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In the early 1900s, Dr. Sabin Arnold von Sochocky formulated a radium-based paint that glowed in the dark. For many years the radio-luminescent paint was used on things like watch faces so they could be read in the dark. Unfortunately, it was highly hazardous, and von Sochocky’s premature death was likely caused by exposure to the material over his lifetime. Now, glow-in-the-dark ink in items like markers and paint pens contains phosphors like zinc sulfide and strontium aluminate, which slowly radiate the light that they have absorbed (hence the need to “charge” such materials with light). Today’s glowy art tools are safe and nontoxic, freely used by kids and adults alike. Find five of our favorite glow-in-the-dark markers and pens below, for when the light bulb of inspiration switches on.
Marvy Uchida Glow in the Dark Fabric Markers
The 3-millimeter bullet-point tips on these markers make it a breeze to write and draw with precision. These markers don’t skip as you draw on fabric or paper. To make the acid-free, water-based ink permanent, it must be set with heat—so it is possible to wash it out if it accidentally gets on clothes. While most glow-in-the-dark markers are available only in clear or highlighter yellow, these come in blue, green, orange, and yellow. They are sold individually.
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The Original Glowstars Glow-in-the-Dark Markers
One common issue with glow-in-the-dark pens and markers is uneven application through the tip. These tubes, which resemble glue sticks, avoid the issue entirely: Simply squeeze them to distribute paint evenly. The paint doesn’t dry out, and when the lights are turned out, the green glow is vividly bright. One package comes with two 10-milliliter pens that last a long time.
Craft Smart Glow-in-the-Dark Water-Based Paint Pen
The medium tip on Craft Smart’s paint pen creates a consistent line that glows brightly time after time. The pens are available in three lightfast, acid-free colors—green, blue, and yellow—and can be used on everything from fabric to wood to paper. Children and those sensitive to odor will be glad to know that the markers don’t have a strong paint smell.
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Sakura Glow-in-the-Dark Solid Marker
Sakura Solid Markers contain a unique solidified paint that doesn’t dry out like traditional paint markers do. Similar to oil sticks, these apply like a smooth crayon, so they can be used at any angle and can mark most surfaces, including metals, concrete, rubber, glass, wood, plastic, cloth, and canvas. In daylight the pigment appears light, but in the dark you can see a strong glow.
Chroma Mural Paint Marker, Aura
Chroma makes hefty paint markers intended for muralists. Sold in 4-ounce bottles with mohair dabber tips, they apply smoothly, and dry quickly. Chroma’s luminescent green Aura marker glows in the dark and is available individually; order the company’s Neon Glow set of 6 markers and you’ll get one Aura marker plus five more markers in neon (though not glow-in-the-dark) colors. Like many paint pens, this product has a somewhat short shelf life and is best for a single or short-term project.