How to Make Glow-in-the-Dark Paint at Home

Mix luminous zinc sulfide powder with paint for DIY glow-in-the-dark paint.
Mix luminous zinc sulfide powder with paint for DIY glow-in-the-dark paint. (Image: wallix/iStock/Getty Images)

Glow-in-the-dark paint livens up any craft project and also teaches kids about fluorescence and phosphorescence. Using luminous zinc sulfide powder, you can mix up all different kinds of glow-in-the-dark paint, from water-based paint to fabric paint and from clear paint to colored paint. There are no harmful chemicals, and the paint will glow again and again.

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How Glow-in-the-Dark Paint Works

Luminous zinc sulfide powder, otherwise known as glow powder, is a safe, nontoxic powder that absorbs light. When the lights go out, the powder emits the light it absorbed over time so that it glows. Glow powder can be charged with regular white light or ultraviolet light. When a surface that has been coated with glow powder is lit with an ultraviolet or "black" light, it will appear to glow even brighter.

Glow powder can be mixed with various substances, including paint, to make the paint glow in the dark. You can order luminous zinc sulfide powder through various online retailers.

Water-Based Glow Paint

Water-based glow-in-the-dark paint may be the simplest option, depending on your project. Light-colored craft or latex paint works best to mix with the glow powder. Darker colors will glow, but not as brightly. For children's crafts, light-colored washable paint may be used.

Supplies Plastic tablecloth Medium bowl Water-based paint Luminous zinc sulfide powder * Wooden paint stirrer

Steps Cover work surface with plastic tablecloth. In medium bowl, mix 1 part luminous zinc sulfide powder to 5 parts paint, stirring with paint stirrer.
Adjust ratio of powder to paint for desired luminosity. More powder will increase the paint's glow but also will thicken the paint. Apply to desired surface. * Store unused paint in an airtight container. Stir before next use.

Fabric Glow Paint

If you'd like to make a fabric project that will glow in the dark, glow powder can also be used with fabric paint. Again, light-colored paint works best.

Supplies Plastic tablecloth Medium bowl Fabric paint Luminous zinc sulfide powder * Wooden paint stirrer

Steps Cover work surface with plastic tablecloth. In medium bowl, mix 1 part luminous zinc sulfide powder to 5 parts paint, stirring with paint stirrer.
Adjust ratio of powder to paint for desired luminosity. Do not make fabric paint too thick or it will not adhere well to fabric. Apply to fabric and let dry per instructions on fabric paint. * Store unused paint in an airtight container. Stir before next use.

Clear Glow-in-the-Dark Paint

If you'd like your project to glow but you don't want to add color to it, mix up some clear glow-in-the-dark paint instead, using the same instructions as above. Choose the type of clear medium to use based on your project.

Clear varnish works well on wood or metal projects. For glass, ceramics or decoupage projects, try mixing glow powder with decoupage varnish and sealer or finishing coats.

For fabric projects, glow powder can be mixed with a clear textile medium.

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