Of all the various specialty inks out there, only one is visible in a dark room: glow-in-the-dark ink. This effect is all-too-often overlooked, which is odd because it can make a T-shirt design become magical when the lights go out, eliciting ooo’s and ahh’s from anyone in proximity. And if done creatively, it can transform the design into something unexpected.

One important thing to know is that glow-in-the-dark requires an underbase on black or color garments. Depending on the amount of ink deposited, it may not be visible at all without an underbase. You can print directly on the shirt without an underbase, but the effect is reduced significantly.

  • Cover all the white in a design with glow-in-the-dark ink and watch it come to life at night. This is the most straightforward way of using this ink. The design stays the same, but every part of the print glows. Maximum photoluminescence!
  • Strategically add highlights to some parts, keeping the design the same, but emphasizing areas to make it look striking in the dark. Keep in mind: the contrast will change. Parts with glow-in-the-dark ink will be the brightest– even white ink will be darker.
  • Take a well-known image and add a twist that only appears in the dark. This is one way you can really get creative with a glow-in-the-dark concept. What secret image will be revealed when the lights go out? That’s up to you.
  • Create a message with text that has a hidden secondary message which only becomes apparent when the glow is activated. I made the design below, but the concept is not my original. It’s a message sold on T-shirts all over the web, so I don’t know who to credit. But you should come up with your own inspirational message, clever pun, or bad joke.
  • Omit the underbase beneath some areas of the glow-in-the-dark-ink, creating a duotone of glow. Parts of the design with underbase will be much brighter than parts without it. There are many ways to use this technique. And keep in mind that the glow will be very dim without an underbase, so make sure anything that needs to be visible has an underbase.