Spotlight Filter

Spotlight Filter: All You Need To Know

Does the game animal always get spooked just as you turn your light on? Use a green light to stop that from happening. But a brand new spotlight might seem a bit over the board for occasional hunting sessions. And let me tell you, you don’t have to spend three digits for it; you can get the same effect from a handy little spotlight filter.

A spotlight filter is not only good at assisting in hunting. It can do much more than that. Besides helping in hunting, Red SOS in hazy environments, warm light for picnics, soft white for decoration lighting, green for fishing, and much more. Filters can also be added to stationary spotlights for different purposes.

This article will discuss different implications for spotlight filters and share how you can even make some basic filters yourself. It’s gonna be a neat little DIY if you are into that.

What is a spotlight filter?

A spotlight filter is an attachment to spotlights that changes or alters the color, range, temperature, or type of light. A spotlight filter comes in various sizes and shapes. The most common form of spotlight filter is an attachment to the light’s head, but it can also be a replacement for the default filter.

It is mainly used in outdoor activities such as fishing and hunting. But spotlight filters are also popular indoors. Filters are used with indoor lights such as pendant spotlights or spotlight fixtures to tune the light according to the need. For example, adjusting the color for the bedroom or kitchen or popping the colors for intricate details of an artwork. But the usage of spotlight filters goes much further.

How does a spotlight filter work?

Spotlight Color Filter

Photo: amazon

The mechanism behind a spotlight filter is pretty simple. When light passes a filter, it absorbs, reflects, or refracts the light of a particular wavelength, depending on the type of the filter. Some filters partially reduce the targetted wavelengths while others do it entirely.

Types of spotlight filter: By properties

The spotlight itself is a specialty tool specializing in brightness and range. And spotlight filter, an addon for a specialty tool, makes a niche tool. But for a niche tool, it has various types and implications. 

Although it is primarily used in scientific and technological research, that is not in the scope of our discussion today. Here, we will discuss the filters for the handheld spotlights.

Handheld spotlight filters can be categorized into two main types:

  1. Dichroic filters
  2. Temperature filters

Dichroic Filters:

The spotlight filters that filter most of the colors and let only a specific band of light out are called dichroic filters. Okay, big words aside, dichroic filters are color filters that turn white light into a colored light like a red lens for the spotlight.

Dichroic filters, or colored lenses, are available in all colors, but the two most popular ones are red lenses and green lenses. By far, they have the most significant implications.

Green spotlight filter:

Green spotlight filters are primarily used for hunting and fishing. Most night-dwelling animals have better night vision than humans, and most wild animals are also vigilant. So to get the upper hand over them, hunters use specialized equipment, such as green light. Shinning them with green light has the slightest chance to spook and scare the animals. Because most animals are more sensitive to blue and UV light rays than green or red. Thus, the green light appears brighter to our eyes than theirs.

A common form of green light is using green filters on regular white spotlights. An advantage of this method is that you won’t have to bring a separate light for hunting. Usually, green light is not the best for maneuvering. For locomotion, you will need white light. And if you slap a green filter on it, your traversing light will double as a shining light.

The disadvantage of this method is that the light that comes out through the green lens is not truly green. Even though the lens blocks the majority of the other colors, even the best lens won’t block all of them. So, occasionally, your prey will be spooked and start running. To minimize the risk of scaring them, you will want to use a true green light. But they are much pricier than a simple lens. So most people take the trade.

Red spotlight filter:

As the name implies, red spotlight filters only let out the red light from white light. Depending on the type and material, it may absorb the other light colors or disperse them, converting the output light into red light.

The implications of the red filter are actually quite similar to the green filter. Red spotlight filters are also most popular in hunting and fishing. Red light is on the opposite end of the light spectrum compared to blue and UV, making it even less spooky for the animal. Because, as I mentioned above, animals are less sensitive to the red side of the spectrum.

One downside of the red filter compared to the green filter is that it is more difficult to see in red light for humans too. Because tree foliage and shrubbery actually absorb the red light particles very efficiently. So there’s actually very little light that reflects off of them. Thus, the scenery appears darker to human eyes.

On the other hand, tree leaves do not absorb as much green light. Instead, they reflect a larger portion of green light compared to red, making the green light more advantageous. For more science on this topic, you can read this.

Red filters do have an advantage over green filters, though. Red lights preserve night vision much more effectively. What it means is, you will get your eyesight back much faster if you use a red filter than a green filter.

Which one is better?

In the end, whether you use a weaker but safer red filter or a brighter but riskier green filter, the choice is yours. But if you are not sure, why not try both and see which brings you the better result? But don’t use both at the same time. Otherwise, the only thing you will see is the darkness of the night. On the bright side, no animal will get spooked. 😉

Other color spotlight filters:

Besides red and green, Filters are available or can be crafted in every other color. However, they don’t generally have much functionality outside of research other than decoration. Although, They can be quite effective if used properly. For example, a couple of handheld spotlights, a few filters of different colors, and a few kids can undoubtedly make the next family tour ten times more COLORFUL.

Temperature filter for spotlight

Temperature filters are spotlight filters that adjust/correct the temperature of the light output. Depending on the filter being used, they make the light warmer or colder. No, I am not talking about heating up or cooling down the light. Instead, I am talking about the hue of the light after it goes through the filter.

Generally speaking, we perceive red-ish colors as hot and blue-ish colors as cold. That’s how our brains think. With that knowledge, we can use different shading of white light to imply different moods or emboss different environments.

There are two main types of temperature filters there’s the warm filter, which makes the light appear warmer and cozy, and there’s also the cold filter, which makes the light colder and energetic. You can use the lighting trick, and with the help of a proper filter, you can set the mood for a lovely dinner or a family meeting.

Warm Filter:

Warm temperature filters are light filters that shift the light output towards red, giving it a slight reddish hue. The filter achieves this by absorbing a small portion of the higher frequency lights. For those of us, who don’t speak science, these filters absorb a portion of green, blue, and purple lights from the white that the bulb generates. The output light still remains white but with a larger percentage of red than pure white.

As I mentioned earlier, our brain links red color with being warm. So, the light from these filters appears warm white to us without actually being warm. And our brain interprets this as being cozy. So in this light, our brain sort of relaxes, making us less alert and competitive.

This helps us have a chill and fun time. Warm white lights also have a soothing and calming effect, perfect for dinner parties, bedrooms, or the kitchen. 

Cold filters:

Like warm filters, cold filters make the light generated by a bulb appear colder. They achieve this by partially absorbing the lights on the lower frequency bands. So when the white light has a higher proportion of blue in it, it appears colder to us because our brain signifies a blue hue as cold.

Like warm light or red hue, cold light or blue hue also significantly affect us. It makes our brain more alert and active. Thus, the cold light can imply a serious or competitive mindset. This makes it perfect for offices and other workplaces.

You can use this to your advantage by strategically installing warm and cold filters. By using cold filters in your workspace, garage, or study, you can boost your efficiency. 

Other types of filters:

Besides the dichroic filters, or color filters and temperature filters, there are other types of filters, such as polarity filters, metal mesh filters, UV and IR filters (UltraViolet and InfraRed), monochromatic filters, etc. But they are not used in everyday life and are thus beyond the scope of our discussion here.

The only type of filter worth mentioning is lenses with power. Powered lenses can alter the focal point of a handheld spotlight, effectively increasing or decreasing its range. If you have a spotlight with incredible range, chances are, it doesn’t spread any light at all. But when used with a concave lens, it will spread a lot more light, making it a camping light. A bad one, but a useful one, saving you from buying a whole new light.

Similarly, if your spotlight has a large spread, it most likely has a lousy range. So to have a better range on it, you can use a convex lens filter.

Either of the two may or may not come in a colored variety.

Types of spotlight filter: By build

Spotlight filters are commonly made of acetate, acrylic, polycarbonate, or polyester. Glass is another popular base material for filters. However, it is not as common anymore due to being more prone to breaking than other options. But none of the mentioned materials actually do anything in terms of filtering. They merely act as a base for the actual filtering material.

For the effect/filtering to happen, the base material needs to be either duped with agents or an agent layer needs to be pasted on them. And agents vary a lot depending on the manufacturer, and I mean, A LOT. And often time, companies don’t disclose the structure/materials to prevent duplication. But those are quality and expensive filters.

The common and less expensive filters can be as simple as colored glass or colored transparent plastic. They are cheap, less durable, and relatively prone to scratching and breaking. But they are also very easily replaceable; hence they are more popular.

There are two main types of filters by the build. They are absorptive filters and dispersive filters.

Absorptive filters:

Absorptive filters absorb the unwanted portion of the light. Which color of light they will absorb and how much of it will they absorb depends on the color layer/pigment layer embossed on the base layer. Typically, the embossment layer ranges between 0.08mm to 0.18mm in thickness.

Absorptive filters are the most common type of spotlight filter and are usually built for commercial purposes. Although they have a relatively lower lifetime, they are easier to make, and thus the price tends to be lower.

The reason absorptive filters have a lower lifespan is actually the working fundaments of the filter. They keep absorbing a particular wavelength/color of light for as long as they are exposed to light. As a result, the pigmentation layer keeps degrading continuously.

Over time, they may fade in color resulting in the output light fading gradually. Alternatively, they may burn out and create spots/holes in the layer, leaking white light out in a circular/blob shape.

Two of the popular absorptive filters are

  1. Gel filters
  2. Film filters

Gel filter:

Gel filters, also known as colored gels, lighting gel, or simply gel, refer to a type of filter made with a thin layer of pigmented gel on a transparent base layer, typically made of glass, polycarbonate, or other types of plastic.

Of the two types mentioned above, gel filters are the most common. The reason is, they are cheaper to produce and are more rigid. But due to being exposed to air, they tend to degrade faster.

However, since the gel layer is embossed on the surface of the base layer, they are at greater risk of getting scratched or even peeling off after extensive usage.

Film filter:

As the name implies, film filters are thin films that work as filters. Rather than embossing the colored layer on top of the base layer, the colored pigments are doped into the base material when they are melted, I mean before even forming it into the filter shape. As a result, the pigments become an integral part of the filter.

This method protects the color pigments from contact with air, moisture, dirt, and dust. This type of filter is also scratch-proof due to the essential elements being safely hidden inside the plastic layer. 

It is easy to see why film filters do not lose quality as fast with all this in mind. But to keep the effect in control, these types of filters have to be much thinner than gel filters, making them prone to breaking, cracking, and even bending/folding.

Dispersive filter:

Dispersive filters reflect or scatter the unwanted color of light. Similar to the absorptive filter, the effectiveness of the dispersive filter also depends on the thickness of the pigment layer. And the thickness of this layer, as well as the material used, varies depending on the manufacturer.

Compared to Absorptive filters, dispersive filters tend to have a longer service life. However, since the pigments of this type of filter do not absorb any light particles themselves, they degrade much slower. The drop in quality in this type of filter is influenced by dust, dirt, water, moisture, and other natural elements.

On the contrary, the effect of dispersive filters increases the further away from the light source the target is. The reason is simple. The filter scatters the unwanted light colors, allowing the intended color to pass through straight ahead. But the scatteration does not happen immediately. The longer the distance is, the more time and space the unwanted light particles will have to move away from the straight path.

But it is not common practice to produce this type of spotlight filter for commercial purposes. Although, if you want to give it a shot, you can find some.

How to clean your spotlight filter

It is important to clean your filters periodically. It helps the filters be in pristine condition and increases their lifespan. However, it is more important to clean them properly rather than frequently. Too frequent cleaning can dagame the filter and increase its degradation rate.

We urge you to clear your spotlight filters only when the filter looks visibly dirty or masked with fingerprints. And when you do need to clean them, be sure to follow the following tips.

Remove the filter:

Remove the filter from your device first. You should not attempt to clean the filter while attached to the spotlight. Otherwise, water might seep into the light, potentially damaging the battery, bulb, or the light itself, rendering it useless.

Use cotton cloth:

Always use a cotton cloth or soft tissue paper to clean the filter. Harsh clothes have a higher chance of disturbing or potentially damaging the pigment coating.

Wet the cloth:

It is best to use soft alcohol to clean the filter as alcohol can rinse most grime off glass or plastic surfaces. And it doesn’t leave any watermark behind. But you can also use water, especially if you want to use detergent.

Dump the cloth or tissue into alcohol or water first and squeeze the excess out. You don’t want your cloth dripping wet.

Use soft detergent:

You may use soft detergent if the filter appears very dirty. But it is not recommended to use strong detergent.

Alternatively, you can use glass cleaner. Glass cleaners are excellent at cleaning filters and also don’t leave behind any watermarks. Besides, they are safe for both glass and plastic.

Let it air dry:

Wipe the filter a few times on both sides until it is dust and grime free. Then leave it in the open for a while and let it air dry. You do not want to wipe it dry. You should try to minimize contact on the surface and disturb it the least you can.

Re-install the filter:

Last but not least, when the filter is properly dry, feel free to re-install it on the light or store it away in cold and shade.

How to make a spotlight filter at home

The fundamentals of a spotlight filter are straightforward. Thus, it is very easy to make one at home with materials readily available at home. However, the final quality may or may not be compatible with a commercial one, but it will be a quality fun time, that’s for sure.

Like other DIY projects, the outcome will depend on your patience and experience in DIYing. Although, if you don’t like the result, you can trash it and start anew. It’s that simple. Besides, it’s cheap, fast, and repeatable.

We will be using readily available materials and won’t use any specialty tools. we will need-

  • A piece of transparent polybag
  • A scissor
  • A red (or green) marker pen
  • Non-stick glue or tape

Mark the polybag:

To begin with, take a single sheet of polybag and lay it flat on the ground. Next, take your spotlight’s default lens and put it on the polybag. Mark the outline with a pen or a marker.

If you cannot remove the lens from the spotlight, put the spotlight on the polybag instead with its head on the polybag to mark the outer diameter of the light’s head.

Color the marked piece:

Now take the permanent marker and carefully color one side of the marked sheet. It is a good practice to color in straight lines parallel to each other rather than coloring in a circle or doing it randomly. 

Test the color:

Now is an excellent time to test your color before proceeding further. To do this, put the colored spot in front of the light and turn it on. Hold the poly sheet tightly with the light’s head in one hand. Turn off the room’s light and see how the light has changed. If the color is good enough, then you are done.

Otherwise, color the other side of the sheet and repeat the test. Depending on the marker used and the spotlight in question, it still might not be enough. In that case, you will need to use double-ply or even triple-ply instead. Test and see what works best for you.

Cut the piece:

When you are satisfied with the color, draw a second circle encompassing the first one. Make sure that the two circles are at least ½ inch apart from each other. Now carefully cut the piece over the outer circle.

Attach the filter:

Now take the cut and colored piece, hold it on the face of the spotlight and attach it with non-stick glue or tape. It is important to use a non-stick binder so that it doesn’t leave behind any residue if you need to remove the filter in the future.

Alternatively, if you can remove the lens from your spotlight, it is a good idea to put the filter behind the default lens because this way, the lens will protect the filter from scratching and potentially tearing. Additionally, you won’t need any glue or tape.

There you go. Your very own spotlight filter is ready. If you don’t like the outcome, you can start from scratch and try again. 

Questions related to spotlight filter:

In this section, we answered some of the common questions about spotlight filters. I hope this helps you find your answer. But if not, feel free to reach out to us. We will be glad to be able to help you.

Is green light or red light better for hunting?

Generally, green light is better. Green light helps you see better when the light is on, and red light helps you get your vision faster after turning the light off. But both of the lights scare the animal less than white light does.

Can I use a spotlight filter with LED light?

Yes, you can use spotlight filters with LED spotlight. Filters will work with every type of light, including LED lights. Generally, bulb type does not matter. What matters is that the bulb is bright enough, and it produces white light.

What is a gel filter?

A gel filter is a type of spotlight filter where the filter material is gelatinous and painted on a thin layer of glass or plastic. It is used to filter and correct light and produce a specific light color from white light.

How do optical filters work?

The filter material of an optical filter produces a specific color of light output from white light by removing the unwanted light colors either by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering them. The color and intensity of the output light depend on the filter material and its thickness.

How to make spotlight filters at home?

An easy way to make a spotlight filter of a specific color is by coloring a piece of transparent and flat plastic or polybag with a permanent marker of that color and attaching it to the light’s head with temporary glue or tape.


All in all, spotlight filters are a niche tool of a specialty tool, the spotlight. So, the usage of a spotlight filter is kind of limited, but where they are used, they are almost necessary. The indoor usage of a spotlight filter is somewhat less significant because they are mainly used for decorative purposes.

But spotlight filters really shine in outdoor cases. Especially in hunting and fishing, the difference they make is undeniable. So, it is really worth it to invest in a spotlight filter or a few. Although, there is no hard and fast rule on using them and how effective they are. It is highly situational, and you will need to test and try.

That’s all for this article. I hope you found it helpful. If you have any more questions about it, be sure to reach out to us.

You can also read:

Spotlight vs Floodlight

Spotlight vs Flashlight

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