How to Make & Use Glow in the Dark Paint

Using Quality Glow in the Dark Paint indoors.

So lets say you want to setup some glowing images for your room I will go through the stages here to make it easy to repeat this for yourself. Start by working out what your glow image will be? For the sake of this article I have taken a few snaps of my little dog and then drawn out a shadow image of him and yes the shadow was drawn from a different image.

Image of a pooch being setup to be sprayed with glow in the dark paint.

For the second image I just grabbed a small cutting from a bush in the yard which will look great in glow paint and drew it out to a black image. It won't matter what you decide to use for yourself as it is supposed to be something personal to you.

Image of a plant being setup as a template for a glow paint project.
Job Preparation

Ok so once I had my black images I simply printed them out on a4 card paper and used an exacto knife to cut them out - very time consuming if done neatly. Next I placed each cutout on it's own transparency and used some removable double sided tape to hold the cutouts in place while spraying. You can see in the image that these templates are now ready to be sprayed with glow paint. Also note how I have back masked the full outer area of the plant because I do not want any glow paint overspray anywhere on that transparency. The pooch transparency is supposed to be unmasked because that's where I want the glow paint to end up and not in the image.

Image of items being setup to be sprayed with glow in the dark paint.
Mixing your high powered glow in the dark paint.

Two A4 size images are not going to need much paint but I mixed 200mls to make sure I had enough for multiple coats. You don't need more than two coats if spraying over a white background but I want my images to be over a black background in A4 picture frames which will make each image visible day and night. Because of this the glow paint has to be much more intense as glow intensity will be greatly reduced on any black or dark surface. I also used Automotive Acrylic as my clear medium because it's fast drying and durable.

The mixture I used was 190mls of clear and 30 grams of 20um glow powder in sky blue and the clear was thinned to the correct ratio for spraying as shown on the can. Mix only enough glow paint to get the job done you are better off running out and re-mixing a fresh batch than having left over but I was pressed for time so mixing twice was not an option. The combined clear and powder gave me 200mls of high intensity glow in the dark paint.

Don't add your mixed glow paint to the spray gun until your job is fully ready to spray.

Image of templates ready to be painted with glow paint.
Spraying the High Powered Glow in the Dark Paint.

Ok this is where you need to really pay attention: Mix your glow liquid well and transfer it to the spray pot then quickly place the pot on the spray gun. From this point on you want to keep splashing the glow liquid around inside the pot, never let the liquid inside sit still or almost instant settling will occur and your spray gun will block.

Spray one or two passes over your job and then while you are waiting for a couple of minutes between coats keep moving your pot around in a fast circular motion to keep the liquid inside constantly agitated and this will ensure it stays fully mixed and ready for the next coat. If you have to let your gun sit between spray coats take it off the pot straight after you finish spraying and flush some thinners through it, then when you are ready re-mix the glow paint and start painting again while keeping the liquid in full motion.

Multiple thin passes will give you a much brighter and consistent glow than one heavy coat. This type of paint is not as easy to use as the basic glow paints available in spray cans or ready mixed but it will give you a far better result, it just depends on what you are trying to achieve with your project?
Image showing spraying of glow in the dark paint onto a template for a project.

The results - Both glow images had great effect overnight but the glowing plant cutting had much higher definition over the full night and this is simply because it has high definition as a day image as well so keep this in mind when setting up your own glow painted work. By following the steps in this how-to article you can make your own personalized glow paint images and enjoy them day and night. Also because the glow paint is sprayed on a transparency you can change the background colour by using white paper underneath and then you will have an awesome night image invisible by day!

Glow in the dark paint image of a plant cutting and small dog in sky blue glow paint.
Painting a night sky on a ceiling with glow paint.

When I first started my star ceiling art I worked with many types of glow paint in an attempt to create a highly realistic night sky but soon found that the density of glow particles needed to be far higher than any glow paint could supply. This is not to say you won't be able to achieve a great result for a short duration but the night sky won't have the longevity for more than a short time and will continue to fade in front of your eyes.

Also glow paint does not have the capacity to create high level stars as there is simply not enough pigment mass in the glow paint to begin with. So you might be reading this and thinking you have painted a moon or gas cloud on a ceiling and it keeps working for hours. When you paint an image larger than a spec or dot that image will contain thousands of small glow particles each of which will be working together and this combined mass gives the image the longevity.

A glow paint star on the other hand has no pigment mass either on the horizontal or vertical plane and as such has no ability to provide longevity or intensity of glow.

Painting tree branches, stumps, garden objects for outdoors.

Glow paint is also very poor for outdoor applications and there are no pigments on the market at the moment that I would recommend that may give you a good result unless the area of use is fully dark. I would suggest you buy a small amount of glow paint from a local supplier and test for yourself, do something small and see how it stands up to the amount of light for your application before wasting to much time, money and effort.

Driveway markers and signs.

These are the same as trying to do decorative items as above and will give little or no benefit in outdoor applications unless the area is fully dark. I will use my glow house numbers as an example. Take a look at this image of my glow number 5 you can see how this number uses my triple layer casting that makes up the high afterglow performance of the number. There is a highly loaded glow pigment layer a clear charging layer and then a bright white reflective layer bringing all of the glow intensity out of the mass.

Image illustrating the high afterglow performance of glowpatch triple layer casting.

Now to relate this to glow in the dark paint the glow pigment layer you see here is around 5mm thick or a little under a quarter inch and a single coat of glow paint is only 20 - 40 microns in thickness. It would take approximately 150 coats of glow paint to build to this level of pigment loading and even if you did something that crazy the paint would crack and craze and fall apart after a day or two once the solvents fully evaporated.

Now when you consider that this high afterglow house number will glow from 6 to 12 hours in an outdoor setting depending on the level of outdoor light what hope is there for a few microns of glow paint? Once again as I mentioned above just do your own testing with a small amount of glow paint and find out whether there is any potential for your application before wasting to much time and money.

Can you Air Brush Glow in the Dark Paint.
Well you can but unless you are doing some sort of art where you want to have finer detail than a spray gun can offer I would not recommend it. I used to air brush my star ceiling planets (Back when I had time to make them) because I could not achieve the same effect with a spray gun but it is very frustrating at times because the fine nozzle sizes and workings of the air brush clog very easy and you often spend more time cleaning the gun than doing the job. If you ever try it you will know what I mean.
Here is an image of a glowing butterfly I airbrushed many years ago.
Image of a glow painted butterfly.
If you want something for outdoors you are far better off with a much more powerful glow in the dark casting, you can see my article on glow casting Here.