What is a Gobo? What types of Gobos are there?

custom gobo design and productionA gobo is a template that light shines through to project an image onto a surface. The term “gobo” is an acronym that stands for “GOes Before Optics.”

Gobos are used in specialty lights that are designed to shine through the gobo template and project the design from the template onto a surface. Gobos cannot be used with traditional household lighting or standard par can lighting because they don’t have the lenses to shape the light or focus the light after the light hits the template. (see: gobos for uplights)

Gobo lighting is also referred to as logo lighting, monogram lighting, name-in-lights, wedding lighting, or texture lighting.

Standard Gobo Sizes

Gobos come in a variety of sizes (diameters) based on the lights used to project them. All gobo projectors state the exact size gobo or range of gobo sizes they can accommodate.

Gobo lights were originally used for theater and TV to create visually interesting backdrops that could be changed quickly depending on the production. The most common gobo size used by these industries is a “B-Size” gobo.

Many of our corporate clients have gobos that were created for their organization or trade shows but don’t know what the size is. 9 times out of 10 they are “B-Size” (or less commonly “M-Size”) gobos that fit larger, heavier, hotter, sensitive, not DIY friendly theatrical lights used by professional lighting companies.

Our DIY friendly lights use “D-Size” and “E-Size” gobos that are the perfect fit for our compact, lightweight, bright, sharp, easy to setup LED gobo projectors.

Gobo sizes smaller than E-size (<37.5mm diameter) are only recommended for blocky, non-detailed designs like simple shapes and block letters. The small gobo size doesn’t have enough surface area to support intricate script fonts or detailed designs or images.


  • 86mm – B-Size (Source 4 Ellipsoidal, Altman Shakespeare) (A little larger than the diameter of a Coke can)
  • 66mm – M-Size (Source 4 Jr.)
  • 53mm – D-Size (LED Gobo Lighting)
  • 37.5mm – E-Size (LED Gobo Lighting)
  • 28.6mm – (Chauvet Zoom, American DJ Gobo Projector) (Slightly larger than a US Quarter)

Bottom Line on Gobo Sizes

  • Make sure the gobo size you have or are ordering fits the projector you’ll be using
  • Size does not equal quality, sharpness, or brightness, those are dependent on the light fixture
  • Smaller size gobos (<32mm diameter) physically can’t support high levels of detail in the resulting projection regardless of light used

Gobo Materials

Gobos are made with a variety of gobo materials. The most popular materials used are transparency (plastic), steel, or glass.


Transparency Gobo *Most Popular*

Transparency gobos or plastic gobo discs are used in our latest cutting edge technology LED gobo projector lights. Transparency gobo media allow for the same quality as our glass gobos, extremely quick turnaround times (same day), at the lowest price possible.

Using a special proprietary high temperature plastic film, images are printed directly onto a plastic disc using a special high resolution printer. This results in extremely clear images, clear lines, and long gobo life tested to over 200hrs+.

Most of our clients choose transparency  for their gobos and it’s a fantastic option that gives them the quality of glass at a 1/10th of the price.

  • Negatives are can’t be used in traditional halogen light fixtures
  • Pros are low cost, high image fidelity, fast turnaround

color-transparency-gobo-examplesColor Transparency Gobo *Most Popular for Corporate Clients*

We can create vivid 1 and 2 color transparency gobos. This allows for the traditional white with specialized colors for aspects of a logo design.

Color transparency is perfect for many of our corporate clients with logos with one or two colors in them. For a fraction of the price of color glass gobos we can offer rich, vibrant color in your logo projections. Maintain brand consistency and brand integrity with our color transparency gobos.

  • Negatives are limited life of the gobo. Can’t be used in traditional halogen fixtures.
  • Pros are low cost, high image quality

Steel Gobo

Steel gobo’s literally have a design cut into a piece of metal. Cut out portions of the steel gobo template allow light to project through. Steel gobos quickly limit the quality and integrity of many designs. Letters like (A,O,R,P,Q,B,4,6,8,9) need to include a connecting piece of metal or numerous pieces of connecting metal to form the letters correctly.

steel gobo example vs glass gobo exampleMost other companies provide these type of gobos because they are generally the cheapest available option for traditional halogen or HID lamp based fixtures. These companies generally do not have a designer on staff and use generic patterns or standard factory designs for their clients. This results in images that don’t hold the integrity of the original design.
Steel gobos are the most durable of all gobo templates and are most appropriate for theatrical applications and where the template will be used over and over again in extreme conditions.The graphic to the right shows the exact same design, one for glass and one in metal. Note how in the metal design the month and date is hard to read because of the metal required to hold the design in place.

  • Negatives are lack of detail and limitations of the design.
  • Pros are they are the most durable and generally are lower priced than glass gobos.

monogram wedding reception lighting mount ida farmGlass – Black and White

Glass gobos offer the ability to project complex and intricate designs extremely clearly. Glass gobos feature the design physically printed on a piece of high temperature glass using a high temperature silver mirror finish. This allows for clean, elegant designs and for a much more polished finished projection.

Glass gobo’s are the most expensive. There are only a few companies in the world who produce these types of gobos. Our glass gobo’s are created by an Italian company who are known for their exceptionally clear and durable high temperature glass gobo templates.

Glass gobos are appropriate for many corporate applications where the template will be used and re-used over and over again for multiple events. Glass gobos are more durable than transparency gobos.

Care must be taking in maintaining the mirror finish of these gobos and to avoid chipping the gobo template themselves. In order to achieve their high heat resistance and clarity the borrosilicate glass used tends to chip more than regular household glass.

  • Negatives are cost and durability.
  • Pros are high image fidelity and quality.

Glass – Grayscale

Grayscale glass gobos offer the ability to print varying shades of light transmission on the glass. This allows for extremely fine detail, moreso than black and white glass gobos and allows for complex images with shading. When used in conjunction with a color gel grayscale glass gobos allow a lot of flexibility with the final design.


Designs that feature multiple layers to the design on top of one another achieve a 3-D type of effect and are most always glass grayscale gobos. These types of gobos require an even more specialized printing technique and are slightly more expensive than glass black and white gobos.

  • Negatives are are cost and durability of glass.
  • Pros are high image quality and fidelity

Glass – Color

Depending on the detail of a design, there are a few options with color glass gobos. Generally there are 1-color, 2-color, 3-color, and full color options. These gobos feature the color printed directly onto the glass. Each color has to be printed separately using a special template for each color. This process makes color glass gobos the most expensive option.

2 color custom glass gobo example

Full color glass gobos are printed onto the glass all at once and allow for the projection of full color photos and very detailed images where color and color accuracy is most important.

  • Negatives are high cost ($300-$600 per template) and longer lead and production times.
  • Pros are good color accuracy, high fidelity

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