Neon Fluorescent UV Blacklight Reactive Glow Paints! Fugitive AND RARE LIGHTFAST Watercolors Explored.

In any type of paint, such as watercolor, gouache or acrylic, fluorescent colors are almost always fugitive. They fade over time when exposed to sunlight and the lack of lightfastness is often severe enough that even paintings hung on a wall indoors can start to fade from the UV light of a nearby window.

These special effects paints are primarily in demand by artists using them for artwork to scan/print reproduce, personal work, party events with black lights (where the paints will appear to glow in the dark due to their reflective properties) etc. They are often labeled as "neon" but sometimes also Opera, Brilliant, Bright, Fluorescent or Vivid in their color names.

Some popular colors, like Opera Pink in watercolors, are made by combining a stable lightfast pigment (Magenta PR122) with a brightly colored dye (typically BV10 or BR1, a thin particle fluorescent dye suspended in the binder/coating the more substantial particle pigment). These colors are usually chemically man made to be abnormally vibrant to the eye, much more than natural mineral pigments.

While Neon colors look intensely bright (like a yellow highlighter marker) and usually contain fugitive dyes, there are some rare fluorescent (black light reflective) paints made with lightfast pigments.


BLUE APATITE by Daniel Smith 

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MANGANESE BLUE HUE by Daniel Smith. A unique PB15 variant.

Note that PB15, 15:3 and other Phthalo Blues made by other companies do NOT contain this fluorescent element. This chemical addition is only available through Daniel Smith/their pigment manufacturer. It is unclear if there is a dye (thin particle brightener) added to a Phthalo Blue base pigment (PB15). No separate ingredient indicators are offered by the company.

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Moderately lightfast / light resistant fluorescent pigments:


While fugitive in comparison to the most stable lightfast pigments, this color is less prone to fading when used full strength. The masstone tends to have minor fading only when exposed to 3 or more months of daily direct sunlight. When used diluted, pale washes of this color can fade within weeks. This is better light resistance than some dye based "neon" colors on the market. However, this color does not appear "neon" in normal day light or indoor light bulbs, rather only showing its fluorescent light reflecting glow when under UV black lights:

PO64 black light uv react watercolor paint glow fugitive schmincke saturn red rembrandt brilliant orange white nights


Fugitive dye based watercolors:

OPERA PINK (mixture, typically fluorescent dye coated PR122).

Most watercolor brands offer at least one fluorescent pink, often called OPERA PINK. White Nights calls theirs Neon Pink and another affordable entry-level pro-grade watercolor brand is ShinHan. On the more expensive end, the top pro-grade brands like Daniel Smith, Winsor and Newton and Schmincke all also offer a version.

Variety of colors - NEON watercolors:


Paul Rubens makes an affordable neon set that is bright both in normal light and is blindingly bright in UV black light. Great for kids rooms with art of glowing insects or bioluminescent sea life. These perform just like professional grade watercolors in flow, pigment load, re-wettability etc. Note that the Ultramarine Blue in this set does not glow, but does offer an interesting granulating color to mix the fluorescent yellow, orange, pink and green with. I recommend finding white or blue glowing paints either in Daniel Smith's option or handmade watercolors (etsy) which use the pigment powders below.


Pigment powders that are "neon" are often made from thin particulate dyes adhered to a salt carrier, sometimes called a "lake pigment". They can also be a coated secondary pigment such as PW6 Titanium White, which can be mixed with gum arabic or clear acrylic medium for paint making:


Invisible Ink - Ghost Ink by Noodler's:

As an alternative, this fountain pen ink goes on clear and can be used to add glow-effects over otherwise UV stable paintings. It's also a way to make invisible art on the wall that only comes to life when you turn on the UV black lights. It contains fluorescent dye suspended in water and preservatives, instead of being infused with pigments to make paints like the other options on this page. This smooth flowing liquid can be used with dip pens, fountain pens or a paint brush.

Looking for where to buy watercolors and other paint? I purchase my art supplies at Amazon, Blick or Jacksons. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you :)

Both Blick USA and Jacksons (Worldwide) carry a variety of paint manufacturers, such as Rembrandt, Daniel Smith, Schmincke, Sennelier, Mission Gold etc. Though there are several harder to find brands that are store specific - Blick carries Da Vinci and Jackson's has White Nights and ShinHan. 


If you'd like to see more, check out the pigment database where I compare each color to the same pigment from other brands. The lightfast testing and brand overview page takes an in-depth look at each brand, one at a time.