Uses And Limitations Of Fluorescent Glow Paints And Pigments

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Uses And Limitations Of Fluorescent Glow Paints And Pigments

You may have noticed that certain colors of glow paint or powder are only available as fluorescent colors. The reason for this is that the rare earth materials used to create glow pigment can only produce various shades of yellow, green, and blue in their natural form.

There are ways to create certain specialty colors such as white, red, and orange without the use of dyes, but they are very expensive to produce and often do not glow as brightly or for as long as the naturally occurring colors.

To get around these limitations and offer more glow colors to the public, fluorescent dye is often added to one of the naturally occurring colors above to get non naturally occurring colors like red, orange, pink, and purple. Given that these colors are created by “tinting” a different color, there are some special considerations and limitations to take into account when using these colors.

Limitations Of Effects Created By Dyeing

Because the glow color of fluorescent paints and powders is created by tinting the natural glow color with additional pigment, the thickness of the paint will play a role in the final color of the glow that is emitted. Most resin, rubber, plastic, etc. pieces are thick enough that this limitation is not an issue but it is worth considering/experimenting with for very thin pieces. 

Because paint is usually applied in thin coats, this leads to some interesting impacts on the final glow effect. When fluorescent glow paint is in its jar, it is a suspension of glow crystals and colored pigment in a clear medium. This means that in order for much of the emitted light to get to your eyes, it must first travel through the fluorescent dye which will tint it accordingly.

In comparison, a brush stroke is much thinner and the amount of colored pigment between your eyes and the glow crystals is significantly less. This causes the natural yellow-green or blue glow pigment to shine through with much less tint than it had in the jar. In practice, this means that certain fluorescent glow colors look very similar to each other when glowing (not to be confused with fluorescing where they will indeed look different). 

Fluorescent Glow Paint Test Images:

fluorescent glow paint testing

Paint Phosphorescing (No Blacklight):

fluorescent glow paint test at night

Paint Under Fluorescent Tube Blacklight:

fluorescent glow paint under blacklight

The best examples of colors that look similar when glowing are fluorescent yellow and fluorescent green as well as fluorescent red, pink, and orange. Because they all have the same yellow-green glow pigment as their base, they all appear pretty similar once they have been painted onto a surface. Yellow and green look almost identical to each other and the same is true of red, pink, and orange. If you look very closely you will see a small difference in all of the colors but you really have to be looking to spot the differences.

FYI, the black light bulb we used to take the above image is available on Amazon for about $20.  American DJ Black Light Fixture (Amazon Link)

A Note On Coverage

All of our glow paints are designed to go on nearly invisible in light coats. This allows for some pretty creative effects to be produced (flip flop paintings, daytime invisible paintings, murals, etc.) but is also done for functional reasons.

The glow crystals need to be able to absorb light to be able to emit it later. If we pigmented our paints with colors as heavily as a normal acrylic paint, the colored pigments would reflect or absorb most of the light before it got to the crystals and drastically reduce their ability to glow once the lights go out.

A nice side effect to having less colored pigment than normal is that our neutral paints are practically invisible for the first few coats and our fluorescent paints will only be noticeable over a very light background. If used over almost any colored background, the fluorescent paints will not be noticeable during the day until you start applying three or four coats.

This Octopus was done by mottling fluorescent green and fluorescent blue over white to get the background color. The paint is glowing (not fluorescing) in this picture.

glow in the dark fluorescent octopus painting

This lemon on a cocktail glass has two layers of fluorescent yellow glow paint over white. The white is only slightly tinted yellow by the paint during the day and you have to be looking hard to notice.

glowing lemon detail

Final Thoughts

To sum up, please do not expect fluorescent paint to glow the same once applied as it did in the jar. Some good uses for fluorescent paints are if you want vibrant fluorescent colors under a black light that will continue to glow once all the lights go out or if you want a colorful fabric paint that glows in the dark. You can also experiment with light coats of fluorescent colors over a normal painting that are invisible during the day, colorfully fluorescent under black light, and glow vibrantly in the dark.

Experimentation is key! Your results WILL be different depending on the number of coats applied, glow paint and background color, charging source, etc. The number of effects that is achievable with glow paints is mind boggling and why they are so much fun to play around with. Have fun and try something different with each project, you’ll be amazed and surprised with what you can create.

When you do create your uniquely awesome work of art, please share it with us at info@artnglow.com or tag us on Instagram @ArtNGlow!

If you've got any questions, comments, or tips for others, please leave them in the comments below.


11 comments

  • Brent

    Hi Mike, thanks for the question. In terms of brightness I would expect the paint to glow brighter on the lighter colored metals if only a few coats are applied. Since stainless steel and chrome are more reflective than copper for example, I would expect them to reflect more light back in the observer’s eyes.

    If you were to apply a thick dab/dot of paint I think the difference in brightness would be far less pronounced if not completely indistinguishable on the different colors of metal. This is because there is a much higher concentration of the glow pigment and the brightness of the glow is relying less on the reflective properties of the material it is painted onto.

    One thing I have no knowledge of is how to prep the metal before paint. I assume you wouldn’t be priming it with an opaque primer as that would negate the question about the different types of metals. In my experience the paint sticks pretty darn well to most surfaces but I imagine it would stick better to a brushed stainless steel than to a polished chrome or copper for example. It may also be necessary to prime the metal with a clear paint that is meant for metal and then to apply the glow paint on top of that.

    I hope some of that info was useful. Without knowing the details of your project I can only make some assumptions and hope for the best :) If you have any further questions please shoot us an email at info@artnglow.com and I’ll be happy to do my best to answer them!

    - Brent

  • MIKE

    Would the paint be as effective if applied to/painted on metals such as stainless steel, copper, chrome and/or bronze? Would you please address each of the 4 listed? Many thanks, Mike

  • Brent

    Hi Shane, yes I would think that would be fine as long as it is low heat like you mentioned.

  • Shane Loftus

    Can glow in the dark paints be used directly on a low heat bulb?

  • Kimberly

    Can you use these paints to create holograms and if so how is that achieved? Also the powder form can it be dispensed through light fixtures and stick to your skin?

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