The trick to getting your display lighted in such a way it looks eerie is to use as less light as possible while generating as much shadows at the same time. Casting shadows is done with the primary lights, lighting your display. Placing your (flood) lights in a tree, directing the light to shine through the branches will generate lots of shadows on your props. Especially when it is somewhat windy: irregular moving shadows... Another option would be to place flood lights at the corners of your display on ground level. Placing them low will cause huge shadows to appear on your background, for example, your house.

Talking about backgrounds, how about placing some smaller lights behind a prop as a secondary light source? It will cast a glow behind the prop, and can give the edge a mysterious glow as an effect. For your favorite props, you can use mini spotlights to make them stand out or create accents within your display.

Just remember: don't over do it! Being a minimalist is usually better than going all out with lots of different colored lights. Use of only two or three different colors is recommended. Use one and the same color for all your primary light sources. A different color is then used for all your secondary lighting needs. perhaps a single light source in a third color for that extra special prop or needed effect.

General Color Moods:

RedDark, Hot, Evil
YellowSunny, Warm, Fall
GreenSick, Slimey, Icky
BlueSoft, Chilly, Ghostly
PurpleCool, Velvety, Sensual
Ultra Violet
(black light)
Glowing, Ghostly, Cold and Cool

If you have trouble finding flood lights of the right color, why not make them yourselfs? Just get a white flood light and some outdoor (!) glass paint in the color you want. The glass paint is the stuff used to paint stained glass windows etc. If needed, mix and match some colors to get the tint you want. Or, go completely fancy, and make patterns on the flood light to get your desired lighting effect. If trying to imitate moonlight with a single flood light, you need to use a mixture of blue, yellow and greenish tints.

If you have some of those pesky orange street lights in front of your house that are ruining the way you want to light your display, take a look at the following halloween lighting howto page by Skull and Bones instead of shooting out the light. It is also a great tutorial (with graphics) on how to light your halloween yard display.

This tutorial page and its information was compiled by combining various sources found on the Internet and Halloween mailing lists and forums and my own insights (if any). Especially thanks to the folks on the Halloween-L and HOWL2000 lists and the folks from Skull and Bones.