Glow In The Dark Letterpress Ink

Hi All!

Anyone have a recommendation for a Glow-in-the-dark ink that can be used for letterpress…and won’t break the bank?

I know Gans makes an offset glow ink, but it’s something like $160 for a 1lb can. Which would be fine if it was for a client, but since it’s not (hello, inner 12-year-old!) I’m hoping to find a cheaper alternative.

Anyone tried making the stuff themselves with like, mixing white and glow powder or something? I can’t be the only thrifty chemist-wannabe out here ;)

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Screen printing suppliers sell phosphorescent powders that are mixed into inks. I bought 1lb of powder which activated about 1 gallon of plastisol t-shirt ink. Cheaper than $160, but I’m not sure if the chemistry would be compatible. Something to look into maybe…

I don’t know what you are printing, but you may want to just try some glow in the dark paint from the craft store. You may need to thicken it…

(oops! I see you already mentioned the Gans ink. Maybe this can be useful to someone else…)

Gans offers a glow in the dark offset ink that you can use. Bryan Baker has done some letterpress prints with it and it works very well. I don’t see it for sale on their site, but I did see this:

“Gans Glow in the Dark Ink !! Gans Ink has perfected a sheetfed offset ink that can be printed in-line for an entrancing Glow in the Dark effect! No longer is an expensive off-line coating process required, We’ve developed the ink that will make your printed work literally OUTSHINE the competition! With Gans Ink & Supply Co., printers never have to be afraid of the dark again!!”

Try calling them or emailing for more info.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

Don’t use fabric paints- they are incredibly thin and act like a glue.

I’m trying to do a project with glow-in-the-dark as well… I’m going to try out the powder… seems like the best bet (other than buying the ink from gans).

the website: sells lots of different colors of powder, I just placed an order, I’ll report back if it works!

Before using any materials which are relatively unknown to us, I think it would be good to check on their safety and health aspects. At least ask for a MSDS sheet. As well as reassuring ourselves that they are safe, we have a responsibility to our customers. I am not implying that modern glow-in-the-dark materials are unsafe; I’m just saying that it is good practice to learn about them.

It seems inconsistent, for example, to spend a lot of time trying to find and use the least toxic solvents and washes, and then start using other materials without checking on them.

New glow-in-the-dark materials are supposed to be quite a bit safer than they were in, say, the 60’s.

Although I haven’t asked for the MSDS, I have read on a few different sites that they are both non-toxic and non-radioactive and a usually water-based when not in powder form.

That being said, I tried the powder and it is more like a sand than a powder, and at least for me, didn’t work out very well.

Hi all,

Quick update: I tried using screen printing ink, only to discover it had a really gritty texture. Even worse, the stuff bonded to my rollers and I had a ridiculously hard time getting it off afterwards - I was so worried I’d damaged them for good that there’s no way I’m going to try that again, even though plan B was to mix the glow ink with mixing white and try a second run.

Plan C was to print with mixing white and immediately douse the paper in glow embossing powder, and then heat to set it. But I’m pretty sure that would negate any impression from the press.

Plan D is to bite the bullet and spend the $160. My reasoning is that it’s cheaper than replacing my rollers….

Plan C, if you use too much heat with embossing powder it will raise up then fall back down, try a few and see what happens. Dick G.

One of my students used the powder. It was rather grainy and tough to mix in with the ink but she eventually got it mixed and printed with it. It did glow in the dark. I won’t say it went on smoothly or was easy to print but she was happy with the results.

I dont mean to go off-topic but this is the closest thing to glitter ink discusions I can find,,,,can someone tell me how or where to buy glitter ink for letterpressing

I have never seen “glitter ink” but there are plenty of metallic inks out there. I know with screen printing, you usually want to print and then sprinkle glitter onto the print quickly, you could try this with letterpress too… but depending on what type of ink you are using, it might not stick incredibly well.

But beware, glitter in a printshop is a huge pain. You will absolutely never get rid of it. (Or it will take a very long time)

Ink pigments need to have a very small particle size to work well. “Glitter” would probably have way too big a particle size to print with. However, metallic and probably pearlescent pigments can be made with a small enough particle size.

Have you thought of printing on glitter paper instead of trying to print with glitter ink? If you didn’t want the whole surface to glitter, you may be able to print black or opaque white over some of it.

I’d like to note that modernman said “Screen printing suppliers sell phosphorescent powders that are mixed into inks”

This means you should buy the powder and mix them in your letterpress base ink, not to use the screenprinting inks on the rollers..they are made with solvents and are generated to stick to paper and plastic.


I actually used a phosphorescent powder and mixed it into letterpress ink, and it did not work out well. Granted, I was using Faust water-based, so maybe using a different ink will get you a better result, but mine ended up incredibly gritty.

I guess you could also try different powders. They also have “paint” that I was told would mix with my ink, so maybe someone could try that out…

or just bite the bullet and buy the Gans ink.

Ok - here is a crazy thing for you. A few years ago I printed something using Glow in the Dark pressure sensitive paper glued on black cover stock. I also used a invisible ink that I got from a local printer, it shows up under black light.

But while experimenting in preparation for this piece I found in a arts and crafts store a product called Glo Away a glow in the dark gel. It is made for kids, shirts and other things.

It comes in a small bottle and is thick enough to use as an ink. It is made by a company called Plaid Enterprises in Norcross GA.

If the project you are doing is not commercial work and just for the fun of printing you might want to try it, I think the bottle was a few dollars,

Good luck,
Steve Varvaro,
Southpaw Printers

thanks everyone for an educated insight, what i’m trying to do is actually a coral reef image but in only white glitter ink, so it looks like the actual sparkly rocks..I have seen this ink or material on holiday cards such as for snow man and snow landscape and it looks great,,

Hi Mayra
I may be a little late, but an old technique for achieving the ‘glitter’ affect was called “Bronzing” (here in Australia, at least). I was kindly given some of the bronzing powder along with some 1970’s inks, and it is literally an extremely fine metal powder (in many colours), which was dusted onto the printed ink with a cotton wool ball. The excess is blown away (or dusted off) and the areas that you apply it to are completely covered by the bronzing powder – as in, you can’t see the ink at all. Once set, it doesn’t come loose.
Its beautiful and a very effective technique – but not for high volume and it can make quite a mess. I don’t know if you can get this product anywhere these days or a similar. I’ll look at my cans and do a little slueth work, if you’re interested.
Good luck,