Not surprisingly, there are “hot” trends in the world of custom stage curtains and scenic backdrops, just as there are trends in fashion. Some years, it seems that everyone wants the romance of Austrian drapes and dramatic swags. Another year, mixed media backdrops are the “in” thing. This year, adding UV paint over scenic backdrops (both hand-painted backdrops and digitally-printed backdrops) has been extremely popular. With that in mind, we thought we would give our readers a little more technical information to assist when considering adding UV painting to a scenic backdrop.

UV Paint

Typically, UV Invisible Clear Coat paint is used. This allows the painter to paint over an existing image (digitally printed or painted). Under standard lighting, the underlying images are visible. Under UV lighting, a different image (the image painted with UV Invisible Clear Coat paint) becomes visible and the underlying image disappears. UV Invisible Clear Coat paint is available in several different colors, allowing the UV visible images to be a single color (such as blue, red, yellow or black) or in several colors.

UV Lamps

Ultraviolet (UV) lamps emit long wave (UV-A) ultraviolet light. The lamp has a dark purple filter which blocks most visible light but allows through ultraviolet light. These lamps are often called “black lights.” UV lamps are available as fluorescent, LED, and incandescent lamps.

Lighting the Backdrop

A number of factors can affect how the UV painted images show up under UV lighting.  These factors include: substrate fabric, undercoat, brand of paint used, number of coats of paint, the type of UV light fixture being used, distance and angle from the light source to the backdrop, and much more.

Substrate & Undercoat: Different substrates (fabrics) can react differently to UV painting and lighting. A polyester fabric, for example, may display UV-painted images differently than a cotton fabric does. Whether the underlying backdrop is digitally printed or hand-painted can lead to differing UV effects. Even the specific inks or paints used on the underlying backdrop can have an impact on the UV effect.

Brand of Paint & Number of Coats: There are several brands of UV paint available, and so the choice of brand can be a factor. The number of coats of UB paint can also affect the UV image.

UV Light Fixture (Lamp) Used: How a UV-painted image appears under an LED UV light fixture may be different from how the same image appears under a fluorescent UV light fixture. Not every LED light fixture gives off the same light, as the wave length varies.

Distance and Angle of Lights: If the UV light is too far away from the backdrop, the effectiveness may be lessened and so the UV images may not display as vividly as desired. This may also occur if the angle of lights is too sharp.

Recent Projects

Little Big Town and the Zac Brown Band are just two recent projects that we worked on recently that included UV paint. Both backdrops were painted with UV Invisible Clear Coat in Blue, but the underlying substrates and undercoats were different.

Who: Little Big Town

Substrate: Cotton Canvas (coated for printing)

Undercoat: Direct print image


Who: Zac Brown Band

Substrate: Cotton Muslin (uncoated)

Undercoat: Hand painted