Glow in the dark parties, using black light UV lighting and neon or white clothes and decor, are all the rage with teens, pre-teens (or tweens) and younger kids as well as adults. My daughter had a glow in the dark dance party for her 12th birthday and we had such fun with the black lights we’ve added to our Simply Sparkles packages. We’ve all been going a little nuts researching things, trying out paint supplies and running around the house plugging in the black light to see what gets that glow in the dark wow factor!
You can have SO much fun with this as a basic theme all on its own, as part of a dance party (especially an 80s disco), or by using elements to jazz up your decorations for a futuristic or retro space / computer game (e.g. pac man) or fantasy parties like unicorn or fairy themes.
All you need is some imagination, a good strong black light (it’s which is a particular type of UV light spectrum that works much better than straight UV) some cool neon and white decorations, and UV, glow in the dark, neon or black light body paint or craft paint. A strobe light can add an extra touch of fun.
You’d be surprised what can glow in the dark, including tonic water (with quinine), so you can make the coolest glow in the dark cocktails for adults (GNT, you beauty!), or alcohol free mixes for kids, and even glow in the dark jelly (tip: replace the cold water in the recipe with tonic water and use litchi flavoured jelly from Pick ‘n’ Pay, as it is a pale white)! This only shines if close to a UV light and it does change the taste a little, so its best in small quantities. It is the quinine in tonic water that makes it glow, so check that this is one of the ingredients. When you add tonic water to the hot water jelly mixture, it tends to froth up quite a bit. Let the warm mixture cool a bit or at least make sure you are using a big container with room for the foam. The foam does settle down after a bit so you get a normal, smooth jelly.
Tonic water ice cubes glow amazingly well, and make an interesting addition to drinks.
For a list of interesting things that glow in the dark (with pictures), check out this website: science notes.
Local suppliers and resources in South Africa:
You can buy black light and neon body and craft paints at most PNA shops and other craft/ art supply stores like the Crafters’ Inn in Somerset West, or at a local Chinese shop that stocks party costumes, like China Town at Somerset Mall. If you are ordering larger quantities, it is worth checking out a local direct supplier like Bastion paint. Don’t forget ordinary neon felt tip pens and highlighters will also make fantastic signs and other decor!
There are four kinds of paint that work well. Most are available as either body (or face) paint OR craft paint. You can’t mix and match because of the chemicals, so check the label carefully.
- straight neon or white paint (which are bright even without the light so can be used again for sports events, etc.
- glow in the dark or UV glow paint
- Black light glow paint which is amazing and gives you a bigger colour range, including blue.
- Invisible UV paint (also useful to secretly mark expensive items in your home or bicycles) which only shows under UV light (I’ve been able to find this at PNA and online at Bastion Paint
Neon slinky springs (to hang down in spirals), reusable paper lanterns (white is good, paint them if you can’t find neon colours, or stick neon stickers on them), bunting and glow sticks are all usually available at your nearest Crazy Store or China Town.
We try to consider the environment (as well as our budget) and buy more of the kind of decor we can reuse or recycle (like the paper lanterns and bunting, which come out in various guises at lots of different parties) and fewer of the items that can’t be reused or recycled (like glow sticks or balloons). Remember some things you already own will seriously ‘pop’ in the UV light, like white serving platters and white picture frames, and anything neon like a frisbee or hula hoop, or neon post-it notes. When in doubt, buy cheap neon dot or star stickers and put them on all kinds of things. Our paper lanterns for a recent party didn’t glow much, so we just added the dot stickers and they looked amazing, with or without the lights.
Locally, CAB foods sell individual balloons (to avoid waste getting more than you need) in lots of neon colours that work well with our lights, like violet, blue, green, pink and yellow. They need to be fairly close to the light (in the same half of a larger room) to really zing., and the colour description must say ‘neon’ not just ‘bright’ or ‘electric’. Here’s what they look like deflated, in the day time and with the black light in a darkened room (the spotty one was from a packet of balloons at the Crazy Store:
Glow in the dark tape can be bought online at takealot. So can lots of other glow in the dark pens, toys, craft paint and glow sticks. They also stock glow in the dark pebbles in colour or green – or order some glow in the dark paint and paint garden pebbles. The glow in the dark paint needs to be ‘charged’ by daylight or lights in general and can fade with time. This doesn’t happen with the UV light – it gets supercharged and stays shiny, and a little paint goes much further under UV light. For instance, in the painting below, it glows without a UV light when the room is completely dark (it can’t be photographed), but even in the daytime you get a really cool glow if there is a proper UV light on it (and I can get a photo of it – yay!).
Game props can easily be made out of things you already have, with a few extra supplies like ordinary neon or white duct/ masking tape or glow in the dark tape from takealot. E.g. Bowling skittles made from plastic coke bottles filled with a little water, and wrapped in tape or painted to glow in the dark or tin cans decorated with the tape or white/neon dot stickers, and white tape used to mark the ‘bowling alley’.
You can use things you already have in unexpected ways, like any glow in the dark items from your kids’ bedrooms, or games like Twister – we just drew over our existing twister mat with matching highlighter colours. They don’t show up in ordinary light but look pretty cool in the UV light. Some laundry detergents glow in the dark, so experiment with that in your skittles etc. too! Office stationary supply shops (CNA, PNA. Waltons) have loads of large star burst shapes in neon colours (intended for sales displays) as well as neon cardboard for musical island (stand up musical chairs variation) games. Neon highlighters can be used as relay baton sticks for races, and so on.
White clothes, shoes and accessories are a great place to start, as these automatically stand out in the UV light. If you don’t own anything and don’t want to spend a fortune, try Pep stores school sections for some inexpensive white vests, white canvas shoes and T shirts to play with. Pearls, some diamonds and of course white plastic jewellery will also stand out, so wear the bling that will have some zing!
Neon accessories from a costume shop are loads of fun. We found everything from fingerless fishnet gloves to tutus, flowery head bands and trouser braces in neon at the Somerset Mall China Town.
Money saving tip: buy a box of cheap white or neon office stickers in different shapes (dots and stars work best) and put them on your clothes, jewellery or shoes (the outfit will look fun and last the party).
Anything neon, including swimming costumes, hair bands, craft string, shoelaces and cheap plastic jewellery or beads and craft wire will seriously zing. An old 80s trick: cut tassel strips at the bottom of white/ neon T shirts and their sleeves and string on plastic neon beads before knotting. These swing and glow and add a lot of fun to a glow in the dark party outfit. They can be cheaply bought at craft supply shops. You can paint your own neon or glow in the dark clothes using fabric paint from PNA or craft supply shops like Crafters Inn. Takealot also sell neon fabric paint online.
All glow stick earrings, headbands and bracelets will also look extra special under UV. Check out a Crazy Store, PNA or Chinese shop, or order online from Takealot.
A word of warning from someone who has survived partying in the 1990s… white underwear will glow right through thinner clothing, so choose your outfit with that in mind (so at least it’s deliberate if it shows and glows!).
Apart from drinks with tonic water, you can try tonic water ice cubes. We’ve experimented with neon food colouring from CAB foods and found that really only the neon pink gel colouring truly glowed under our lights. The only other neon colour they had at the time of writing was neon green, but that looked like yellow-brown poo, which was NOT the look we were hoping for! White mints glow really well, and for some reason so does the plain background biscuit of Zoo buscuits, while the colourful bits and white animals (which we had hoped would glow), didn’t.
More reliable for your food, is serving it on white or neon plates. My daughter discovered a rather cool trick: neon yellow paper cups, decorated with yellow highlighter. The highlighter is invisible in normal light, but under the black light UV… it glows! She put a cute secret message on all the cups for her party, which the other kids really loved.
Without a good black light UV light that spreads across a wide area, your glow in the dark party will not happen. The glow in the dark paints and decor items need to ‘charge’ with the light. Simply Sparkles offer a great black light UV for hire that can flood a large sitting room or garage with black light UV, and additional bulbs for other areas like a snack table. We have an additional two strobe lights for more UV effects. The main light can be set to move with your music’s beat, or to stay still during party games.
Check out some more great glow in the dark party ideas on Pinterest (seriously, how did we survive party planning without Pinterest???).
CONTACT Simply Sparkles party light hire if you would like to hire our glow in the dark lights, other disco lights and sound system. If you would like to commission a painting similar to the Space one or any other theme for your child’s bedroom or your theme party, please contact artist Marguerite MacRobert: email@example.com