No Quick-and-Easy Shortcuts

In the online marketing space, everybody loves the quick win. The shortcut. The "growth hack".

Glow in the Dark vs Fluorescent paint


Glow in the Dark & Fluorescent  – There’s a difference

Glow in the dark vs fluorescent
Glow vs Fluorescent

I hear people say, or ask, quite often, if the paint that I use in my Night Sky Murals or in the DIY stencil kits is fluorescent? I usually ask, “Do you mean Glow in the dark or Fluorescent?” Most of the time I will get an answer similar to this, “Ummm, aren’t they the same thing?”

Actually, they aren’t, so I thought [read more=”Read more” less=”Read less”]that a brief, not too detailed, explanation might be good here.

Glow in the Dark paint explained in a nutshell…

Glow in the dark paint products (Photo Luminescent Products) absorb light energy and stores it. Then when placed in a dark environment they will produce a glow called an afterglow.

Fluorescent properties in a nutshell…

The material that looks one way in normal light then disappears when a room goes dark (doesn’t glow). The fluorescent paint glows a new, bright color when a UV light (black light) is turned on. There are paints that are made with fluorescing properties that create fun pictures. In normal, white light, the picture looks one way, but turn on a black light and the picture takes on a new, different look. Black light posters were popular years ago and many rooms were adorned with these posters as well as black lights, not to mention secret stashes of drugs (not everyone had the drugs… just most).

Glow In The Dark Paint explained – Longer Version

Zinc Sulfide:  Zinc Sulfide is the type of pigment that has been used in many products for years. It is recognized by its quick activation rate (how fast it charges up), it’s bright glow and the quick rate at which the glow fades away. One popular product that used this type of pigment was the cheap, plastic, stars that adorned many ceilings for years. This pigment was great because it didn’t need any specific light source to get the glow nice and bright. It usually lasted, in the case of the plastic stars, just long enough to outlast little Johnny as he drifted off to sleep. While there are various colors made from this pigment, the most popular color for this pigment is an ugly green. And, not only did it glow green, but it was also an ugly green in the light.


– Most light sources will charge these pigments

– Rapid charge time – A few seconds is usually enough time

– Bright glow – Super bright once light source is removed

– Rapid fade rate – Fades quickly

– Short glow time – Usually totally gone in 20-30 minutes

– Rotten egg smell possible

Strontium Aluminate: Strontium Aluminate is a vastly superior phosphor to its predecessor, the previously mentioned copper-activated zinc sulfide. Glow paint made from Strontium Aluminate is about 10 times brighter and glows about 10 times longer than its Zinc cousin. But for a price. It is also about 10 times more expensive.  It is the pigment of choice of Night Sky Murals and used in their murals and stencil DIY kits. Many of today’s glow in the dark toys also use this type of glow pigment.

Characteristics of Long-glowing Strontium Aluminate paints

– Sunlight or good fluorescent light is needed to charge it, such as…

* White fluorescent (tubes or curly bulbs)

* Black lights – (tubes or curly bulbs – not party lights)

* CFL lights (these are the “curly” bulbs)

– Slower charge time 3-15 minutes

– Bright initial glow – Once the light source is removed, this pigment is supercharged, though usually not quite as bright as the Zinc pigments

– Quick initial fade  During the first 10-15 minutes the paint loses it’s initial “supercharged” glow

– Long glow time:  After the initial quick fade time the glow paint then gradually fades for up to 15 hours

– No odor

Are Glow Paints toxic?

Normal, every day, glow in the dark pigments are NOT radioactive, and are basically inert and non-toxic. However, they are part of the silicate family and unless you have them specially coated they will react with water.

Jeff, with Night Sky Murals, has mixed and painted with glow paints, made with the newer Strontium Aluminate for over 20 years. When he paints his murals, the paint gets all over him, in his hair, his eyes, mouth and all over his face and arms. He’d like to blame his balding head on the paint getting all over him, but it wouldn’t be true. He was thinning long before he started painting his murals. He has had no side effects from ingesting large quantities of this paint over the years. Results may vary… but you should be fine if you are around this paint.

Fluorescent paint –  Isn’t it the same as Glow in the Dark paint?


UV Reactive (Fluorescing) Products explained

UV reactive Products (things that fluoresce) will react to a range of Ultra Violet Light, and either will appear (become visible), as in Invisible Ink or will produce a Glow Effect, as seen in UV Glow Paint… when a UV blacklight is turned on.

If you have been to a night club or ever played with a black light, you would have seen UV Black Lights at work. The white clothing (shirts and shoelaces especially) on some individuals seemed to glow in the dark. Those items were reacting to the UV black lights.

Nature also produces both organic and inorganic things that naturally Fluoresce. Examples are, Rocks, and Minerals… and scorpions.

These organic and inorganic forms, naturally fluoresce, but their true beauty can not be seen in darkness, by the human eye unless we use an object like a UV Black Light.

Many laundry soaps, both liquid, and powder have optical brighteners added. These additives help to make our white clothing appear whiter, and our colors look brighter. They also cause our clothes to fluoresce under a black light.

The main differences between glow in the dark and UV Blacklight Products are…

  • UV Black Light Products need a UV black light source to fluoresce – (glow). Glow in the dark products use UV light to soak up energy, then will glow without the light.
  • UV Black Light colors may be mixed together to create new colors, while glow in the dark products should not be mixed because the resulting mixture will produce inferior glow properties.

Black Lights 

(Not to be confused with a “party light” which is simply a normal bulb with a colored coating on it. Party lights, or incandescent bulbs, are pretty useless in causing things to fluoresce, or causing all but the Zinc paints to charge up)

A blacklight produces UVB light.  Phosphors are what we actually see glowing under a black light.  When they are exposed to radiation (like UVB), phosphors emit visible light.  So what they do is they pick up the UV rays that we normally can’t see, and make them visible.  Which is why other things look dark while the phosphors glow in a dark room with a black light.

Check THIS ARTICLE out on Luminous paints. It’s an easy read.[/read]

Loved this? Spread the word

Born... a while ago. I grew up in the southern part of the San Joaquin Valley of California. We were two hours from Disneyland, two hours from the beach, two hours from the redwoods, and 1 1/2 hours from Dodger stadium. Life was great! It was at the beach and in the redwoods where my love of the night sky was born. Oh, and I love to smoke brisket... Texas-style!

Related posts

The Art of Stencil Painting a Night Sky Mural

Read More
Leave a Repl​​​​​y

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to our newsletter now!