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Neon Vs. Fluorescent Vs. Phosphorescent Acrylic Paints: What Is The Difference?

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

One of the first acrylic paints that I bought to start were neon colours in the belief that I could create bright paintings. You can imagine your disappointment when, once dried, your neon paints lost their glow and became dark.

After a few failed attempts, I started researching and testing and this is what I learnt.


Difference between neon, fluorescent and phosphorescent acrylic paints


Strictly speaking, neon, fluorescent and phosphorescent colours are luminous pigment-based colours that are capable of absorbing light and can be made to glow either in daylight or in the dark with or without the use of UV light.


There is a difference between Neon, Fluorescent and Phosphorescent acrylic paints.

  • Neon Colours, which are also called (wrongly) “fluorescent”, are bright colours that can absorb the light but gives back a very soft glow

  • Fluorescent Colours are bright colours that can absorb a very high quantity of light and can glow in the dark when exposed to a UV-light.

  • Phosphorescent (glow-in-the-dark) colours can absorb both natural and artificial light and they start to glow as soon as they are taken to a dark area without being exposed to a UV-light.

In commerce there are many paints with this characteristics.


One thing I have noticed is that the neon and fluo colours look more "artificial" than normal acrylic paints.


I tried Liquitex fluorescent colours, Amsterdam Royal Talens (reflex yellow and reflex pink) and the neon colours by Action with different results.


Neon Colours by Action

The colours are not very pigmented, have an unpleasant smell and do not glow at all. When they dry, they become very dark, have no special effect like the fluorescent colours and when I touch the canvas I have a kind of rough feeling (see also my previous post about neon colours). For this reason, these products were unfortunately a bad buy.





Ring Pour with Neon Acrylics by Action


Fluorescent Acrylic Paints

The second effect colours I have tested are the higher quality fluorescent acrylic colours from Liquitex and Amsterdam Royal Talens.


Liquitex Fluorescent Colours

Liquitex Fluo Colors Set 6

The fluo colours from Liquitex come in 6 different variants:

  • Yellow

  • Orange

  • Red

  • Pink

  • Blue

  • Green

I bought the set with all 6 colours and used them for a small rainbow-pour.

After I poured them onto the canvas, I was very disappointed because the dried result lost its shine in daylight, the colours became very dark and also disappeared in some parts of the picture due to their transparency.

Furthermore, as you can see at the bottom left, you get a dull (muddy) colour when the colours mix together.

Example of Ring Pour with fluo colours

Amsterdam Royal Talens Reflex Colours (Fluorescent)

The second fluorescent alternative was the Reflex colours from Amsterdam Royal Talens, which are available in 4 different colours (yellow, orange, pink and green) and, unlike Liquitex, are sold as semi-transparent colours.

In this case, I also wanted to observe their behaviour when pouring and after pouring them through a flip cup, I noticed the following:

  • similar to Liquitex, they are transparent and become darker when dry.

  • due to the lack of opacity, they tend to blend with other colours or disappear if the consistency is similar to that of the other colours.


How can you improve the luminosity and consistency of neon and fluorescent colours?

One of the strategies that can be used to improve the opacity of these colours (without affecting their luminosity) is to mix them with a small amount of white.


There are two types of white acrylic colours on the market:

  • Titanium white (opaque)

  • Mixed white (transparent)

I have tested both and in both cases the fluo colours seem to retain their luminosity, at least on a normal white mixed media paper.

Test Amsterdam Royal Talens and Liquitex Fluo Colours with white

After it I did a test under UV-Light and, beside the Fluo Blue, all colours glow (even after being mixed with white).


Amsterdam Royal Talens and Liquitex Fluo under UV-Light

Of course, you can also mix both types with other acrylic paints to get brighter colours.



I did some experiments with the acrylic colours from Arteza (set of 60) together with your reflective yellow and reflective pink from Amsterdam and the neon colours from Action and had different results:

  • I had to use a lot of neon or fluorescent colours in the mixture to get a visible change in the normal colour.

  • When you mix neon or fluo colours you can get wonderful bright oranges, purples and greens.

  • If you mix a neon colour with a normal colour of the same family (e.g. neon yellow and primary yellow), there will be no significant change in the brightness of the normal colour.

  • Better results are achieved with transparent, semi-transparent or semi-opaque acrylic colours.

  • Opaque colours seem to outshine neon colours without any change.

  • The luminous effect of fluorescent colours is lost when mixed with normal acrylic colours.


Can neon and/or fluorescent colours be mixed together to create new fluorescent or neon colours?

Basically they can be mixed together to create new bright colours in the ranges of oranges, reds and pinks. Fluo green and fluo blue tend to create muddy colours when mixed together with orange, red and pink (applies only to green). Fluo Blue and Fluo Pink can create either a wonderful fluorecent violet (75% blue and 25% pink) or a fluoirescent red-violet (75% pink and 25% blue).


Phosphorescent / Glow in the Dark Mediums

Pebeo Phosphorescent Gel (Colourless)

Regarding phosphorescent colours I tried the colourless phosphorescent gel by Pebeo, available in tubes of 100ml, in 5 different colours (colourless, yellow, green, blue and turquoise) and at a price of about 11,00 €


Phosphorescent Gel (Colourless) Pebeo

Different methods to use it

Added pure to normal acrylic paints (opaque, semi-opaque and transparent).

After leaving the piece of paper drying I tested if the glow-in-the-dark effect worked and noticed that in all four alternatives the colourless phosphorescent gel didn’t work when mixed with paint.


Mixed with reflex (fluorescent) and neon acrylic paints

When added to fluorescent and neon acrylic paints the colours will glow-in-the dark.


Added on a dried painting

It took about a week to absorb the natural light to charge itself. After this time, and in the night at complete darkness, I could finally see the parts where I applied it lightening up.


Mixed alone with pouring medium (for the coloured variations)

At last the phosphorescent gel (the coloured variations) can be mixed alone with pouring medium to create a sort of coloured glow-in-the-dark effect.


Glow-in-the-Dark medium by Amsterdam Royal Talens

Another alternative to obtain a phosphorescent effect on our paintings (but difficult to be found) is the “Glow in the dark medium” by Amsterdam that can be layered once the paint is completely dried as final layer.


To summarize, what I experienced is that neon and fluorescent art supplies are wonderful and promising when wet and when used alone. If you use them together with other acrylics or mixed to one another, they can lose their paricular properties but can give more brightness to normal acrylic paints. The colourless gel, on the contrary, keeps what it promises and I believe I will try to use it more often in my creations.


Have you ever used this kind of paints and gel in your works? Which results did you get? Let me know in the comments below.


Thank you for reading. If you like the post, feel free to leave a like, a comment and don’t forget to follow my blog, my Instagram and share the content on your social media.


Have a creative and colourful day.


Laura

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