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:

Color palette that shows what various fluorescent colors of glow in the dark paint look like in the daylight

Paint Phosphorescing (No Blacklight):

Color palette that shows what various fluorescent colors of glow in the dark paint look like at night or in the dark

Paint Under Fluorescent Tube Blacklight:

Color palette that shows what various fluorescent colors of glow in the dark paint look like under a 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.

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 in daylight and in the dark

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.

Glow in the dark, fluorescent acrylic painting of a lemon wedge in both daytime and at night

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 or tag us on Instagram @ArtNGlow!

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