There should be good contrast between the signer's hands and face and his/her clothing, and between the signers hands, face and clothing, and the background.

Scenery, lights, costumes, make-up, props: all of these can be used to support the message and mood of a video, and to add visual interest and variety. However, this should never be allowed to interfere with the visibility of the signer (hands, face) and the sign language (orientation, use of space).

If a neutral background is needed, light colours are preferred over dark colours, and light blues and greys over more pronounced colours. For clothing, darker colours seem no objection - for light-skinned signers.

A well-lit signer, good contrast and an avoidance of visual clutter and glare are especially important for low-vision viewers.

Visual interest...

Costumes, make-up, lights, props, and scenery can be used to support the video, and to add visual interest and variety.

In the studio...

If a signer is to be superimposed on a mainstream film, the filming is best done in a studio against a ChromaKey background. If the signer is to be added to a mainstream production in a 'bubble' or 'box', the colour of the background should contrast well with the skin colour and clothing of the signer, and should be appropriate for the content of the main production. If users have a choice, they prefer a light blue or grey background.

On location...

If a signer will be in the main screen of a production, the background can be varied. However, the contrast with the signer (skin colour and clothing) should still be good. A signer can be filmed in a real location, or in the studio against a still picture or video of a location or other scenery, or against 'virtual scenery': simulated scenery that is added during the editing of the video.


Coloured lights can be used to support the atmosphere and mood of a video-production; changes in lighting can be used for narrative as well as for dramatic purposes. In all cases, lighting conditions should not interfere with the visibility of the signer. When signers are filmed on location, lighting conditions should not be too variable, and should allow for good visibility of the signer.

The signer should not be blinded by the lights: if lights are too strong, the signer's pupils will contract and/or the signer will squeeze his eyes shut. Both will result in a less attractive image for the viewer.

Reflections (from background, scenery, props, jewellery, glasses) and glare should be avoided.


The shadow of the signer against a background, may be distracting, and my reduce the visibility of the signer. Dark shadows in the face of the signer are not attractive for the viewers.


Facial expression is important in all sign languages. In many sign languages, the oral component (mouth movement) is an integral part of signs. Make-up, beards, moustaches or masks should not be allowed to interfere with the visibility of the signers face: the facial expression, and the oral component of signs.


Costumes and props should not hinder the signer, and face and hands of the signer should be clearly visible at all times.

Scenery and props...

Scenery should not distract from the signer or the visibility of the signer (shadows, blocking the view, etc.). In children's videos, props and costumes can be used to indicate various personalities. Props can also be used as a memory aid for name signs.

Low-vision viewers!

For low-vision viewers, it is important that:


Neutral backgrounds, clothing

Preferred colour combinations (Signing Books prototypes, Hamburg University)

Disliked colour combinations (Signing Books prototypes, Hamburg University)

Varied backgrounds, neutral clothing

On location. Kuurojen Video, FI Picture in the background. Alle Hens aan Dek, Vi-Taal, NL Virtual scenery. Onno het varkentje, Guyot, NL

Costumes, make-up

In many of the videos for children by Chase (UK), costumes and locations are used to support the setting (time, atmosphere) of a story

Little Red Hen, Chase Video, GB Adolf Hitler, Chase Video, GB Het Zakmes, OV-Amsterdam, NL

In the Dutch video Griezelen (horror stories for Deaf teenagers) lights, make-up and props are used to make the signers more scary - and the video visually more attractive and appropriate for the target group.

Griezelen, OV-Amsterdam (NL)

Poor contrast, low visibility

In some videos, the visibility of the signer is poor - especially for low vision viewers - because of interference with the background, or insufficient light.

Poor contrast. Sprookjes voor Dove Kinderen 2, FODOK, NL Poor contrast: too light. Signing Books prototype, City University Poor contrast: too dark. Hans im Glück, Signum, DE Poor contrast: too dark.

The whales'song, Chase Video, GB