Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

July, 2010

IR Paint

Q. I am looking for paint the fluoresces under infrared lighting. I use digital infrared cameras to capture wildlife for research, and I want to use a paint on an animal (hippopotamus) that would fluoresce as they walk by the camera. Do you know any company that might sale something like this?

A. You are clearly working on a very interesting and hopefully not a dangerous project. I'm curious where the research is carried out and how you intend to apply the paint to the hippo's. I presume you first tranquilize the poor animal and then apply the paint?

Are you using IR (> 700 nm) or black light (<400) illumination? For how long must the paint stick to the animal before the paint can wear off?

For black light illumination <400 nm wavelength: I suspect that a standard acrylic latex paint will do the job, but you might need to add a fluorescent powder to the paint. In the theatrical world actors paint their faces so that they can be seen with black light illumination. A Google search will give you the information you need. Alternatively, you might even find what you are looking for in an art supply store. Try adding the powder to an acrylic latex paint and determining if this will do the trick.

IR illumination >700 nm wavelength: If you need a compound that will show up under IR illumination as used by the military, there are companies that make pigments for camouflage purposes. Off-hand I don't know the names of these pigment suppliers, but a search on Google might lead you to some. Paint companies such as Hentzen Coatings and Sherwin Williams are the major suppliers to the military of camouflage coatings, but the coatings themselves are polyurethanes and probably not suitable for your purposes. However, you can call their paint laboratories and ask who supplies their camouflage pigments. I believe you will be able to add these pigments to an acrylic latex paint to achieve the results you require.


Ron Joseph

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