What is a Gobo?

custom gobo design and production

Custom Glass Gobo Templates

A 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 gobo lights that are designed to shine through the gobo template and project the design from the template onto a surface.

Can I Use a Gobo On A Regular Light?

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.

Read more: Can I use a gobo with an uplight? 

Standard Gobo Sizes

Gobos come in a variety of sizes that are based on the lights used to project them. These can vary greatly between light units. Many cheap lights DJ and other rental companies have use very small gobo templates. This limits the detail that can be used in a design and the brightness of the image.

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

Standard gobo sizes good for all designs:

  • 86mm – B-Size (Source 4 Ellipsoidal, Altman Shakespeare)
  • 66mm – M-Size (Source 4 Jr.)
  • 54mm – D-Size (LED Gobo Lighting and some Martin units)
  • 37.5mm – E-Size (LED Gobo Lighting)

Less standard gobo sizes, detailed designs might not look good. Blocky, chunkier designs look better. 

  • 28.6mm – (Chauvet Zoom, American DJ Gobo Projector)
  • 24mm – (Many LED moving head spotlights)

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


Transparency Gobo Example

Gobo Materials

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 high temperature plastic film, images are printed directly onto a plastic disc using a high resolution printer. The gobo then undergoes a heat treatment process that creates extremely dark blacks ensuring the highest quality projection possible. Our proprietary production process offers the clearest gobos at the highest resolution.

Not All Transparency Gobos Created Equal

We have a proprietary process that ensures an image quality comparable to glass. The hardest part of transparency gobos is getting the parts of the image that block light dark enough. Our multi-step proprietary in house process ensures the highest quality projections with the industry’s fastest turnaround times.

The only negative with transparency gobos is that they can’t be used in all light fixtures. Only light fixtures that are designated as being able to use transparency gobos.

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

We have created the highest resolution full color transparency gobos. This allows for you to project your logo in full color.

This is especially great for many of our corporate clients with logos with 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. The cost alone of renting our all inclusive full color transparency gobo light rentals can be cheaper than an equivalent full color glass gobo by itself.

steel gobo example vs glass gobo example

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.

Most other companies provide these type of gobos because they are generally the cheapest available option for traditional halogen or HID lamp based gobo light 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.

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.

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.

monogram wedding reception lighting mount ida farmGlass – Black and White

Glass gobos offer the ability to project complex and intricate designs with ease. 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 more expensive and 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 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 they tend to chip more than regular household glass.


Grayscale Gobo Example

Glass – Grayscale

Grayscale glass gobos offer the ability to print varying shades of light transmission on the glass. This allows for even more detail 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.

2 color custom glass gobo example

Two Color Glass Gobo Example

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.

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.

What Type of Gobo Do I Need?

The right gobo type will allow your design to shine without limiting it. The right gobo type will also fit and work in the light that you will be projecting with. Making sure you have the right size and the right type will ensure you get the best results possible from your projection.

Ordering a Gobo

Let us help you get a gobo created for your special event. Our designers can help you find the right gobo template for your design matched to your light. Our fast turnaround times ensure that you’ll get your gobo on time for your event.

Contact us using the form on the right hand side of the page to begin your order today.

3 Responses to “What is a Gobo?”

  1. Sally George November 13, 2015 at 1:56 pm #

    I have a Epson Model H4298 or EX 5210
    Projections Lens
    F-number 1.58-1.72
    Focal Length 16.9mm -2-.28mm
    Zoom Ratio Digital 1.0-1.2
    Would the above projector work with your gobo? What size will I need? Thanks.

    • Brian King February 14, 2016 at 9:59 am #

      That’s a multimedia projector and won’t work with our gobo templates. Multimedia projectors take a digital signal from your computer/DVD/Blu-ray/cable box and project that image. A gobo projector uses a bright light to project through a gobo template and then that is the image that is projected. So a gobo projector only can be used with gobos and can’t be used with digital signals. If you want to use that projector I’d order a monogram design and in the comments indicate you want to use a multimedia projector and we can send you a digital file that can be used with your projector.

      For more info on using multimedia projectors vs gobo projectors heres an overview from our FAQs:
      Q: Can I use a multimedia projector?
      A: Multimedia projectors are a bad idea! Some DIY articles and sources suggest using a regular multimedia projector to project your design. Media projectors do not project a true “black” and a gray box will surround where you project your gobo design.

      Projectors generally are not bright enough to cut through the lighting in the room to adequately see the design. The angle the multimedia projector projects at will distort the overall look of the final monogram, this is known as keystone distortion. You need a ton of wires, projector cart, computer, enough distance between the projector and the area you are projecting on, not have people walk in front of it, cover the projector (but not all the way so that it can still ventilate all the heat it generates and not burn up) and it’s a huge pain to setup…seriously. Computers crash, projectors don’t recognize computers, computers need passwords, all kinds of things to turn a great idea into a nightmare.

      You get one shot at your event, get it right:) Our lights use custom high quality LED drivers to power our lights ensuring very bright and clear projections. The light itself is small and unassuming so it won’t distract from the rest of your event decor.


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