Introduction: UV (black Light) Painting for Everyone

Picture of UV (black Light) Painting for Everyone


Since I was a child I was fascinated by fluorescence, phosphorescence and bioluminescence. Seing the movie Avatar was the cherry on top that motivated me to make some of my own decorations.

Some time ago I discovered what UV painting is and decided to try it out. A few Artists I found also tried to merge daylight painting with UV painting. Meaning that by day you see a normal painting, and if the room goes dark, and uv light is on, the painting looks just like a scene from Avatar by night, glowing, shining, ... and suddenly I wanted to make this a hobby of my own.

In this instructable I will show you how to turn any painting, painted by you or not, into a UV painting.

Step 1: Preparation - About the Paints

Picture of Preparation - About the Paints

Let's cover two scenarios here:

1. You want to do your own painting

2. You don't know how to paint, but have a painting or a print which you would like to turn into a UV painting.

What you need in this step:

• painting - finished or in progress depending on the scenario above
• acrylic reflective paints - I used the Amsterdam Specialities (Reflex) from Royal Talens, very good paints with very good reflective quality
• brushes

Choosing the right paint is very important. You find a lot of online shops if you google for "uv paint" or "blacklight paint" but here is one for you to see the difference between the paints.

There are two main categories of paint: visible blacklight paint and invisible blacklight paint.

The first one is also visible in daylight and you usually use it in scenario 1 when mixed with the normal paints to create the painting.

The second one is invisible in daylight and visible with black light (UV) and therefore can be used on finished paintings without changing the apperance of the painting in daylight. This will be used in the second scenario. Invisible paints also come in colors (meaning which color they reflect under blacklight).

Step 2: Painting

Picture of Painting

The Amsterdam paints are very good for the first scenario, and the second but only if you are carefull how you apply them.

First you have to look at your painting (or what you know your painting will look like) and decide what colors you need. In a normal painting night scene you have a lot of dark and only some bright highlighted areas. Look at your painting and see which areas are highlighted most. Those are the areas which will have to glow under black light, and those are the colors you need.

See my first blacklight painting attached, daylight (first) and blacklight (second). The sun (becomes a moon by night) sets the highlights in the painting: half of the mountains, half of the trees, glowing water, and the grass. This is a very simplified painting where I decided to go with only two blacklight colors (second image): blue and green.

So on your painting you have only to put this colors (invisible or not) on the sides of the objects which are exposed to the source of the light in the painting (i.e. the sun/moon). Painting them on top of a bought painting print is very easy for non-painters. For painters you have to experiment a lot how your own paints mixed with blacklight paints react in both cases (daylight and blacklight). Be aware, some of your normal paints might already reflect blacklight.

For abstract paintings, only your imagination is the limit. Wall art, night sky in the room, stars on the wall are all the same. Just google blaghlight images and you find a lot of inspiration ...

Step 3: Light It Up

Picture of Light It Up

Now for the electronic part you need at least one blacklight source.

Since blacklight depending on the wavelength and exposure time can be very dangerous to the eyes and skin, I thought this solution would be more suitable:

First I bought some 12V blacklight LED strips (here) with the wavelength of 395nm. The visible light begins at 400nm so this is about the "safest" blacklight you can get, and still produces very good results. I cut the length of my picure and connected them at a 12V power source.

I also used amotion sensor to limit the times and time of exposure. Since the output of the motion sensor was less than 12V and the LEDs vere not bright enough any more, I put a TIP122 transistor between them to control the LEDs based on the motion sensors input. This specific motion sensor also is prepared for the use of aphotoresistor. If used, then the LED strip only lights up at night and when it senses motion.

Step 4: Putting It All Together

Picture of Putting It All Together

The next step is to build a support for the blacklight source. In my case for the LED strip I built a wooden support above the painting wich projects the light from about 13cm distance and 45 degrees angle.

Also for the motion sensor and photoresistor I built a little box also out off wood and glued it on top. I think the next time a cardboard box would be easier.

Then I connected all cables to the breadboard on the back, connected a white power cord to the bottom of my room, where the power adapter will be installed (for more projects on that wall, a 12V, 5A power supply will be enough).

And ... finished ...


LabRatMatt (author)2017-01-10

This is spectacular! I just finished making a UV flashlight-type thing, and I have a few UV LEDs left over. I'm certainly not an artist, but I might have to try this.

DimaV (author)2016-03-26

hey, awesome art, thanks a lot for posting a lot of useful informations, i can say you saved me. keep going,!
btw wanted to ask, which is the best brand of uv light paint i can find. (a lot of artist hides that, and many of them make them from uv powder and also not telling the secret of bright uv paints)
thanks a lottt. :)

fcfelix (author)DimaV2016-03-27

Thanks! I only have experience with the paint mentioned in the post. I can tell you it is a very good paint, nice colors, and nice uv effect. It doesn't loose its properties after 1 year. If it is the best I cannot tell you. Making it from powder I didn't try.

sofiak8 (author)2015-12-31

thanks so much for all these info, this will be my 1rst attempt to use uv paints :)

do u have a waterproof sealant to recommend ??

and do i need a white background ??

these are the paints i will be using

fcfelix (author)sofiak82016-01-01

Hi, glad to hear that. I don't know those paints. It all depends on how well they cover the base. Just try it. Then you can decide if you need a white background or a first layer painted with non uv paints. Acrylics is water resistant enough for what I need. Looking forward to see your painting. Post a reference. Best regards, Felix

jueljp (author)2014-11-20

sooooooo amazing, inspired me to do so, and enter into some dark light painting myself

fcfelix (author)jueljp2014-11-20

Glad to hear that, maybe you have also some ideas how we can improve the technique. I'll follow you. Let me know...

jueljp (author)fcfelix2015-01-05

i made one using visible dark paint, it turned out ok, but not a art work, i used it to cover some wiring on my desk, and it went well with my room's color scene

fcfelix (author)jueljp2015-01-14

Looks really good. Nice ideea to integrate the blacklight in the interior design of the room, not only the painting.

Slime Eel (author)2014-11-18

This is so cool. It looks awesome even without the glowing paint. I really have to try this on something.

fcfelix (author)Slime Eel2014-11-20

Cool, post it when it's finished

iam_maker_leo (author)2014-11-20

Wow.... It is a reeeeeeeeeeal ART.

Amazing what the moon on the picture is different when day and night.

tech savvy (author)2014-11-17

Very nice a true piece of art ,

it has a HD affect going on I must say you have a gift for painting :-)

Cambenora (author)2014-11-14

Way cool instructable!

Did you know blue LEDs can also work on flourescent colors? Something to think about.

Also, have you tried luminescent (i.e. glow in the dark) paint? Not only does it glow in the dark, but it is also stimulated by blue and UV light. It would add an extra dimension.

fcfelix (author)Cambenora2014-11-15

Have to try it with blue LEDs. Makes sense, since no LED emits just one wavelength but a range ...

Nice, just read more about it. I guess I always confused phosphorescent paint with radioluminescent paint. And thought phosphorescent paint is the radioactive one ... worth a try ...

Raitis (author)2014-11-12

Are there UV oil paints available? Couldn't find any doing a quick search and these are acrylic as I see.

fcfelix (author)Raitis2014-11-12

There are some here:

But I have no experience with oil paints. Also you could try some acrylic paint slow drying mediums, if that's your concern (usually is). Depends on what you want to do with them ...

Raitis (author)fcfelix2014-11-12

Thanks for the link!

Actually my aunt paints and I'm trying to get her at least to try these since the use of this effect could end up in some interesting stuff! Seems like the issue is more of a mixing rather than drying time one.

fcfelix (author)Raitis2014-11-12

Talk to your aunt, what she would like to try:

- acrylic paints evolved a lot lately. Good acrylic paints are thicker, good coverage, slow drying via retarders, very oil-like and can be then mixed with the blacklight paints

- or, after oil painting is ready, paint another one on top with invisible blacklight paints

- or, ask the best artist stores around you for good oil blacklight paints. maybe they know a source and order them

Raitis (author)fcfelix2014-11-15

It's just that she likes to paint with oil based paints and therefore have a fair share of those, yet no acrylics.

The invisible one is actually the one which I like, not sure about her. It seems as if it could alter the painting radically in dark.

Do you think it would be ok to paint with an acrylic invisible one over a dried oil painting? I know that oil paints can be safely put over most dried paints, yet some i.e. acetone based stuff will still ruin oil based coats even after drying.

fcfelix (author)Raitis2014-11-15

Well, this is kindof a new technique ( i mean "uncharted" not new in time). Sorry, I have no experience with oil paints at all. Started with acrylics since you can work easier with them (no toxic thinners, brushes wash with water). But what I can tell you is even with acrylics, combining different paints (manufacturers) doesn't always give the expected results. Some normal paints glow in uv, some normal paints mixed with uv neutralise the uv effect, etc. So the best would be to try first all effects on an oil painting draft on a piece of wood or something. I had to do that also to feel the effects on mixing my paints ...

eeVee (author)2014-11-12

such an amazing job. very rad indeed.

Treasure Tabby (author)2014-11-11

Beautiful! Wish I had this when I was painting a family of tigers for my bedroom. But there must be a better way (as in safer) of using that type of light.

fcfelix (author)Treasure Tabby2014-11-12

You still can do it with invisible paints, which don't change the appearance of the painting in daylight. But would try it on another painting first ... ;-)

nodcah (author)2014-11-12

This is really clever! It really does glow! =)

Pure Carbon (author)2014-11-12

Neat effect, I might have to try this.

fcfelix (author)2014-11-11

Thanks for all the nice comments.

Actually if you use 395nm blacklight led strips it might not be as bad as it sounds, according to this:

Because actually every ray of sun you are exposed to contains blacklight with a wavelength much more below 395nm.

Everyone should decide this on his own ... :-)

Antzy Carmasaic (author)2014-11-11

That looks like a scene from Avatar before and after nightfall. Nice work!

Iceberry (author)2014-11-11

Wow this is so pretty it must have taken awhile to paint

seamster (author)2014-11-11

This is so cool! Your second photo in the intro really shows off the potential here!

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