What you can do with blacklights is limited
only by your imagination. They are relatively cheap, as are
reactive materials. This page gives you some pointers as starting
points. There are other examples among the decorations featured
on this site. See the "Fun with Blacklights" for starters.
Types of blacklights
NOTE: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN
BLACKLIGHT. I don't know why these are even sold
These can commonly be found at Walmart and other commercial retailers,
even at Halloween stores. Even though they are usually advertised
as "party lights," the implication in the color and design of the
is that they can be used to fluoresce whatever they shine on.
WON'T. DON'T BUY THEM!
- CFLs -
There are several configurations of these, but they're all about the
wattage. They have the advantage of working in conventional light
sockets and are small enough to hide as light sources to produce and
without being intrusive.
- T8 and T12 fluorescent bulbs -
These are the "tube" fluorescent lights we're all familiar with.
They are available in several sizes, and the fixtures for these are
and cheap to obtain. They are usually pretty large, but this
a lot of coverage.
- Bug zapper lights - I have
the bulbs (fluorescent U-shaped tubes, usually) from these, but they
apparently very powerful; I simply haven't looked into the power
to see if I could build on independent of the zapper.
- Theatrical bulbs - There
high-output bulbs available, but I have not explored these because of
expense per unit.
- Blacklight LEDs - These are
relatively new technology, at least as far as consumer electronics
I have seen small LED bulbs, flashlights, etc. They generally do
not put out a lot of light for the buck, although that will likely
over the next decade as the technology becomes more commonplace.
There are large blacklight banks sold for use in DJ and theatrical
but I have not looked into these are they were prohibitively expensive.
fluoresce under blacklights:
Anything that glows in the dark
- Blacklight-reactive paint
- Other fluorescent colors of paint
necessarily advertised as blacklight-reactive paint.
- Highlighters, particularly the
orange ones, though not always the blue ones
- Fluorescent paper and posterboard
- Fluorescent crayons
- Weedwhacker twine, interestingly
I haven't thought of a good application of the stuff yet; I just
to notice it glowing when I was testing out a blacklight bank I'd just
- Glow-in-the-dark stars or other
the Planetarium, for
- Glow-in-the-dark paint
- Glow-in-the-dark spiderwebs
Whites (sometimes; this is hard to
- Club soda - This works because of
of quinine in it, though it's not nearly enough to help your case of
- Liquid laundry detergent - Usually
although I have had clear varieties fluoresce as well.
Use the empirical approach:
- Sometimes white printer paper will
- White posterboard usually does.
- Some clothes (socks seem to all
but you can't always guess which shirts.
- Fake spiderwebs. In fact,
use to tack the stuff up usually won't show up, just the web, so you
have to work hard to hide the ticky tack or whatever if it will only be
under blacklights and not in regular light.
I picked up this small,
blacklight off eBay. They also sell these with pet urine cleaning
products as urine stain detectors. This is the perfect size to
out with you or to explore around the house and see what lights
I've found a lot of things that unexpectedly fluoresced.
incorporating blacklights into decorations
- Use a highlighter or paint to add
to a prop.
- Combine colors. For example,
food coloring to blue laundry detergent to produce green fluorescing
for your mad scientist lab or whatever.
- Glow-in-the-dark paint makes for
around the edges of anything two-dimensional (e.g., we applied some
all the letters and numbers on the Halloween
- Paintings or painted objects can
out if you view them with chromadepth 3D glasses (More about this
Combine blacklight effects
chromadepth 3D glasses. You can read more about it here,
but the short version is that things appear three-dimensional based on
their colors. Blue appears farthest in the background, while red
appears closest. As such, if you use a blue background and color
things in red, green, etc., the image will appear to jump out at you.
I have seen this effect used in
haunted houses. For example, painted walls, especially with
(e.g., paint splatter) in different colors*. The effect is even
pronounced when it is done on real objects. All of a sudden,
that are already three-dimensional will appear to have additional
It's a real head-trip because your brain can't process exactly what's
on visually. One example that really made an impression on me was
a skeleton that was painted fluorescent green with fluorescent red
stains across it. The red appeared to jump out in addition to the
blacklights making the colors really pop to begin with.
*In most cases these were fluorescent
under blacklights. However, any basic pallet of blue, green,
orange, and/or red will work. There are numerous examples of
and videos that will work. Run an image search and/or check
The glasses can be found in bulk on
or even at party supply stores in some cases (I found some at Party