Finally: Reliable Sources for Small Gels

Gels are critical for balancing different light sources. And they are used for creating moods and color schemes with your flashes.

But the problem has been buying them in a way that made sense for people using small speedlights.

The standard, 20"x24" sheet is overkill for us, even at $6.95 a pop. What we want is smaller pieces, and more colors included at a reasonable price. The swatch books are perfect - and theoretically free, if you can find them. But that is not always an available option.

Now there are no fewer than three sources for just the kinds of gels we need. The first two are small sheets of our faves - various CTO's, CTB's, fluorescent green, etc., and the third is an easy way to get the sample pack fer sure. Each setup is a little different, so pick and choose from the smorgasboard of chromatic delight:

MPEX: Custom-made packs, with generous-sized sheets, in colors that we need.

UPDATE: MPEX is now throwing in free, full sample-sized gel packs with the $14.95 gel pack orders while supplies last. So you got dat going for you, which is nishe, as Carl Spackler would say. Set up by a Strobist reader, tailor-made packs just for us. He has several different versions to choose from.

Amazon: Now selling the small sample packs for $2.50. Not as good a deal, to be sure, but a good fallback when the freebies are out of stock.

UPDATE #2: There are other sources popping up the comments, including some EU sellers. Click here to bring up the post with the comments attached.

Thanks to those who picked up the ball on this one and ran with it - Moishe and Mason. And to Jim R. who hipped me to the Amazon samples pack.


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Blogger Craig Patchett said...

I've ordered from and would recommend him. I also had no problem getting a free pack from Lee Filters, but nothing so far from Rosco.

July 05, 2007 11:33 AM  
Anonymous Andy Brooks said...

hey David - also for those strobists in the UK the member of the flckr group called Cerevisa has put together some packs:

or see

Having recently recieved my order from him, I can say I was impressed with the professional way they were packaged and sorted - all for a mere £10.75

July 05, 2007 11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, there's a Strobist over here in the U.K. who's also doing gels. Seems good!
Tim J.

July 05, 2007 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FYI - it's really Adorama via Amazon (they've been selling the swatchbooks for $2.50 for a while)

July 05, 2007 11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you know what size the gels are from MPEX?

July 05, 2007 12:05 PM  
Blogger mason said...

Thanks for the link David!


July 05, 2007 12:28 PM  
Blogger Brian Faini said...

July 05, 2007 1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tried link it did not work
I got mine from a guy in the UK
jason is his name
I did and for £10 well worth it

Dave Webber

July 05, 2007 1:07 PM  
Blogger Brian Faini said...

more free samples like rosco used to do.

July 05, 2007 1:09 PM  
Anonymous Tim Solley said...

Great tips David! I've been wanting a new set of gels for my small flashes, and MPEX wins.

July 05, 2007 1:58 PM  
Blogger Domen said...

Great blog this one, finally some clustered sources for gels. Even "the auction site" does not know them, not even one tiny bit. What a shame.

July 05, 2007 2:47 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

one more:

July 05, 2007 3:58 PM  
Anonymous Mat said...

Adorama has it.. $2.50.
Shippment to Slovenia, EU? Only $80.50


July 05, 2007 4:08 PM  
Blogger DS said...

I bought some rosco sample packs from B&H Photo for $0.99+ shipping. At first they were out of stock, but I signed up for an e-mail alert as to when they would be back in stock...they e-mailed me a day later and I bought 5 sample packs.


July 05, 2007 5:31 PM  
Anonymous Marko said... should do even for Slovenia

July 05, 2007 5:33 PM  
Blogger mason said...

My international shipping rates are about $5.00 to just about anywhere in the world via first class USPS.

Mason Trullinger

July 05, 2007 6:12 PM  
Anonymous Waldo said...

anonymous: the mpex sheets are 5x8, enough to for 4-5 sets, as stated on their site:

"Contains one sheet of each below, 5x8inches. This set is enough for 4-5 sets, and plenty of material to cut templates to slide directly into your shoe mount flash."

BTW, I ordered from BH and Adorama. I may order from mpex once I actually start using gels as those sets may be a bit more flexible, don't need a huge sheet, but 5x8 might be nice to use for something other than just a flash.

July 05, 2007 6:52 PM  
Blogger Craig said...

i contacted rosco's australia via the web (it had a link to go to for sample packs). filled in my details.

a week later i got a rosco catalogue and letter stating:

"because of the thickness of the swatch books which contain over 200 pages we have experienced trouble sending them through the post..."


July 05, 2007 7:09 PM  
Blogger jazzology101 said...

periodically every tv station will change all the gels on their news or other sets... touring acts do the same thing. usually just the middle is faded or brittle... I have picked up tons of new diffusion and ct gels as scraps on film sets as well. A lot of this stuff goes into the trash, Never hurts to ask.

July 05, 2007 10:21 PM  
Anonymous Mat said...

I've been buying from Amazon for years and shipping to Slovenia is "cheap" (under $10 usually), but some stores are just nuts! $80 for shipping?!? Are they insane or what?

It's no problem getting the sample pack in EU, I'm just saying how some stores deal with foreign customers.

July 06, 2007 2:00 AM  
Blogger Yu-Hoon said...

I put in a request for the roscolux swatch a couple of weeks ago (free)

and received them in the mail this week!!

July 06, 2007 3:46 AM  
Blogger leoedin said...

I've received Rosco and Lee Filters swatchbooks from various retailers. I've found the best way to get them is not through roscos website, but by emailing a theatre store that sells gels normally. Often they'll send you out some swatchbooks free of charge. I have literally hundreds of gels of varying colours.

(I live in the UK)

July 06, 2007 7:52 AM  
Anonymous The Badmash said...

i just received an order from very prompt service, and the gels are neatly cut, packed and labelled.. i am very impressed and happy with my purchase.

July 06, 2007 11:37 AM  
Anonymous Ben Boyle said...

I picked up a Rosco Supergel swatch book from Flints Theatrical Chandlers here in the UK for GBP1.00 to cover postage.

July 07, 2007 5:23 AM  
Blogger Mike Libby said...

The gel sample books from Roscoe are just the right size to fit over my SB-600, but there isn't enough left over to put the velcro on.

So I usually 'laminate' the gel in two pieces of clear packing tape to give me a place to attach

July 07, 2007 6:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, what the guy above says. The roscolux pack uses a punch-hole to hold the swatchbook together, and that hole limits the size of the gel, which then makes it not quite big enough to fit your strobe, so heads up on that. I did something similiar to what the above poster did, but if I could do it again, I'd probably opt for a different book that didn't use the hole or was bigger.

July 09, 2007 3:02 PM  
Blogger Birkwood said...

Hi! For free samples in Denmark, you could try

July 12, 2007 3:15 AM  
Blogger Andre Rivas said...

I was looking all over LA for those old Rosco sample gel wallets. They used to give them to us film students for free, but I could not find them anywhere recently. Then my girlfriend came up with something ingenious. She brought me some colored plastic file folder tabs from her office (the things you use to color-code file folders). I usually just hand-hold one in front of my flash and dial my flash down to fill whatever "practical" illumination is in the scene. I don't mind if it's a little uneven, sometimes i purposely only gel half of the strobe.
It provides a very nice colored fill.
I am a newbie around here and just getting back into photography as a serious hobby.
I love the exchange of information. Thanks.

April 01, 2008 3:15 AM  
Anonymous Scotty said...

I have used Mason over at a few times now and it's great. When I had an order not show up I let him him know I was still waiting and he didn't hesitate in sending out another order. Needless to say I've placed another order.

October 31, 2008 10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

where can we get the swatch book or rosco gels in canada?

November 23, 2008 10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Lee Master Location Collection includes 36 gels ( about 11 doubles. Size is a bit bigger than necessary for a flash but not huge-- 12" x 12". 50 bucks from Adorama right now, free shipping. It's a good deal for those who don't need the 24" size but for whom 2x5 is too small.

December 10, 2008 1:31 AM  

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