[Note: This information on painting techniques and tips comes straight from the source - the developer and manufacturer of these products. Our thanks to Daniel Clark of Glow Inc. for this contribution!]
The most popular use of our product is to paint stars and galaxies on ceilings. This type of mural is often called a starscape or star field.
As with any hobby, each person prefers a different method. Here are all the tricks we know.
These techniques and our products are used by many companies to provide this as a professional service to homeowners.
Paint and Color Choice
For the beginner, we suggest Ultra Green or Ultra Blue Glow in the Dark Paint.
These paints are bright during the first hour and continue to glow all night. If painted thin and consistent, they are mostly invisible during the day.
Ultra Green is the brightest glow in the dark paint sold anywhere and therefore makes a great impression. Ultra Blue is also very bright and has a color that is relatively close to real stars.
If cost is a concern, you can also use the Economy Green Glow in the Dark Paint. This is similar to Ultra Green Glow in the Dark Paint, but is bright for about fifteen minutes and has a total glow time of about two hours.
For more advanced projects, you can choose from our whole line of Glow in the Dark Paints. Some of the best nighttime ceilings will use literally every color we have to represent planets, meteors, aliens, and spaceships.
We suggest that you paint test paper to learn the techniques before working on your ceiling or walls. Use inexpensive standard paint to learn the techniques. Once you are confident, do a few tests with actual glow in the dark paint.
Most of these techniques are relatively easy to learn and can be done by almost anyone without any art experience.
"How much glow in the dark paint do I need?" is a common question and a hard subject to address. It varies depending on how thick the paint is applied and the density of stars or objects. In general, I would suggest a pint for an advanced star scene. You may also wish to enhance it with 1/2 Fl. Oz. bottles of contrasting colors.
The following method is the most popular way to create a glow in the dark star. Dip a brush into the glow in the dark paint. Wipe off the excess paint back into the container. Squash the paint brush straight down onto the surface that you intend to paint. This will cause the bristles to spread out and form the pattern of a star. Lift the brush straight back up. This leaves a very realistic looking star on the surface. Since the bristles will never move the same way, each star will also be unique. Different sized brushes create different sized stars.
Start with the same technique as above. Instead of lifting the paintbrush, drag it along the surface releasing pressure as you go. this will create a star head with a following trail.
If you want a dense pattern of little dots, use sponges to apply the paint. Craft or hardware stores sell a variety of sponges specifically designed for different paint effects. Look for a sponge that will create a density of dots that match your tastes.
Meteors, Moons and Planets
Typically, these items are relatively larger than the stars. Purchase a sponge that is in the shape of a circle, but has a flat bottom. You can also make one yourself with a kitchen sponge and a razor blade.
The best meteors use more than one color of glow in the dark paint. For multiple colors, apply the color with the highest glow brightness first. To create, dip the sponge in the glow in the dark paint and lightly stamp it onto the surface you intend to paint. Allow it to fully dry. Now dip the sponge into the second color and lightly stamp it over the first. This should create a textured, multicolored circle that surprisingly looks like a meteor, moon, or planet.
How much pressure to use with the sponges is a learned skill. A quality meteor should show equal amounts of both colors, without having any non-painted areas. I personally use a bit more pressure for the first color and then lighten up a bit for the second color.
For a meteor with a tail, first create an appropriately sized comet. Then follow the instructions for the meteor to cover the head of the comet.
For advanced users, you can give more of a 3-D round look by adding a modified sponge to the technique. The first color is applied using the standard round, flat bottomed sponge. For the second and succeeding colors, you need to make a specialty sponge. Choose a sponge similar to the round sponge above. Use a sharp razor blade to shave a mound out of the flat bottom. You are basically rounding the surface. Use this special brush for the second color. Now when you stamp with this brush, the center is denser than the outer edge which creates a 3-D rounded look. This technique is for advanced users and will take some time to master.
The best glow in the dark star field technique that I have ever seen was something I call the "changing meteor". It is a meteor that uses glow in the dark paints of different durations to create a comet that literally changes as you watch it. If you contrast it against a bright, long duration star field, it is truly an amazing effect.
First, paint a star ceiling with Ultra Blue Glow in the Dark Stars, Comets, and Galaxies. Find a one inch painters brush. Dip it in Economy Green Glow in the Dark Paint and create a large comet as described above. Then create a standard meteor using the standard and rounded sponge technique. The first color to use is Daytime Orange Glow in the Dark Paint with the flat sponge. For the rounded sponge, use Red Zinc Glow in the Dark Paint.
The Red Zinc, Economy Green, and Daytime Orange will loose their brightness rather quickly, but at different rates. You will see the comet continually change for about 15 minutes. After an hour, it is almost completely invisible. As stated earlier, it is important to contrast this against a very bright star field.
Some people prefer to use Orange Zinc Glow in the Dark Paint instead of the Daytime Orange Glow in the Dark paint because it is almost invisible during the day. I personally use them both in the following order: Economy Green, Daytime Orange, Orange Zinc, and then Red Zinc.
Aliens, Spaceships, Planets, and Space Junk
Large craft stores have an extensive selection of professional stencils. There are typically hundreds of stencils for a space theme alone. Stencils are a great way to add professional shapes to a scene.
Craft stores also offer a mini stencil roller with tray and stencil glue. Paint brushes do not work well with stencils because the bristles push the paint under the edges. You can use a sponge, but the roller makes it very easy.
Stencil glue is similar to the glue on the back of Post-It notes. It is tacky and will hold a stencil on your ceiling without damaging the surface when removed. This allows you to have better control because you now have a free hand. It also keeps the stencil from sliding.
Coat the back of the stencil with the stencil glue and allow it to dry. Apply several stencils to the ceiling in their position. Pour paint into the roller tray. Roll the brush into the paint and roll off excess. Then roll one layer over the stencil. I personally allow the paint to dry before removing the stencils. This also allows you to add additional layers if needed.
Some stencils are designed for layering with multiple colors of paint. In this case, I would suggest choosing glow in the dark paints from the same product lines. For example, each layer should use all Daytime Paints or all Ultra paints.
Technically correct constellations and night skies
A technically correct star pattern can be created using a toy planetarium projector. They are available for about $30 at any large toy store. Depending on the slide that you use, they project little white and colored dots on your ceiling to represent night skies during the different seasons. Choose a slide and simply paint a glow in the dark star of the appropriate size everywhere you see a dot. If there is a planet, use a stencil or the meteor technique to recreate it.
One ceiling, two different star fields
For an interesting effect, paint your ceiling a dark blue. Then paint on a star field using the above techniques using white or blue standard non-glow paint. Now, paint a different star field using the Glow in the Dark Paints. This gives you one scene when the lights are on and a totally different scene when the lights are off.
Protecting your work
A professional mural artist will always seal their work when they are done. This really preserves the artwork over the long term.
A popular question is "How long should it last with or without the sealing layer". Unfortunately, this depends on many variables such as humidity, surface type, and base paint. Therefore, at best we can give general guidelines. The short answer is: If you want to keep this for a decade or more, than take the time to seal it.
We personally use a product called Krylon Crystal Clear Spray Paint that is available at almost any store. It comes in matte and gloss and costs about $4 a can. It is solvent-based and does not contain UV-filters.
To apply, simply coat your finished job with a thin layer of this spray paint.
Painting over a star field
If for some reason you want to get rid of your star field, it can be easily painted over with standard indoor house paint. But, we think this is a horrid thought.
You can paint your star field onto any existing paint. For a daytime invisible effect, we suggest white or a near-white color. Assuming that your room is fairly dark at night, the color of the room will not make a difference to the look of the star field when the lights are off. Therefore, we suggest that you choose a color that is appealing when the lights are on.
Use common sense preparation techniques. The base paint should be clean, smooth and dry. Color is almost irrelevant.
After you get done showing your new star field to all of your friends, please send pictures via email or snail mail. We just love to see what people are doing with this hobby. We would also like to feature some work on the website.
A popular question is, "Can someone do this for a living?". Like any job or business, it takes a lot of work and dedication for this to succeed. It is not the make millions, luxury employment that is described other places on the web.
On the other hand, the techniques are simple and the start-up costs are relatively nominal. Most people do this in the evening as a hobby job. Since the actual surface area of the stars are small, a little paint goes a long way. Therefore most of the income is pure profit.
Typical charges range from one hundred dollars for a small constellation to several thousand for an advanced scene. On average the jobs are typically about $250 and take about two hours.
We do have several customers that make good money doing this for a living. We also know of one very high paid 12 year old that runs a successful star field business.
The best way to start is to paint a room in your home to display. Take plenty of pictures of each job. Offer your friends the service very inexpensively in exchange for the experience and as an additional display. You then can advertise your services in local, low-cost advertising. I would also suggest that you contact via phone every interior designer in the phone book. As you grow, you can create props and attend home shows.
For free advertising, send professional quality photos to us for the website.
We are going to offer a gallery of star fields by our clients with attached
contact info for the service.