How to Do Glow in the Dark Cups

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Glow-in-the-dark paint makes a plain glass more interesting.
Glow-in-the-dark paint makes a plain glass more interesting. (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Many people find glow-in-the-dark items interesting because they are somewhat unusual. Glow-in-the-dark cups can entertain guests at a party, and potentially have everyday uses, as well. For example, you could use glow-in-the-dark cups for a family movie night. You can make your own glow-in-the-dark cups with glow-in-the-dark craft paint. There are many brands and colors to choose from, as well as both spray and brush-on glow-in-the-dark paints. Depending upon your project, one type of paint may be simpler for you to use than another.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic cups
  • Brushes
  • Stencil
  • Masking tape
  • White base coat paint
  • Paper towels
  • Glow-in-the-dark paint
  • Spray sealer

Tape your stencil to a cup. You can paint the entire cup, but glow-in-the-dark paint can be expensive. In addition, you can freehand your design, but a stencil makes your work faster.

Paint the cup with your white base coat, painting only within the stencil design. Ensure that you are using a paint designed to stick to plastic for the best results. Spray paints as well as paints designed to be used with a brush are both suitable. This base coat will help the glowing paint to appear brighter. Wipe off excess paint with a paper towel to avoid ruining the stencil.

Paint the cup with a layer of glow-in-the-dark paint once the base coat is completely dry; again, only paint within the stencil and over the base coat. Touch the paint lightly to test; if it feels dry and not cool, it is dry enough to move on. Do not remove the stencil. Both brush-on and spray paints are suitable. Add another layer of glow-in-the-dark paint once the first layer has dried. You may need several coats for the best, brightest effect.

Remove the stencil carefully after your last coat, then wait for the paint to dry completely. Drying times will vary depending upon the brand, so check the directions on your paint.

Turn the cup upside down and spray the cup with a clear spray sealer.

Place the cup in a bright area before use. Glow-in-the-dark paint needs to "charge" before it can glow. The amount of time needed will vary depending upon the type of paint, color and type of light it is exposed to. For instance, glow-in-the-dark paint needs only a few minutes under sunlight to produce a glow, but much longer under fluorescent lighting. Check the instructions on your paint for a more specific time. One or two hours is plenty of time for most paints, and many will glow brightly with a much shorter exposure time.

Tips & Warnings

  • Protect your work surface with newspaper or a drop cloth, especially if you are using spray paint.
  • Make sure that your glow-in-the-dark paint and spray sealer are non-toxic and avoid painting the inside or rim of the cup.
  • Work in thin coats to avoid excessive paint buildup on the stencil. You should not need to remove the stencil between coats, but if you do need to because of drips or the stencil sticking to the cup, wipe off your stencil and replace it very carefully for the next coat. It is important that the design is not distorted from paint buildup and that the stencil does not stick to the cup.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area when using spray paint.

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