Design and Print Glow-in-the-Dark T-shirts

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Posted by AllDayShirts on to Printing Techniques.

Are you looking for a fresh way to show your designs or spread your message? Prints on regular t-shirts get lost in the crowd, but glow-in-the-dark will always stand out no matter what time it is. 

Why lose your t-shirt design in a sea of other designs when it can be the star of the show when the lights go out?

Your T-shirt designs look great under normal light. So let us help you make them even better in darkness. Keep reading to find out how to design and print glow-in-the-dark t-shirts.

How Glow-In-The-Dark Works

Glow-in-the-dark ink is one of several photoluminescent products. You've probably seen many of these products throughout your life. The glow stars stuck to your ceiling and glow sticks are both photoluminescent products. 

These glow-in-the-dark products get their glow from phosphors. This chemical absorbs energy and shows it as light. Strontium aluminate or Zinc Sulphide are most often used for glow-in-the-dark ink because they stay brighter longer. 

When you leave a glow-in-the-dark object in the light, its phosphor molecules become excited. Once in the dark again, the molecules release their energy and produce that glow. 

T-shirts that use glow-in-the-dark ink or HTV must be left in the light to "charge" before use in the dark. Depending on the phosphors used in the ink, the t-shirt may glow anywhere from ten minutes to twelve hours! 

Keep in mind an ink that uses zinc sulfide will lose its glow way before ink using strontium aluminate. 

T-Shirt Ideas For Glow-In-The-Dark Designs

Before creating your glow-in-the-dark design, be aware that you might have to use what is called an under-base on a black or dark t-shirt. An under-base is a layer of white or light-colored ink for the glow-in-the-dark ink. 

If you decide not to use an under-base, you should know that the glow-in-the-dark ink is unlikely to be visible on the t-shirt. Yet, with glow-in-the-dark, HTV under-bases are often unnecessary.

The first way you may choose to design your shirt is by making the entire design in white. Once you have completed this white base that will be visible in regular light, you can go over the design again in glow-in-the-dark ink.

Your final design will change from white to glowing green as you go in and out of the light. 

Glow in the Dark T-Shirt

Another design idea is like the first. Create a design in white. Once finished, go back through with glow-in-the-dark ink and outline and highlight the design.

This will create a striking difference in the design as you switch from light to dark.

One unique design we don't often see on glow-in-the-dark t-shirts is hidden images. Start by creating an image in white ink and hide a similar, possibly spooky, image on top with glow-in-the-dark ink.

Once in the dark, your hidden image will appear through the white ink to surprise with its glowing ability.

Glow-in-the-dark beforeglow-in-the-dark after


The next design idea can be a bit complicated but well worth it when screen printing. Create a design for your under-base that is simple and can be built onto later. With glow-in-the-dark ink, create the entire design again on top.

Now, without any under-base, create more designs in the blank spaces. Since there is no under-base in these areas, the glow will be faint but should still shine through. This will give your design more interest and depth. 

Screen Printing With Glow-In-The-Dark Ink

To start screen printing with glow-in-the-dark ink, you'll also need a screen and a t-shirt. If you plan on doing a design with a glowing part that is different from your under-base, you will need two screens. 

glow in the dark screen printingglow in the dark t-shirt

Begin with your white screen printing ink as an under-base. It is recommended to do your under-base twice, so you don't have any shirt fabric showing through. 

With the next screen, do your glow color. Depending on your glow-in-the-dark ink, you may not be able to tell the difference between your under-base and your glowing ink when you are in the light. 

Heat Transfer Vinyl With Glow-In-The-Dark Vinyl

The process of using heat transfer vinyl is much different from screen printing. Instead of using glow-in-the-dark screen printing ink, glow-in-the-dark HTV is used. 

The supplies you will need include the following items.

  • Glow-in-the-dark HTV
  • Any color regular HTV
  • A high-quality t-shirt
  • A cutting machine
  • Iron or heat press

HTV stands for heat transfer vinyl. You can purchase glow-in-the-dark HTV and cut your design with a Cricut or another type of cutter. Be sure that your image is mirrored before cutting, or it will be backward on your t-shirt. 

Start by cutting out your non-glowing design, if necessary. You will not need an under-base with glow-in-the-dark HTV. It is already built-in. With a heat press or iron, apply your first design and peel off the carrier sheet. 

Next, cut out your glow-in-the-dark design. Find where you would like to put it, and apply it the same way as the first piece of vinyl. Once you peel off the carrier sheet for the glow-in-the-dark HTV, you will reveal your masterpiece! 

Glow-in-the-dark Hoodie

Keep in mind your glow-in-the-dark design will appear white when it is in the light. You can make this work in your favor when you get creative! 

Tips For Glow-In-The-Dark T-Shirts

One of the best tips for making glow-in-the-dark t-shirts is to make sure you are using quality products! A well-made t-shirt plus good quality ink or HTV goes a long way to create a beautiful, professional-looking final product. 

Some tips for screen printing with glow-in-the-dark ink include the following. 

  • Use screens with an eighty mesh count
  • The more ink you can use, the better the glow
  • Colored inks will dull the glow effect
  • White ink on black t-shirts will have the most contrast


Of the two methods, screen printing may be the most difficult if one has little practice. Take your time, and make sure your t-shirt looks just how you want it. 

This list includes some tips for creating a glow-in-the-dark t-shirt with HTV.

  • Check your transfers carefully before applying.
  • Pre-heat your t-shirt to remove moisture and wrinkles
  • Peel the carrier sheet while it is still warm 
  • Use t-shirts that are polyester, cotton, or poly/cotton blends


These t-shirts can look so great when done correctly. Use these tips to create the best version of your glow-in-the-dark t-shirt possible.

Go and Create! 

Glow-in-the-dark t-shirts are exactly what you need to stand out or spread your message. Don't lose your design when the lights go out, give it new life and make it pop!

To find the perfect high-quality t-shirts to print your designs on, visit our products page. Start printing your glow-in-the-dark design today! 

    

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