Glow Party Ideas

How To Throw a Glow Party or Black Light Party

You don't have to throw a rave to host an epic glow party. Start with glow sticks and a black light and get the party started!
You don't have to throw a rave to host an epic glow party. Start with glow sticks and a black light and get the party started!. WOWstockfootage, Getty Images

Glow parties and black light parties are all the rage, whether it's for a rave, a birthday bash, or just a fun weekend get together. Do you want to throw an epic party? Choose which type of party you're going for and try out these ideas.

First, it's helpful to know the difference between a glow party and a black light party. In both cases, regular lights are out. That doesn't mean it's totally dark. Anything goes (or glows) at a glow party, so you can use glow sticks, candles, glow in the dark paint, and black lights to illuminate the festivities. A black light party is a bit more restrictive, since the light comes from black lights causing fluorescent materials to glow.

You can make decorations, clothes, and drinks glow. But, you need to have the right materials. Read on to avoid common pitfalls and get cool ideas.

You Need the Right Black Light

You can't throw a black light party without a black light. This is a special light that emits light in the ultraviolet portion of the spectrum.
You can't throw a black light party without a black light. This is a special light that emits light in the ultraviolet portion of the spectrum. Hey Paul, Flickr

Black lights enhance any glow party and are essential for a black light party, but you need to choose the right type of bulb. Avoid the black lights that look like purple versions of ordinary incandescent light bulbs. These are a recipe for party failure! These bulbs block all light except violet and ultraviolet (UV), but this type of bulb does produce enough UV to matter. Sure, it might make your treasured Elvis-on-velvet painting appear to glow, but anything across the room will be left in the dark. The bulbs are cheap, but you get what you pay for here.

You want at least one quality black light. These long tubes look like fluorescent lights. In fact, that is exactly what they are, just tailored to allow the ultraviolet light through the bulb. Ultraviolet light is outside the visible spectrum, so you can't see it, thus it's called "black" light. In reality, most people can see a bit into the UV spectrum, plus these lights leak a small amount of visible light. You can tell when they are on, so you and your guests won't be stumbling around in absolute darkness.

The other type of black light that works well is the LED black light. Some of these are inexpensive. The downside is they often rely on batteries. If you're using these, make sure you're using new batteries or have extra batteries ready to go.

The problem with good black lights is that you'll want at least one for each room. Borrow as many as you can from friends and comparison shop for others. You can get fluorescent black light fixtures online for about $20 [buy at Amazon] or you can check party supply stores or hardware stores. LED lights are the cheapest effective lights, but they don't cover as much area as a big fluorescent fixture.

Do not use something called an ultraviolet lamp. These are expensive professional lamps, like a scientist or dentist might have. These lights put out immense levels of ultraviolet light and can damage eyesight and skin. Don't worry - you won't use one by accident. This type of UV light has warnings all over it.

You Need Glow Sticks

Glow sticks are a glow party staple. You can wear them, hang them, swing them, and wrap them around glasses.
Glow sticks are a glow party staple. You can wear them, hang them, swing them, and wrap them around glasses. Science Photo Library, Getty Images

If you're a black light party purist, you might not need glow sticks, but for any other glow party you'll need them... lots and lots of them. Fortunately, it's easy to buy glow sticks in bulk, either online [buy at Amazon] or at pretty much any store that sells party supplies or toys. Depending on the length you choose, you should be able to get 100 for $10-$20.

Uses of Glow Sticks at Parties

Your guests will come up with creative uses for glow sticks, but here are some ideas to get you started:

  • You can wear them (duh).
  • Because they are sealed, you can freeze them into ice cubes or put them in punch bowls or swimming pools.
  • Use the bracelet-length ones to mark glasses.
  • Hang them from the ceiling as glow stick chandeliers.
  • Use them to make glow stick lanterns.

You Need Tonic Water

Tonic water is clear under ordinary light, but glows aqua blue under black or ultraviolet light.
Tonic water is clear under ordinary light, but glows aqua blue under black or ultraviolet light. Science Photo Library, Getty Images

Some people like the flavor of tonic water, while others think it tastes gross. It doesn't matter whether you plan to drink it or not because this liquid can serve multiple uses at any party with a black light. The quinine in either regular or diet tonic water makes it glow blue under ultraviolet light. Here are some of the ways to use tonic water:

  • Serve it straight or as a mixer from drinks that glow under black light.
  • Freeze it to make ice cubes that glow under black light.
  • Put it in decorative containers for glowing blue liquid.
  • Place bottles of it in the bathroom under a black light so guest can navigate without having to turn on the lights. Also, since urine glows under black light, there's entertainment value here.
  • Dip cupcakes or other food in tonic water to make the surface glow.
  • You can use it to make glow-in-the-dark gelatin or Jell-O shots.
  • For Halloween parties, you can use it to make glowing slime.
  • Consider decorating with flowers. You can make white flowers glow in the dark, plus you can put them in tonic water rather than regular water.

 

Serve Glowing Drinks

Very few liquids you can safely drink glow in the dark, but some do glow under black light.
Very few liquids you can safely drink glow in the dark, but some do glow under black light. Maryann Flick, Getty Images

You want your party refreshments to glow, right? There are two ways to go with this. You can use glasses and dishes that either glow under black light or contain LEDs or you can serve drinks that glow under black light. It's also possible to serve drinks that glow in the dark by serving liquids over ice that contains an LED. You can make LED lights yourself or invest in sealed reusable plastic lighted ice cubes.

Any store with party supplies will have fluorescent plastic plates, glasses, and flatware. If you won't want to spend extra money, white paper plates glow blue under black light. If you have any antique vaseline glass, it will glow green under black light (vaseline glass is also slightly radioactive, just so you know).

Aside from tonic water, there are a few other non-toxic ingredients you can use to make drinks glow under black light, including chlorophyll and vitamin B. Some liquors come in fluorescent bottles, too. For example, there is a Hennessy cognac bottle that glows bright green. Take your handy dandy LED black light shopping with you and test it on supplies to see what you get.

Get Fluorescent Body Paint and Makeup

Get fluorescent nail polish, makeup, and temporary tattoos to light up a glow party.
Get fluorescent nail polish, makeup, and temporary tattoos to light up a glow party. powerofforever, Getty Images

White clothes, eyeballs, and teeth will all glow blue under a black light. Add color to your party with fluorescent body paint, makeup, nail polish, and glow-in-the-dark temporary tattoos. If you can't buy these, you can make your own glowing nail polish. You can use petroleum jelly for a blue glow. Highlighter pens, while not technically makeup, are a fun way to decorate skin for a black light party. 

Be sure to get products that work for your party. If you aren't use a black light, you need materials that truly glow in the dark. These are phosphorescent materials that you charge under a bright light. When you turn out the lights, the glow continues for several minutes to several hours (like glowing ceiling stars).

If you have a black light, phosphorescent materials will glow brighter/longer, plus you can get a glow from fluorescent paints, markers, etc. Fluorescent materials will not glow without a black light.

Get Fluorescent Highlighters

Not all fluorescent highlighter ink actually glows under black light. Test the ink under UV light to be sure.
Not all fluorescent highlighter ink actually glows under black light. Test the ink under UV light to be sure. Floortje, Getty Images

Fluorescent highlighter pens are a fun and inexpensive way to decorate for a glow party. White paper glows blue under a black light, while highlighters glow in assorted colors. You can make signs, let your party guests make pictures, or you can extract the ink from the pens to make glowing fountains.

Just make sure you test the pens under a black light! Not all fluorescent highlights are actually fluorescent. Yellow is fairly reliable. Green and pink are usually good. Orange is iffy. Only a few brands of blue or purple pens glow in the dark.

Add Fog and Lasers To Your Glow Party

Fog and lasers turn any glow party into an epic glow party.
Fog and lasers turn any glow party into an epic glow party. lcsdesign, Getty Images

Add excitement to a glow party with fog. Got a laser pointer or other light source? Use that too. Fog captures light, brightening a potentially dark space. It helps amplify black lights and glowing objects. You can make fog by adding warm water to dry ice or you can use a smoke machine or water vaporizer.

If you don't have any lasers, or don't want to use them, it's a great opportunity to use LED lights or break out the Christmas lights.

White Glows Under Black Light

White string and clothes and fishing line all glow under a black light.
White string and clothes and fishing line all glow under a black light. Rae Marshall, Getty Images

The good news is: you can use string, fishing line, and most plastics for a cool glowing effect under a black light. It's the perfect opportunity to make string art!

The bad news is: any tiny bit of paper or fluff on your floor will make your space look grimy for your party. Break out the vacuum cleaner before hosting a black light party. Pay special attention to the bathroom, since bodily fluids glow under UV.

While you can order materials specially made for a glow party online, it's fun to simply take a small black light around your home looking for things that glow. Do the same at the store. You may be surprised at all the objects that glow. Got glowing ceiling stars? Use them!

You can increase visual interest using mirrors, too. Mirrors will capture light, making the glow brighter. Water also helps, so if you can work a fountain or pool into your glow party, even better.