How to Create Glowing Black Light Art

It’s in my nature to try and put a positive spin on any situation. So when I switched schools and found myself in a classroom with no natural light, I was determined to find an upside.

After learning about glowing art galleries at my state’s fall art conference, I knew I found my answer. I had discovered black light art, and I was obsessed.

Here’s how to get started with black light art in your room!

black light art

When I first started looking into black light art, I had a million questions.

  • Do I have to use glow in the dark paint?
  • What kind of special oil pastels do I use?
  • How much is this all going to cost?
  • How does it actually work?
  • Is it…”magic”?

Lean in for the secret…

All you need are black lights and neon artmaking tools. That’s it!

Draw with neon oil pastels or splatter paint with neon tempera paint and shine a black light onto your creation. Presto—instant magic! Your artwork glows beautifully and creates a unique artmaking experience.

Here are the most important steps to start your black light addiction.

black light art

1. Get your black lights—they are essential!

A large black light spotlight is a great way to start your adventure in creating glowing art with your students. Long black light tube lights or handheld black light flashlights will also do the trick!

The type and number of black lights needed will depend on how large of a space you plan to light. If you want to light an entire classroom or hallway, I recommend starting with at least two spotlights or four long tube lights. The more lights you have, the better, but you can always start small and add to your collection.

Flashlights are also excellent for quick, portable testing of art materials or student work as they create. Any of these black lights can be found by searching on your favorite online shopping site.

2. Get your neon artmaking tools.

You may already have some in your classroom. There are neon versions of many classic artmaking materials. Paint, yarn, oil pastels, crayons, air dry clay, colored pencils, pipe cleaners, beads, puffy paint, paper, and watercolors are all great materials to try. As long as the material is neon, it will glow vividly when placed under a black light. Neon materials contain phosphors, which react with the black light.

neon artmaking tools

3. Decide on your black light project.

Do you want to adapt an existing project or try something entirely new? Think of a classic project you already love to do with your artists. Now, picture that project created with neon art materials. Glowing sea turtles, radiant sunset landscapes, bright patterned flowers…any project can be adapted to use these fun materials in a new and exciting way. Experimenting with your lesson ideas will also give you, as an educator and artist, an excuse to play and invent!

4. Decide how to display your art.

Will you choose a single classroom lesson or a larger art show event? Keep it simple. Create a lesson and classroom sharing experience using neon tools and a few handheld black light flashlights. Or go big and create a memorable black light gallery during an art event at your school. No matter what display method you choose, everyone will be in awe.

My first year, I created a fully immersive black light art gallery. Parents, administration, and community members entered the art room, and their jaws dropped. The walls were covered with neon tree frogs, glowing flowers, butterflies, and bugs. Now the black light gallery has become one of the highlights of our art show.

Soon enough, your supply order list will have a whole new look! Everything must be neon. You’ll constantly be on the hunt for crazy neon clothes to add to your collection so you can glow in your gallery! You’ll see neon zip ties at the hardware store and think, “I can use those!” With an abundance of black light ideas to try, are you ready for the challenge?

Have you ever used black lights in your art room?

What project do you think would be the most fun to try with neon art materials?

Sarah Krajewski is an elementary art educator in Wisconsin. Her teaching philosophy is mirrored in her classroom mantra: "I am positive. I am creative. I am mindful. I am amazing. I am an artist.”

Related

  • Katherine C.

    I am so thankful for this article! I just wrapped up our big Fine Arts Night in March and planned to use the funding to get supplies for a Blacklight Art Show in 2020! Thank you so much for the info and I can’t wait to start the journey towards our own GLOW show!

  • Bob

    I am currently using highlighters with a 7th grade class to make Kristin Farr-inspired radial designs. I bought three strands of these kind of black lights, and they’re working well:
    https://www.amazon.com/DeepDream-16-4Ft-Flexible-Waterproof-Supply/dp/B01C2NQWIQ/ref=sr_1_17?keywords=black+light&qid=1555558558&s=gateway&sr=8-17

  • Laura Roth

    Awesome! I’m currently creating a bioluminescent underwater mural with my Mural Club kids and for the art show, it will be the displayed in my room, which will be the “blacklight room” and everyone who attends the art show will created their own mini blacklight artwork!!! Should be fun! Thanks for the tips!!!

  • Melinda Plamann

    My kids made paste paper with neon acrylic paint that worked really well under black light and is easy on the budget. I just mixed some acrylic paint with some paper maché art paste that I happened to have- my middle schoolers loved creating cool textures and “finger painting” with it. We then used the paper for collage- this works on black and white paper! Also, my custodian was willing to install black lights (next to the regular lights) in our lobby display case so I can easily switch between the two. Middle schoolers love black light!!

  • Pamela Roble

    Very good ideas for the younger students. Love the overall effect. I could not do this with middle school aged students. Too close to triggering drug references, etc. Sad, but that’s the culture of students that I teach.

  • Kristine Alder

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/01a8d8cd18c2bed8a6dc7a363dadc5c05387ce99bd3174a4b107390ffc2c7249.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/df08bafe963d172aacfc8dc0bd8961e0d782fa2656826f6ee07cdbbe7d90a3a6.jpg Here in our high school we have a Black Light Art Show the last week of October. We change out all of the fluorescent light tubes in the hallway and replace them with black lights. All of the art classes contribute, so it takes up a couple of weeks of curriculum time, but it does provide the opportunity to face the challenge of applying the same art principles to a different medium. In fact, any student in the school is welcome to enter a piece or two in the show My Art Club students sponsor the show, are in charge of helping hang and strike the show, as well as hosting the people’s choice voting that takes place during the show. It is a great event that everyone looks forward to each year.