Glow Inc. Glow-in-the-dark Paint Test

As a bicycle builder, I'm always looking for ways to make something unique. Most recently, I am assembling a relatively vanilla daily cruiser, I wanted to give it a little flair, so I was inspired by the Night Bike Instructable by Adobi which uses glow-in-the-dark paint to literally glow in the dark.

I started by purchasing the Glow Inc. Water-Based Glow in the Dark Paint Sample Pack to test what I'd need to do and how well it would work over different surfaces. It comes with one sample each of Glow Inc.'s "White", "Ultra Green V10", "Ultra Blue", "Pure Blue", and "Purple". Glow Inc. claims "glow times" of 24+ hours for Ultra Green V10, 9 hours for Ultra Blue, 2 hours for White, 3 hours for Pure Blue, and 30 minutes for Purple.

I had some EMT conduit lying around so I put on a coat of gray primer and did some tests. On the first, I painted the glow colors in one coat over the gray primer. Since I heard the glow was sensitive to UV, I was curious if clear acrylic would affect charging, so one set was left open and the other covered in two coats of Krylon Clear Gloss Protective Spray Coating. On the second pipe, I painted over the primer with a stripe of cheap black gloss, a strip of clear purple (which didn't show much clearness over the primer), and a strip of bright yellow. On each of the colored stripes, I applied one coat of each color in the sample pack. On the last piece of pipe, I painted a portion with the gloss black then went over most of the plain primer and black with Rust-Oleum 214944 Reflective 10-Ounce Spray, Reflective to see if it would work better than plain. This time I only applied the "Ultra Green" in one, two, and four coats, and one coat on the plain primer for comparison.

I didn't note a specific need for how long to leave the paint exposed to light so I put them in hazy sun for an hour then brought them in. My initial reaction was that the glow was not particularly bright, although the full containers glowed considerably brighter than a glow-in-the-dark T-shirt I have. On the topmost pipe, darker under-colors indeed appear darker although purple-over-purple seems to work well (I expect that an undercoat of a matching color would work). In the middle pipe, the four-coat paint is brighter than the two coat which is brighter than one coat. Reflective spray yielded virtually no improvement. On the bottom pipe, the clear coating (on the right) did not affect the glow at all.

mild glow from glow paint

Glow Inc. water-based glow paint samples, freshly charged, photographed in a darkened room (ISO 1600, 1 second exposure, f4.2 on a Nikon Coolpix S3100).

I had done some earlier experiments where I left the paint for 10 minutes and found it completely discharged. Here is a similar result from this specific test after 30 minutes:

no glow from glow paint

Glow Inc. water-based glow paint samples, 30 minutes after charging, photographed in a darkened room (ISO 1600, 1 second exposure, f3.9 on a Nikon Coolpix S3100).

As you can see, the paint is not glowing at all. Needless to say, I'm extremely disappointed in Glow Inc.'s products and would not recommend them to anyone. I do not know how Adobi achieved jeir results in the Night Bike Instructable, but one commenter did ask why the hour-by-hour series of pictures were only taken minutes apart according to the EXIF data embedded in the images.

Alas, my bike project will need to have some other way to make it unique.

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9 Comments on “Glow Inc. Glow-in-the-dark Paint Test”

  1. I had posted on the GlowForum.com's message board and I was told the glow is only bright for a few minutes, then fades to an "after-glow" which lasts for hours.

    I let the containers of paint charge on a window sill all day then brought them in at night. The glow was bright at first but faded quickly. Indeed, after 5 hours, there was a visible glow although I wouldn't characterize the after-glow as "very visible".

    I can see how this would be very useful for marking things like camping equipment: things that will be used in an environment that is essentially pitch black. In absolute darkness, the glow would stand out.

  2. […] titled Glowing Tool Handles that describes how to make Plasti Dip glow-in-the-dark. The glow paint I reviewed earlier did indeed glow very dimly for hours (as explained by the owner of Kosmic Kreations, and it's […]

  3. Jason Sterling says:

    Glow Inc. also sells solvent based paint. Maybe you get better results with those. Check this page to find the right glow in the dark paint.

  4. Jeremy says:

    I got the solvent based glow in the dark paint from a different company and the glow holds for a few hours.

    • Given the astronomical prices, I'd like to see a similar analysis to what I did. I may buy the $26 1-ounce bottle of solvent-based paint to check myself, but I don't have my hopes up—chemicals are chemicals and I imagine there are a fairly small number of materials that glow that are also safe for use.

  5. Alan says:

    Thanks for a more scientific review. I find that the Internet is so full of marketing BS, shilled reviews and lame attempts at visual deception that it cannot be relied on for accurate information. A shame really, since the Internet was originally created by scientists to share accurate, in-depth experimental data for scientific peer review. What it needs is more people, like you, willing to take the time to do more rigorous testing. QUESTION: I'm building a wheelchair ramp and I'd like to add a combo reflective and glow in the dark boarder to clearly indicate the ramp edges for safety reasons. Is there anything available these days that would actually be working 2 or 3 hours after sundown?

    • Probably not. You'd be best off with some kind of electrical lighting—perhaps solar powered if a power source is an issue. But if the users of the ramp are willing to use headlamps (e.g. light sources close to their eyes, not like flashlights or area lighting) then reflective tape would work great. Well, quality retroreflective tape will work great; cheap shiny junk won't work much at all.

    • phil says:

      ièm quite late but someone else might read this. montana spray paint "MTN 94 POltergeist" would works for 3-4hours at least but its hard to find, mostly graffiti shop. i've also use rustoleum glow max x2 and i've gotten real good result, for example on a maglite torch.
      the maglite was first primed with a withe flat primer then several thin coat of the paint were applied.
      the glow last for almost a whole night when i as been left in the sun for a day

      yipikayaye

  6. C.O. says:

    Part of the problem I have with your review is that you did not follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper glow, nor does it seem that you even read Adobi's instructable. On the GlowInc website, it says that you need to apply a coating of at least 1/16th of an inch for the proper glow effect. Adobi's instructable also states multiple times that the glow paint needs to go on thick in order to work. As well, a charge of dim sunlight for one hour probably did not properly charge the particles. It is a shame because I found their products to be quite effective when used properly.


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