the pack with the opening in the cover pointing down, so moisture won't roll in.

We’re using a portable sound system and getting feedback. What should we do?

It's important to keep the microphone out of the coverage pattern of the speakers. You want to set up the system so the speaker energy goes out to the audience, not back into the microphone.

A basic rule of sound systems is get the speakers up, preferably at least three feet above audience head height. This ensures the sound will get to the audience members at the rear and doesn’t blast out the people in front.

Set up the system so the speakers are in front of the microphone. The mic should not be pointing at the speakers. Don’t walk right in front of the speakers with an open mic.

Also, avoid using too much gain. If you find that you're holding the mic over a foot from your mouth, reduce the system gain and work six inches or less from the mic.

Drapery Questions

Our theatre drapes were made about 20 years ago. They still look okay, but are they still safe?

Probably not. After about ten years, the flame-retardant chemical and the cotton fabric itself start to deteriorate. Cleaning and re-flame-treating may be possible, but they're expensive. Our drapery staff will be happy to work with you to evaluate the condition of your stage soft goods and determine the best solution for your space and budget. The good news is that new polyester fabrics are inherently flame-retardant and offer a fine range of color choices, so it may be more cost-effective for you to replace your drapes.

For an evaluation of your old drapes and/or a quote for new drapes, call Silas at (800) 622-7850 Ext 123.

Do you repair drapes?

Yes, subject to their age and condition, but in some cases replacing them is more cost-effective. We can work with you to compare the costs of repair and replacement.

Call Silas at (800) 622-7850 Ext 123 to make arrangements for evaluating your drapes for repair.

Our grand drape doesn't move properly when we pull the cord (or run the motor). What can we do?

Whatever the problem, we have the experience to make your drapes fly smoothly. Solutions can span the spectrum from a new cord to a new hardware system. You can schedule an appointment with a PNTA technician who'll come to your site, survey your system and work with you to determine the most practical options.

Talk with Silas at (800) 622-7850 Ext 123 to see what kind of repair work and replacement may be needed.

What kind of fabric should we get for making drops and covering flats?

The standard for both is medium-weight muslin which you can get flame-treated or untreated. We carry this universal theatrical material in both forms and in numerous widths from 80" to 197" (that's over 16 feet wide without a seam). Need something wider? We can get it.

Call our Counter Staff at (800) 622-7850 Ext 0 to order your scenic muslin.

Will muslin drops shrink when they're painted?

Yes. Painting or dying unstretched muslin will cause shrinkage and untreated (not flame-retardant) muslin will shrink more than drops made with flame-treated fabric. For best results, drops should be stretched on a frame or fastened to the floor before painting, allowing some slack for the shrinkage.

How are large drops constructed?

Muslin drops are made from 100% cotton, medium-weight muslin. These drops have horizontal seams, 2" side hems and a 6" bottom hem with 4" pipe/chain pocket. The top is backed by 3-1/2" jute webbing. Grommets are spaced evenly across the top, approximately 12" on center. Each grommet is threaded with a 36" tie line.

Scrims are made the same way. The difference between drops and scrims is the fabric. Scrim fabric can be chosen for the desired degree of opacity.

Which scrim fabric is best for the effect I want?

Sharkstooth, a ladder-weave cotton, is the most common and least expensive option. Sharkstooth scrims are versatile and you can create different effects with them through tight control of your stage lighting. Lit from the front, the scrim will appear solid, but lit from the rear, it will appear transparent. By crossfading the light, it's possible to "dissolve" from one scene to another without interruption. White scrims are used when adding color with light or dyes. Black scrims "disappear" better than white scrims.

PNTA’s Counter Staff can help you determine the best choice for your purposes. Call them at (800) 622-7850 Ext 0.

What other fabrics do you carry?

In addition to the muslin, we stock canvas, velour, scrim, theatrical gauze, cheesecloth, denim, commando cloth, erosion cloth and more! Also, we're always glad to help you special order to meet your custom needs.

Call our Counter Staff at (800) 622-7850 Ext 0 to find out exactly what’s in stock and what we can get for you.

Are bolts and materials consistent?

No. Thread counts, widths, bolt lengths and dye lots may vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer. They may be used interchangeably in some situations, such as painted flats and scenery, panels mounted to different walls, backyard productions and costume construction.

Talk with our Counter Staff at (800) 622-7850 Ext 0 about your particular situation to see whether you can use fabric from different bolts.

Do you ever have remnants?

Yes! Remnants are ends that measure three yards or less, and we always have them in muslin, velour, scrim and other fabrics just waiting for the right person to come along and put them to use. We also have grab bags, which are clear 13-gallon trash bags packed with pieces of muslin, velour, commando cloth and vinyl. Every bag is different, and at $5 a bag, they're a great value for costumers, quilters and crafters!

Call our Counter Staff at (800) 622-7850 Ext 0 to find out what we have.


Effects Questions

How is a hazer different from a fogger?

A hazer fills a room with long-lasting, even mist or haze for atmospheric effects that enhance the visibility of shafts of light. With haze, you can turn your dance floor into a 3-D canvas for moving lights and lasers. Hazers use low heat and very little fluid and they produce a dry, odorless haze.

You can rent most of the special effects equipment featured at PNTA’s Online Store—mirror ball and pinspots, foggers, hazers, bubble machines, cobweb machines, blacklights, strobe lights, police beacons, confetti cannons and more. Visit our Rental RFQ Page to submit a request or call our Counter Staff at (800) 622-7850 Ext 0 for more information.

I’m not sure whether to get a dry ice fogger or a chemical fogger. What's the difference?

Dry ice fog hugs the ground, dissipating relatively quickly. Chemical fog floats and disperses in the air, taking a longer time to dissipate.

How do I get that sparkly light effect all over a room?

Use a mirror ball and motor (to make the ball turn) suspended from the ceiling and lit by pin spots—the more, the merrier!

How far in advance do I need to reserve equipment?

Demand for effects equipment is particularly high around holidays. We often run out of bubble machines for June weddings, cobweb machines for Halloween haunted houses and fog machines for church Christmas pageants. Please be sure to look ahead on your calendar so you can be sure of getting everything you need in one quick stop.

Call our Counter Staff at (800) 622-7850 Ext 0 as early as possible to reserve the gear you need.

It’s great that we can rent a cobweb machine for the one time a year we need it, but what do we use to actually make the cobwebs—rubber cement?

Use vulcanizing fluid—available from PNTA—and have at it! Spiders not included. We also carry fog fluid, hazing fluid, gels for coloring lights, FX film, gobos, confetti and all of the other supplies and accessories you'll need to make your production or party a success.

I want to use a bubble machine at my wedding. What’s the best way to use it?

Try to get the bubble machine off the floor for a more graceful cascade of bubbles. Be careful not to get it close to your wedding dress; bubble fluid will stain silk and satin. Keep it away from the dance floor—bubbles can make uncarpeted floors slippery.

Are your breakaway bottles and glasses made of candy-glass?

No. They're made of plastic resin, so don't eat the shards! Also, remember to treat them like your favorite dog in the car—on hot days, they'll melt if left in a closed car in the sun.

Filters and Patterns Questions


Are filters used just for adding color, or are there other applications?

Filters are used for a variety of effects:

  • Color changes the mood or look of your stage.
  • Color correction changes the color temperature of a light source.
  • Neutral density filters cut a light's intensity without changing its color.
  • CalColor is a series of effects filters designed specifically to the spectral sensitivity of color film.
  • High temp filters are more heat resistant and help to reduce saturated color burnout.
  • Diffusion softens a beam of light.
  • Reflection materials made of durable, washable plastic laminate are used to surface reflector boards.
  • Polarizing filters help reduce the glare of reflection from glass, water and shiny metal objects. For photography, they are especially effective when used in conjunction with a polarizing filter at the lens (cross polarization).

Do you have samples of color filters?

Yes—and more! We have free swatchbooks for Roscolux, Rosco Designer products (like mirrors, diffractions and Sparklene), Rosco E-Colour, Rosco Cinegel, GamColor and Lee Filters.

To get any of our free swatchbooks, come into our retail store in Seattle, call the Counter Staff at (800) 622-7850 Ext 0 or email us at

What size is a sheet of color?

The basic size is 20" x 24" which gives you a variety of cutting options. To save you time when you need to cut a lot of color, we can also special order color in rolls which come in 25-foot lengths at varied widths, ranging from 6-1/4" to 46". They're available in every color and we can have them on your doorstep the next day if you phone in your order by 12 noon.

To special order rolls of color, call the Counter Staff at (800) 622-7850 Ext 0.

I just want some color. What are the basics?

Basic theatre colors are amber, blue and neutral. To get an attractive wash of light, aim amber from one side of the stage, blue from the other side and neutral straight on. Colors currently most used for lighting productions are Bastard Amber, Surprise Pink and No Color Blue. If you want to keep a variety of colors on hand, check out PNTA color packs for theatre, party or film. They give you a convenient mix of colors in pre-cut sheets.

How can we create a fire effect on stage? What about rain and snow?

The easiest way to create these effects is to use a GAM FX Film Wheel with a fire, rain or snow film roll. You can also pair the snow effect with stage snow, re-usable shredded plastic pieces that fall realistically to simulate snowfall.

You can rent an FX Film Wheel and buy your film roll and stage snow at PNTA. Call the Counter Staff at (800) 622-7850 Ext 0 to place your order.

We want to project our company logo on the lobby wall. How can we do that?

It's easy! An e-mailable (jpg, pdf or gif) version of your logo and a quick phone call to our Counter Staff will get your logo on the wall in 6-10 days. You have two options, metal or glass. For the best quality, a litho pattern on a glass slide provides photo-quality definition, though at a higher price.

You'll also need a light source to project your logo. If you're certain you want to go with permanent installation of the logo, buying makes sense. If you just want to try it out, consider renting equipment while you decide on the best application for your space.

Call the Counter Staff at (800) 622-7850 Ext 0 to order your custom pattern and talk about the best light source for your needs.


Lamps, Cables and Connectors Questions

I have a 65Q fresnel with a 750 watt lamp. Can I use a 500 watt lamp?

Yes, you can. To figure out which lamps you can use for any instrument, call our Counter Staff and tell them what kind of base your lamp has (use diagrams at left) and what the rating for your particular instrument is. Any lamp with the same base, bulb and MOL as your 750 watt lamp will fit your instrument and the rating will determine what wattage you can use. For example, you can use a 500 watt lamp in your 65Q, but you can't use a 1000 watt lamp, even though it has the same base, bulb and MOL as your 750.

Call the Counter Staff at (800) 622-7850 Ext 0 to order replacement lamps to fit your particular needs and budget. Ask about case discounts!

Why can’t I just use extension cords for my lighting instruments?

We can think of five reasons right off hand:

  • They’re illegal for use in theatre. Our cables meet the current National Electrical Code for portable stage use.
  • They're usually made from smaller gauge cable (usually #16) which is easy to overload with high-wattage stage lights.
  • Their jackets are light-duty. Ours are heavy-duty and built for abuse.
  • Their jackets are often made of thermoplastic material that can melt when touching hot lights. Ours won't melt.
  • Their jackets are bright orange or yellow. Ours are a tasteful flat black.

The lighting cables we sell are made specifically to connect lighting instruments to a power source (wall outlet or dimmer pack). All are manufactured with black 12/3 SOOW (waterproof SO) cable. For ease of use and storage, they're labeled to indicate cable length. We stock open cable that can be cut to any length and a range of adapters. We offer the service of making custom cables in any length and with any adapters you need.

Call the Counter Staff at (800) 622-7850 Ext 0 with your cable and adapter needs.


What’s the difference between Edison, twist-lock and stage pin connectors?

Edisons (PBGs) are the standard three-pin household plug. Twist-lock connectors (TLGs) have three pins arranged in a circle. Stage pin connectors (GSPs) are flat with pins arranged in a row.


What’s the right way to install a 20A stage pin connector?

  • The green (ground) wire attaches to the center (longest) pin.
  • The white (neutral) wire attaches to the pin closest to the ground pin.
  • The black (hot) wire attaches to the pin farthest from the ground pin.

What’s the right way to install an Edison connector?

  • Attach the green wire to the green screw at the U-shaped prong and tighten the screw.
  • Attach the white wire to the silver screw at the wider blade and tighten the screw.
  • Attach the black wire to the gold screw at the narrow blade and tighten the screw.

What's the right way to install a twist-lock connector?

  • Attach the green wire to the green screw on the L-shaped prong.
  • Attach the white wire to the silver prong.
  • Attach the black wire to the gold or black prong.

If your twist-lock connector has different coloring, call the Counter Staff at (800) 622-7850 Ext 0 for instructions.


Is there some way to upgrade my 360Q ellipsoidal without buying a whole new instrument?

Yes, and it’s easy! Just order the Super Reflector Kit and an HX601 lamp which is a 575 watt lamp that gives 1000 watt output. This will vastly improve the instrument's optical performance. You can even go a step farther and replace the back cap with a Speed Cap which will make lamp alignment faster and easier. All of these items are available via a quick call to our Counter Staff and from our Online Store.

Call our Counter Staff at (800) 622-7850 Ext 0 to upgrade your 360Q quickly and easily!


Lighting Questions

I’m a high school teacher assigned to advise the Drama Club. What kind of lighting instruments do we need for a production of Our Town?

That’s going to depend on your lighting plan, but it’s helpful to think of lighting instruments in four main categories: focused, wash, intelligent and specialty/task.

Focused Lighting
Ellipsoidal, reflector-based instruments, such as the ETC Source Four™, Altman 360 series, Altman Shakespeare and Strand SL allow a focused or purposely unfocused light to illuminate a specific area. Shutters allow you to “frame” the beam down to a defined area. This is the main tool of the stage lighting designer. “Mini” or “baby” ellipsoidals serve the same task on a smaller scale. A tight beam can be used for a special and a broad beam can wash an entire area. Zoom ellipsoidals offer even more flexibility.

Fresnel instruments are most useful for short throw, small area lighting and have a soft-edged beam.

PARs are little more than a housing for a lamp and clips for a color frame; the housing reduces light spill. Their job is to add color and light to specific areas of the stage.

Followspots, while perhaps deserving of their own category, are essentially an ellipsoidal on a stand with handles added to control everything.

Wash Lighting
Scoops, borders and cyc lights are all intended to cover large areas with light. Scoops provide a wide-spread, soft-edged beam of flat, even light. Border and cyc lights are good for down-lighting and for drops; they can also be used on the floor. Often they are multiple-lamp units, available in various lengths and circuit configurations. They provide soft, even light and very wide coverage.

Intelligent Lighting
These instruments perform a wide variety of tasks, including pan and tilt, color change, focus and iris, all controllable from a lighting console to preclude the need for multiple instruments to perform a set of different tasks.

Specialty and Task Lighting

This category includes music stand lights, Littlites and a wide variety of work lights for lighting everything from a sound console in the back of a dark theatre to placing a gobo or other image in the exact place you need it.

How do I calculate the coverage of an ellipsoidal?

You can calculate the coverage from any throw distance with the following formula:
Multiplying Factor X Throw Distance = Diameter of Area Covered
(MF x T = D)
The MF (Multiplying Factor) is specified by the manufacturer and is available in standard product information.

Can I run my followspot on a dimmer?

Sorry, no. Trying to dim arc-source fixtures will damage the ballast electronics. Dimming incandescent-source followspots can damage the fan motor, warp reflectors, shorten bulb life and even damage the lenses.

I want to upgrade my system but can afford only a new console right now. Can I integrate a new control console with my old dimmers?

Yes. Retrofits like this are a PNTA specialty. Here are some examples of what’s possible:

  • Seattle Repertory Theatre—We replaced an aging lighting console with a new Obsession II with full tracking back-up that interfaces with their older dimmers.
  • Bellevue High School—We provided a new Colortran Innovator console and NSI interface to work with their 20-year-old Strand dimmers. In addition to setting up the console and interface, we provided training sessions for the students.
  • North Kitsap High School—We replaced a Strand MX console with a Colortran Innovator that interfaces with their Strand dimmers. We also provided training for the students and staff.
  • Eastlake High School—We provided an ETC Express 48/96 console to replace an aging Colortran Encore console. We also added a new remote focus unit.
  • Helena Civic Center—This rental house wanted to offer more bells and whistles to their rental clients. The first step was to upgrade to a console that could handle intelligent lighting. We provided an ETC Expression 3 console which interfaces with their Colortran dimmers. In a later round of funding, we provided intelligent lights by Martin.
  • Lynnwood High School—We provided an ETC Express console to control Colortran D192 dimmers. PNTA's Technical Director, Mac Perkins, modified the dimmer rack control modules to accept the DMX control signals. This saved the school district money and provided a cleaner installation than using a separate box converter.

Will new instruments integrate well with my old ones?

The difference in light output between older and newer is clearly visible. Adding new instruments by pairs into an existing system makes the difference less noticeable and is a great way to upgrade any system economically.

Our PTA has donated money for a new lighting control system for the school auditorium. What should we get?

This will depend on your budget, space and usage. Lighting control covers a wide range of options, from simple, self-contained dimmers to computer-controlled consoles running remote dimmers in multiple locations. PNTA's factory-trained staff has installed and used them all in venues ranging from Tops (Elementary) School in Seattle to Kent Covenant Church, from Whitman College in Walla Walla to the renovated McCaw Performance Hall, home of Seattle Opera and Pacific Northwest Ballet. They'd love to discuss which system would work best for your application.

Call Sheldon at (800) 622-7850 Ext 140 to schedule a consultation or demo.


Makeup Questions


What are the basic elements of stage makeup?

  • Foundations provide a base coat. There are three types:
    Creme foundations are easy to mix and blend, go on smoothly and look natural under stage lighting.
    Matte foundations provide a versatile blend of high pigmentation and natural coloring in a fine, textured crème. Apply with a sponge and dampen for a lighter finish.
    Color cake foundations apply quickly and work well for body makeup applications. Easily applied with sponge and water, they also make a great base coat for white face or other “character” foundations.
  • Highlight and shadow are applied after foundation to “rebuild” facial features which are washed out by lighting and distance. Highlight and shadow are also used to change the appearance of the facial structure and to create the desired illusion for a particular character.
  • Concealer is applied beneath foundation with a flat or dome brush. Blend, then powder lightly before applying foundation. For intense discoloration, carefully apply additional layers of neutralizer.
  • Rouge is available in either creme or dry cake form. They may be used independently or creme rouge may be applied first and “set” with dry rouge. Apply creme rouge with fingertips. Apply dry cake rouge with a soft, full brush.
  • Cake eyeliner, applied with water or LiquiSet and a fine-tipped brush, is the easiest for most people to use. If heavy perspiration is likely to be a problem, liquid eyeliner may work better.
  • Mascara is used to color the ends of the lashes, making them look thicker and the eyes larger.
  • Lip liner is placed around the outer edge of lipstick to accentuate the lips’ shape and heighten their contrast with the general face makeup.
  • Lipstick is used to enhance or mask lips.
  • Powder is used to set the makeup after completion. Brush a thin veil over the entire face with a powder puff and remove excess with a powder brush.

Call the Counter Staff at (800) 622-7850 Ext 0 to place your makeup order.

How do I get the best value for my makeup dollar?

Theatrical make-up kits offer outstanding value, especially for students and schools. They cost about half what it would cost to buy all the contents individually and come with a great array of extras, such as brushes, spirit gum and make-up remover. Color selections for foundations and liners are based on popular choices for the designated skin tones.

Call the Counter Staff at (800) 622-7850 to order your makeup kits.

How do I know which foundation is right for me?

Your foundation should be slightly darker than your skin tone in order to counteract the effects of stage lighting. The best way to test is to apply a patch of foundation to your inner forearm, just below the elbow.

How can I check makeup colors before buying?

We have tester boards in our showroom for most of the make-up we carry. We can also send you a Ben Nye catalog which contains color chips.

Just call the Counter Staff at (800) 622-7850 Ext 0 or e-mail us at

Visit PNTA’s showroom at 2414 SW Andover Street in Seattle to test make-up colors.  

How can we create scars?

Scars are made with liquid latex or with nose and scar wax. For a more realistic look, you can add Ben Nye Fresh Scab or Thick Blood. Ben Nye also makes a Gel Wound Kit that is available at PNTA’s Online Store and Seattle showroom. It has everything you need, including detailed instructions.

We’re doing “that Scottish play.” How do we make blood sacs that work?

Try using small balloons, condoms, heat-sealed sandwich bags or zipper-locking plastic bags to hold the blood. You can also use the latex covers we sell for microphone body packs. A ring rigged with milliner's wire can puncture the blood sac as the actor clutches the wound.

Do you have any tips for avoiding “makeup room” cold epidemics?

Yes! Buy kits and assign each actor his/her own kit. When actors do share makeup, they should always use clean applicators and be conscientious about hand-washing. This prevents the spread of bacteria.

We’re going to need a large amount of body makeup for some of the characters in our school production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. We have a “recipe” for body makeup. Do you have the ingredients we need to make our own?

We applaud the drive and determination of youth but caution you against creating your own makeup. Chemicals listed in “recipes” for home-made makeup can cause skin irritation. Ben Nye and Krylon have put their makeup products through years of testing to make sure they’re safe and effective.

That said, here’s a “recipe” for painting someone gold (like an Oscar award statuette), courtesy of our makeup specialist, Dante. You can adapt this to your needs by substituting different colors, such as copper or Plains Dust, for the gold powder. For example, for the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, you can use Silver Lumiere powder. You can mix tiny batches to test colors and color combinations until you find the right mix for each of your characters.


  • Aztec Gold Lumiere Powder
  • Liquiset
  • Final Seal
  • Brushes
  • Spray bottle
  • Small mixing container (for making gold “paint”)
  • A spoon, brush or toothpick for mixing “paint”

Pour some Liquiset into the mixing container (a bowl or Tupperware container will do). A little goes a long way and it’s better to make a few batches than just dumping everything in at once. Otherwise, it’s art and not an exact science. Start pouring some powder into the Liquiset and mix it as you add it. Keep pouring and mixing until you end up with something that looks like gold paint.

Fill a small spray bottle with Final Seal. Spray every part of the body that will have makeup applied to it. (This will help seal off the pores, keep the body from beginning to absorb the makeup and keep the paint from looking splotchy.) Please note that you want to be careful around the eyes. Final Seal is okay for use there, but it’s alcohol-based and might burn if you get it in the eyes.

Stir the “paint” again a little just to get a good mixture of liquid and particles. Then, paint away. It’s easiest if you paint in parts. For example, start with the face and move your way down. When starting on the face, do the forehead, then the cheeks, nose, etc. This will make it LOTS easier to make it look even. Plus, by the time you start getting tired, you’ll be at the lower part of the body and it’s less noticeable than the face!

Once the body is done, re-spray all the skin covered with makeup with Final Seal. This will help protect the makeup from wiping off and getting on clothing and props.

Try to do a small square on your hand a day or so before so that you have an idea of what you’re facing, what you're going to do and how long it will take. It’ll make the process a lot easier.

Another option is to use the MagiColor liquid paint, also made by Ben Nye. If you spray Final Seal over that, you are even able to scratch at it once everything has dried. It stands up to rubbing and scratching, but comes off with soap and water. So just don’t get it wet!

Paint Questions

Why use scenic paints instead of the stuff I can get at my neighborhood hardware store?

You can use household latex paint, but paint formulated for the stage works better for four reasons:

  • Scenic paint uses pure, vibrant pigments without chalky fillers, so you can mix colors without the result looking muddy.
  • Scenic paints have enough binder (glue) to allow for considerable thinning, making them economical and versatile.
  • Scenic paints dry to a very matte finish, which contributes to the illusion of depth and richness of color when lit.
  • Scenic paints are durable, made to withstand physical wear and tear and the wide fluctuations in temperature and humidity encountered during scenery's construction, set-up, performance, transport and storage. (House paints are designed for hard, static surfaces in very stable surroundings.)

Call the Counter Staff at (800) 622-7850 Ext 0 to order paint and accessories for your next production.

How do I know which kind of paint to use?

Good question—the four types of stage paints we carry do vary in application and use.

  • Vinyl acrylic paint (Off Broadway) is used right out of the can which makes it easy to use. It’s especially good if you're working with K-12 students. It will adhere to almost any surface, colors are intermixable and white-white is used to “white out” other colors.
  • Supersaturated Roscopaint is versatile. It can be diluted substantially (1:3-20 parts water) without losing its binder strength which makes it a good choice for watercolor effects, layering and translucent washes. Its flexible acrylic base makes it a good choice for roll drops and other soft goods. It also adheres to non-porous surfaces such as plastic and metal.
  • Sculptural coatings water-based paints are another versatile choice. They can be mixed 1:1 or 1:2 parts water for opaque results or 1:5-15 parts water for translucent washes. These paints dry to a brilliant matte finish and produce deep, pure, vibrant hues even on hard-to-paint surfaces.
  • Casein-type paints (Iddings Deep Color) require a certain adeptness to mix, but they offer vibrant colors and an absolute matte finish, making them the first choice of scenic artists for more than fifty years. Another advantage of casein paint is that you can re-wet it. It’s often helpful when painting drops to be able to reactivate the paint you laid down earlier. Casein paints come in a concentrated paste which must be diluted at least 1:1 with water. The base for these paints is made of soy protein which makes them vulnerable to bacterial attack once they're opened, but you can preserve them easily with liquid Lysol™. To maximize the shelf life of casein paint, scoop out only as much paint as is needed and reseal the can immediately (you may also cover the surface of the remaining paint with a thin layer of liquid Lysol™). Adding 2 ounces of liquid Lysol per gallon (1 tablespoon per quart) of mixed color will help retard the growth of bacteria.

How can I test colors before buying gallons and gallons of paint?

Rosco and Sculptural Arts both make test kits that include 1-ounce samples of the colors they make. Rosco offers a Scenic Paint Kit Sampler, Off-Broadway Kit, Iddings Deep Color Kit, Supersaturated Kit and Vivid FX Special Effects Kit. Sculptural Arts offers a Starter Kit for their Artist's Choice line.

Call the Counter Staff at (800) 622-7850 Ext 0 to order your test kits.

How can I get more information about using stage paints?

Be sure to read through all of our tips on painting for information about priming, sealing, flame-treating and more. For further information, check out our book collection in our online store or in our showroom at 2414 SW Andover Street in Seattle. The books give detailed instructions for basic and faux painting techniques, marbling and other effects.

We want to do faux wood paneling. What brushes do we use?

You’ll need a check roller and graining combs which are available separately or in a four-piece grain combing set. We like the Symphony faux finishing tools and we're very excited to offer such fine-quality tools to our customers.

Why can’t we use cheap brushes from the hardware store for painting sets?

You can, but you’ll be replacing them constantly and the bristles will end up in your paint and on your set pieces. The brushes and painting tools PNTA sells are high-quality and made to last through years of heavy use with proper care.