Introduction: How to Make Electroluminescent (EL) Paint!!

Picture of How to Make Electroluminescent (EL) Paint!!

I first came across EL Paint when researching how to make my own EL Panels. Lighting is something I really love and the applications for this type of lighting are endless!

This is my first instructable, it's also very long - so apologies for that.

****I must warn everyone of the following before you begin****

- Ensure you read ALL safety directions and the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for each chemical prior to using it,

- This project deals with high voltage AC, it's very easy to electrocute yourself if you do not seal the circuits prior to applying power!

- Ensure you use all PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) when handling the paints and chemicals, and

- Store all chemicals in a safe place, away from children.

Step 1: What You Need to Start!

Picture of What You Need to Start!

Before you begin, have these things handy:

1. Nitrile Gloves: They can be expensive, but are resistant to a fair amount of chemicals.

2. Particulate Mask: You need these!!! (or equivalent) - the powders in this project can be super fine ~10nm or smaller.

3. Eye protection

4. Emergency eye wash.

Please use this equipment!

This project is also VERY EXPENSIVE to get started. Fair warning ;)

This is a (non-exhaustive) list of basic equipment you will need:Prices are in $AUD

1. Heat Gun ~$60

2. Multimeter ~$10

3. Rotary Tool with stirring attachement (or something that can stir smal amounts of paint) - I used a rotary tool with milk frothing attachment ~$100

4. Paint Brushes x 5 smal to medium size. One for each type of additive plus spares ~$20

5. DC to AC Inverter - This is what drives your paint. These are cheap and come in many varieties and power outputs. I suggest using the battery power type while you get started - it's cheaper! ~$5

6. UV Blacklight - To see where you apply the phosphor layer ~$15

7. Glass jars (or equivalent) These are to store the paint once mixed with the additives. Any container with an airtight lid will work. ~$10

This is a list of the paint additives you will need - All ingredients can be substituted to suit your locations and suppliers, EXCEPT where it states "cannot be substituted" - this means that type of ingredient must be used.

1. Any clear coat polyurethane paint (water based is best). Must be a single stage/pack type of paint. Wood varnish is easiest to work with while starting out. ALL of your additives will be mixed with this paint. ~$50

2. Electroluminescent Phosphor - CANNOT BE SUBSTITUTED It costs ~$300/kg (this is true only for unecapsulated phoshpor, which is the cheapest). Do not confuse this with photoluminescent phosphor, that's glow-in-the dark powder and will not work.

3. Baruim Titanate (BaTiO3) CANNOT BE SUBSTITUTED - This is the Dielectric additive. It costs ~$80 for 250g.

4. a. Copper Paste/Paint - Cheapest and highly conductive, but messy and uneven to work with. Not transparent enought for the top layer, use for the base layer only. ~$70

b. PEDOT:PSS - Very expensive. Electrically conductive and transparent when applied properly. ~$700/kg

c. Silver Nano-Wires - Very expensive. Electrically conductive and transparent when applied properly. ~$990/kg

d. Double sided copper tape - Excellent for the base layer, cannot be used for the top layer. The glue can react porrly with the PEDOT:PSS though.

e. Any other conductive substrate for the base layer - such as aluminium sheeting (that can be sealed).

Step 2: Getting Started

Picture of Getting Started

** This instructable will only show you how to make your first EL Lamp on paper with a paint brush. Air Brushing/Spray painting and applying this to various substrates such as cars, textiles and wood are more complicated and will not be covered**

The 'functional' EL paint is made up from 5 seperate layers of paint with different additives dispersed within. The layers work together to produce light via electroluminescence. (This is a really basic description).

The layers are comprised of the following (from base to top coat):

1. Electrically conductive base layer

2. Dielectric layer

3. Phosphor Layer (electroluminescent)

4. Electrically conductive clear layer

5. Bus Bar

Using this basic construction, this system can be applied to anything from a car to your bedroom walls!

All-in-all, the EL paint comprises a number of layers to achieve luminescence. The following directions outline the components and manufacture of each layerfor a simple, single layer, single sided EL Paint application.

All steps from here are written using the following electrically conductive products:


Copper Paste

Copper Tape

Step 3: Base Conductive Layer

Picture of Base Conductive Layer

The base coat conductive layer is applied to the desired substrate - in this case, paper. I use the copper tape or paint to as my base layer.

1. Apply a thin, conformal coating of you electrically conductive paint or a layer of your copper tape, as shown in the picture, to the paper. *note: thickness should be no more than 1mm - (if the copper paint is not conformal, it will 'arc' electricity between the ridges in the paint and short circuit your lamp. The ridges also make it harder to insulate the base layer). If you use copper tape, make sure you smooth it out if needed.

2. This base layer should normally form the rough outline of your EL lit field (the area that lights up). You will need to extend a 'tail' out from the square you just painted - this is where the inverter will connect to the base layer.

The following is only applicable if you chose paint as your base layer - not copper tape.

3. Use your heat gun to gently dry the base layer and allow to cool.

** Ensure you don;t over heat the paint or it will boil and cracks will form. This breaks to continuity of the base layer, resulting in only partial illumination.**

4. Test the resistance of the base layer using your multimeter. You need to achieve a resitance of less than 1ohm over the entire area. The lamp may still work if the reistance is higher, however the light will not be even across the entire area. this is because as the voltage drops, so does the light.

Step 4: Apply the Insulator

Picture of Apply the Insulator

Now we need to insulate the base layer from the phosphor layer and top electrode.

BaTiO3 to Varnish ratio is 19.1g of BaTio3 : 80.9g of Varnish

1. Check the base layer is dry...(if you used the paint)

2. Apply a thin coat of the Dielectric paint over the base layer.

3. Ensure that the Dielectric paint extends out, over the edges of the base layer. This ensures it is fully insulated.

4. Do not paint over the 'tail', this needs to have the inverter connected to it.

5. Use your heat gun to gently dry this layer and allow to cool. ** Ensure you don't over heat the paint or cracks will form and it will short circuit the base layer to the phosphor and top electrode layers**

6. Connect your multimeter to the 'tail' and then to the insulated area of the lamp. You should not get a reading - because we insulated it ;)

Step 5: Apply the Phosphor!

Picture of Apply the Phosphor!

This is the fun part ;)

EL Phosphor to Varnish Ratio is 30g of Phosphor : 70g Varnish

1. Prior to applying the layer, you need to re-disperse the EL Phosphor into the varnish. It would have settled quite quickly to the bottom of your container. Use the rotary tool and the UV light to mix and check the dispersion as you go.

2. Check the Dielectric layer is dry....

3. Once suitable dispersed, brush the EL layer onto the Dielectric Layer.

4. Use the UV light to check you achieve an even dispersion across the lit field.

5. Use your heat gun to gently dry this layer and allow to cool. ** Ensure you don't over heat the paint or cracks will form and it will short circuit the base layer to the phosphor and top electrode layers**

Step 6: Apply the Top Electrode Layer

Picture of Apply the Top Electrode Layer

Now we apply the top electrode layer. I used the PEDOT:PSS for this as it's transparent and conductive.

1. Ensure the EL layer is dry...

2. Apply the top electrode. Ensure you don't paint over the exposed base electrode layer!! or you will short circuit the panel.

3. Wait until this layer is completely dry before moving onto the next part. I suggest not using the heat gun for PEDOT:PSS. Let it air dry.

Step 7: Apply the Bus Bar

Picture of Apply the Bus Bar

The bus bar ensures an even application of electricity around the whole of the lamp.

Make sure the bus bar is applied so that it touches the PEDOT:PSS - It will also help to place an additional layer of PEDOT:PSS over the bus bar.

Step 8: Light It Up!!

Picture of Light It Up!!

Let the paint dry completely for a while then apply power to your two exposed electrodes.

Step 9: Examples of What You Can Do Armed With the Basics.


HydrochromeI (author)2017-06-24


how do we apply the PEDOT:PSS,

can we mix it with 1k varnish and if yes how much quantity to 100ml of varnish

Alejandro Mata (author)2017-05-11

Where and how can I get de PEDOT:PSS and Electroluminescent Phosphor? :D

Piratekustoms (author)2017-04-11

Do you still check in on this page? Have some questions

Piratekustoms (author)2016-11-02

Any leads on where to buynthe El phosphor here in the US? Been looking on line and all i am finding is over seas suppliers with large amounts only.

TimmyGray (author)Piratekustoms2016-11-11

Unfortunately I don't know any US based suppliers. The China based suppliers may be able to give you a smaller amount if you ask? Failing that, I can sell smaller amounts as well.

Piratekustoms (author)TimmyGray2017-04-02

And any suggestions on the PEDOT:PSS? Or a little clearer idea on what should be bought? I looked online and seems to be a lot of choices and not clear which would be best. Also looked for ATO and that seems to be the same with many choices but not a clear idea of which to buy

Piratekustoms (author)TimmyGray2017-04-02

Wow, for some reason 5 months later i got a notification you replied. Would be interested in getting a smaller amount. Email me at if you still can sell smaller amounts.

Minhgioi (author)2016-10-02

Eleclumi phospho not in viet nam.

DennisG19 (author)2016-07-11

It's back! I was so close to trying this but then didn't have the guts to try it without the article to reference.

Amro77 (author)2015-11-29

Hi All

need help

Any one can help I am . Azam, my team and I are interested to the pigment ingredient for the EL Paint to use for our research project in the Master’s Degree in Nanotechnology

Thanks and best regards


whatsapp Mobile 00201003434648

Onyx Ibex (author)2015-09-10

Very sweet. I was just looking into this the other day. I made Ag nanoparticles as an additive. They are much cheaper to make/use and fairly easy to make if you know what you are doing. Conductivity looks promising. Haven't bought any phosphors yet though. Will update when I do (eventually)!

TimmyGray (author)Onyx Ibex2015-09-10

that sounds amazing. How did you do that?

Onyx Ibex (author)TimmyGray2015-09-11

Pretty much followed an article from the ACS Chemistry of Materials journal: Synthesis of Highly Monodisperse Citrate-Stabilized Silver Nanoparticles of up to 200 nm: Kinetic Control and Catalytic Properties. Basically I started with silver metal and heated it up in nitric acid and then injected it into a solution of citrate and tannic acid. TEM scope pics show my particles to be around 35nm. You should read the article if you can find access for the experimental details. I also don't know how much access you have to the right equipment but you don't need much in terms of chemware. Still helps being a chemist :)

Amro77 (author)Onyx Ibex2015-11-29

citrate nitrate method to produce nanomaterials

Amro77 (author)Onyx Ibex2015-11-29

very good but take care while using Nano Materials some of them has carcinogenic effect and it is very fluffy check safety procesures

DennisG19 (author)2015-11-12

I love this and absolutely have to give this a try for potentially painting my bikes and motorcycle. Am I missing where you describe what the mixing ratios are for the additives? How much PEDOT:PSS to polyurethane? Same question for the phosphor: what's the ratio of it to the polyurethane? Thanks and voted!

TimmyGray (author)DennisG192015-11-12

Hi Mate, sorry about that, I've updated the ratios now. This was after more testing.The PEDOT:PSS doesn't need mixing. Have a look at the following website it's pretty impressive what you can do to a bike!

DennisG19 (author)DennisG192015-11-12

Well, not voted after all, because the voting was over. Favorited though!

Yonatan24 (author)2015-10-21

That's awesome! You have my vote

TimmyGray made it! (author)2015-09-20

Here is a quick project I did this evening. Its done on black cardboard with another piece of cardboard as a stencil over the top.

Yonatan24 (author)TimmyGray2015-10-21

Wow! That looks so epic!!! It would also look really cool if it was yellow, like the radioactive symbol

AzzysDesignWorks (author)2015-09-17

Very cool! Have you thought about what it would take to spray these from soemthing like an airbrush to get more even results?

its a bit harder to get an airbrush working with all of the additives, but it can definitely be done. I use an airbrush as well as hvlp sprayers.

Rusznic (author)2015-09-16

Hey man, I have problem. I connected milk mixer to the dremel tool just like you did but it vibrates like crazy and splashes anything I try to mix.

Any fixes? I was looking around for mixing tip for this kind of tool but nothing of this size appears, only expensive scientific equipment. I might try to flatten straight drill bit.

TimmyGray (author)Rusznic2015-09-16

Hi mate, I had a similar problem as well. it can be caused by a number of things, such as the length of the milk mixers rod, how far into the chuck you've placed the rod, how fast you start it spinning. I'd suggest the following: 1. try to start at a slow speed then increase 2. make sure the rod is inserted all the way into the chuck 3. shorten the milk mixing rod a little by cutting it or 4. start the rotation at a slow speed then smooth the rod with your fingers to stabilise the spin. this worked well for me. good luck. hope to see photos of your lamp soon!

dclemmon (author)2015-09-16

There's an interesting diy method for metal plating plastics out there. With a copper plate base and this process, you could have a lot of fun with 3d prints (or any ABS/other plastic parts). Nice job!

keyarc (author)2015-09-14

Nice! How about doing a ceiling in a room with blue phosphor and white phosphor dots for stars? How long will this light last? (if it is a good job that can survive). Do the materials degenerate with use? What is the life expectancy of a well done application? What kind of power supply would be needed?

epitts2 (author)2015-09-13

Can this be made in any other colors? It'd be really awesome to make this happen in as many colors as possible.

deanstuder19 (author)2015-09-12

Thanks for this, A dream I have always had, was to put interactive illuminated flames on the side of a hot rod. And I found it so mind boggling that it would be best to wait until somebody came up with some help. This could make that come true. I want it to move the flames with regard to engine vacuum and vehicle speed so I still have a lot of work to do. But this was the impossible part I couldn't afford to experiment with.

mad hatter503 (author)2015-09-12

My '66 Dodge Charger used EL lighting for the dash, radio and shift indicator (A/Trany models. I had a 4 speed manual.) It gave a nice glow, easy on the eyes, but a tad troublesome. Water leaking from the windshield and getting on the inverter was the issue. Nice job!

SoLongSidekick (author)2015-09-10

How much square footage have you "painted" and how much of the phosphor is still left? Same question with the other super expensive materials.

TimmyGray (author)SoLongSidekick2015-09-10

That's a hard question. As for how much I've "painted"... Maybe 1sq/m in total. I only recently started using copper tape as the base layer as its the cheapest material. I could use the actual paint for the base layer, but why waste it for now??

SoLongSidekick (author)TimmyGray2015-09-10

How much phosphor do you have left?

TimmyGray (author)SoLongSidekick2015-09-11


ByronB2 (author)TimmyGray2015-09-11

Aluminum tape works well also

TimmyGray (author)ByronB22015-09-11

i didn't think of that. Cheers!

roberto.petresco.1 (author)2015-09-10

thank you for sharing this project. Before reading it I did not even know the EL is paintable :-)

daschick (author)2015-09-10

AWSOME! This is moving to the top of my list (after I get the 3d printer working again). Did you purchase directly from the vendors you listed for the non-substitutable items?

impied (author)2015-09-10

I voted for you! This is such an amazing project and it looks SO COOL!

TimmyGray (author)impied2015-09-10

Thanks mate!

bmiller91 (author)2015-09-10

I just about jumped out of my chair thinking of the possibilities - until I got to the price list ...

You have my vote for dedication and understatement of the day "This project is also VERY EXPENSIVE to get going" :-)

TimmyGray (author)bmiller912015-09-10

That's the only draw back, the price. Some suppliers are willing to offer small samples for much cheaper. for instance; the PEDOT:PSS is available in 50ml for ~$65USD. maybe that's an option.

peteratef321 (author)2015-09-09

Great project , and may Be make a Logo Or a name with this method i think it will be great well done

xiphiguy (author)2015-09-08

What is the AC voltage range for powering this?

TimmyGray (author)xiphiguy2015-09-08

Hi mate, that would be a long answer. This link will help you out:

Mossington (author)2015-09-08

how is it powered?

TimmyGray (author)Mossington2015-09-08

Hi mate, it's driven by an EL inverter. I've attached a link at point 5 above

ecsaul23 (author)2015-09-08

Great first 'ible! Welcome to authorhood!

TimmyGray (author)ecsaul232015-09-08

Thank you for the comment!

xiphiguy (author)2015-09-08

This looks like a great project, and I really appreciate the quality of your illustrations - thank you!

About This Instructable




Bio: I love making things, so naturally this website is amazing! Mainly I love lighting and nearly everything to do with lighting and making relaxing spaces,
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