The Best Glow in the Dark Paints for Arts and Crafts

The Best Glow in the Dark Paints for Arts and Crafts

Whether you’re dreaming up an artistic project, decorating for a party, or creating an epic costume, the best glow in the dark paints can help you achieve a photoluminescence effect.

BySavannah Sher| Updated Jul 1, 2021 7:19 PM and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.


Glow in the dark paints are perfect for an art project that you want to emit an otherworldly glow. However, there are glow in the dark paints specifically formulated for use on fabrics, hard surfaces, and the face and body, and it’s important to distinguish between them. Whether you want your paint to show up in pitch darkness or under UV lights, read on for our picks for the best glow in the dark paints. Let your imagination run wild with one of these fluorescent or phosphorescent products.


Types of Glow in the Dark Paint

Glow in the dark paints are typically available in two formulations: water-based and acrylic. Though the differences between the two formulas may be subtle, they can have a major impact on their performance. Read on to learn whether water-based or acrylic glow in the dark paint is ideal for the project you have in mind.

Also known as latex paints, water-based paints are made of natural ingredients. They dry more quickly, which can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on the project. Water-based paints tend to be less expensive and more readily available. They’re environmentally friendly in comparison with chemical-based paints and emit fewer fumes, so you won’t have to worry about them negatively affecting your children or pets. DIY projects using water-based paints are easy to clean up because you can simply use water to clean the brushes. Water-based paints don’t fare well when exposed to high humidity environments, however, so they’re ideal for indoor use.

Acrylic paints are chemical-based and are made up of colorful pigments suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion. They produce more fumes than water-based paints and are less eco-friendly. Acrylic paints tend to adhere better to surfaces than water-based paints, but clean up is more difficult because paint thinner is typically required for cleaning brushes, spills, or splattering that may occur. They are more appropriate for outdoor projects since they’re able to expand and contract with changing temperatures and humidity levels. Another reason they are better suited for outside work is that they’re fade-resistant, meaning UV rays won’t cause them to discolor over time.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Glow in the Dark Paints

Before you begin to shop for glow in the dark paint, weigh some key considerations. Though it would be easy to assume that all products in this category will perform similarly, there are several factors to think about. Read on to find out what to keep in mind when shopping for the best glow in the dark paint for your creative needs.

The Best Glow in the Dark Paints for Arts and Crafts

The type of glow in the dark paint you choose depends on the crafting project you have in mind. Some products are formulated for use on multiple types of surfaces, but to ensure the paint performs optimally, it is beneficial to choose a paint specially manufactured for your particular medium. Some paints are intended to be used on fabrics, while others are meant for hard surfaces. While you should never use crafting paints on your face or body, there are skin-friendly glow in the dark paints available for face painting and costumes.

Glow in the dark paints are charged by either the sun or artificial indoor lighting, and the strength of the glow can depend on the strength of the initial charge. Some products are optimized to be charged with UV flashlights, which can perform this task in seconds. The formula of the paint will dictate the type of glow achieved as the end result. Some glow in the dark paints provide a strong neon hue, while others emit a softer pastel glow. Looking at customer review photos is an ideal way to assess how well the paint actually performs once it is applied to the intended surface.

While some projects call for only a single shade, you might want to employ all the colors of the rainbow for other tasks. Glow in the dark paints are readily available in multicolor packs of eight or more different hues, allowing you to create multifaceted designs. Some of the best products, however, are available only in a single color, so you might need to choose whether to prioritize quality over shade variety. Blues and greens tend to have the biggest impact, while pinks, reds, and purples may deliver less striking results.

Depending on the project you have in mind, longevity is a factor in terms of which glow in the dark paint is right for your purposes. When using the paint for a costume that will be worn only once, longevity is not a major factor. But, when using glow in the dark paint to create a design on a child’s bedroom ceiling, however, look for a product that will last for years. High-quality glow in the dark paints intended for hard surfaces can endure a decade or more, while inexpensive craft paints may not perform quite as well. You should also consider how long the phosphorescent paint holds its charge, which varies depending on the product.

Our Top Picks

The following recommendations take into account all the considerations mentioned above, including glow strength, color variety, longevity, and whether the paint is water-based or acrylic. This list features a variety of some of the best glow in the dark paints to help you find the right product for your needs and budget.

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This set of eight acrylic glow in the dark paints offers a wide range of highly pigmented hues. These paints are phosphorescent, meaning they are activated by light and charged so they can glow. They also have a reflective effect when viewed under ultraviolet (UV) black lights, resulting in a neon appearance. You can use these glow in the dark paints on hard surfaces like wood, metal, plastic, and even canvas, making them ideal for use on walls or in art projects. The manufacturer recommends using them with a primer in order to achieve the desired effect. These paints are not, however, safe for use on skin or clothing.

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It’s easy to confuse traditional phosphorescent paints with black light paints, but they serve two distinct functions. This set of paints will not glow in the dark, but it will give off a neon effect under UV black lights. Featuring eight bright colors, this paint set is intended to be used on walls or in art projects. Unlike glow in the dark paints, these paints do not need to be charged, nor will they fade.

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This highly pigmented, water-based glow in the dark paint is nontoxic and if charged correctly, the glow effect can last as long as 24 hours. The manufacturer recommends using a UV flashlight to charge the product, though direct sunlight is also effective. You can apply this glow in the dark paint to hard surfaces like wood, glass, and metal, and it also works well on fabric. Though the manufacturer has approved this product for outdoor use, it recommends utilizing a varnish to preserve it and improve its longevity.

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The six shades in this set are great for adding intricate designs to clothing and costumes. They’re specially formulated to adhere to denim, canvas, and cotton. They also work on hard surfaces. The squeezable design of the bottles makes precise application easy. Brushes or additional tools aren’t required. After you finish your project, the material has to lie flat to dry for four hours. The most versatile fabric paints are machine washable, and you can wash fabrics you’ve decorated with this product as soon as 72 hours after application.

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It’s important to use only specifically formulated paints for face and body painting, and this set is formulated for safe application on skin. With eight colors in all, this paint doesn’t just glow in the dark. It also reacts to UV black light. Best of all, application is easy, as you can use brushes, sponges, or just your fingers. The paint washes off easily and does not stain clothing or other fabrics with which they may come in contact.

FAQs About Glow in the Dark Paint

With all the available choices, finding the best glow in the dark paint for your needs can be a bit overwhelming, so you might still have some questions. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about glow in the dark paint.

Certain formulas of glow in the dark paint can be harmful to your skin, so it’s important to use only specifically formulated products on your face and body.

Glow in the dark paints are largely created by mixing luminescent phosphors with paint. Those luminescent phosphors are then charged and activated by light from either the sun or artificial lighting sources.

Depending on the product, a single charge can make glow in the dark paint last for hours. While most glow in the dark paint does fade over time, a high-quality product can last for a decade or more.

Glow in the dark paint needs to be exposed to light for a certain amount of time before it will work. UV light is ideal, but indoor lighting can achieve a similar effect.

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