Introduction: 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

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

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

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

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 ...

Make it Glow!

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Make it Glow!

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