Fake Neon Sign Tutorial (Fluorescence)

Make a Fake Neon Sign Using Fluorescence

You can make a glowing fake neon sign using plastic tubing and a black light.
You can make a glowing fake neon sign using plastic tubing and a black light. Anne Helmenstine

Do you love the look of neon signs, but want an inexpensive alternative that you can customize to say whatever you want? You can make a fake neon sign using fluorescence to make inexpensive common materials glow.

Fake Neon Sign Materials

You only need a few basic materials for this project.

  • Flexible plastic tubing (usually sold as aquarium tubing)
  • Glue gun
  • Cardboard or other stiff backing for your sign
  • Fluorescent highlighter pen or laundry detergent
  • Water
  • Black light

Make the Fake Neon

The plastic tubing will glow blue under a black light, so technically this project will work if you simply form a sign with the tubing and illuminate it with a black light (ultraviolet lamp). However, you'll get a much brighter glow if you fill the tubing with a fluorescent liquid, such as a small amount of laundry detergent dissolved in water (bright blue) or a fluorescent highlighter ink pad in water (available in various colors).

Tip: A lot of highlighter pens called "fluorescent markers" aren't actually fluorescent. Write a quick note on paper and shine a black light on it to determine whether or not the ink fluoresces. Yellow almost always glows. Blue rarely does.

Make the Sign Design

  1. Practice forming the word you want on your sign so that you can get an idea of how much tubing will be required.
  2. Cut the tubing somewhat longer than what you think you will need.
  3. Fill the plastic tubing with your fake neon. Put one end of the tubing into the fluorescent liquid and raise it higher than the other end of the tubing. Place the lower end of the tubing into a cup so you won't have a big mess. Let gravity pull the liquid down the tube.
  4. When the tubing is filled with liquid, seal its ends with beads of hot glue. Allow the glue to cool before proceeding to make sure you have a good seal on your 'neon'.
  5. Apply hot glue to stick the tubing to the backing you have selected. Form the word for your sign. If you are making a sign that uses multiple words, you will need separate tubes for each word.
  6. If you have excess tubing, carefully cut the end and seal it with hot glue.
  7. Illuminate the sign by turning on a black light. A fluorescent light fixture will provide some glow, but for a bright neon appearance, use a black light.
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Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Fake Neon Sign Tutorial (Fluorescence)." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, thoughtco.com/fake-neon-sign-607622. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2020, August 25). Fake Neon Sign Tutorial (Fluorescence). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/fake-neon-sign-607622 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Fake Neon Sign Tutorial (Fluorescence)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/fake-neon-sign-607622 (accessed March 23, 2023).