How Do I Apply Reflective Paint for the Brightest Effect?

How To Apply Retro Reflective Paint (click to shop)

Applying reflective paint is similar to applying any paint with two key differences.  First, the paint must be shaken and stirred very well so that the beads are evenly distributed in the container.  If you don’t mix well, the top layer will just be clear polyurethane. Second, the coats of paint must be thin.  Thick coats will result in the beads sinking below the surface.  Beads below the surface will not reflective.  For beads to reflect, they must be partially above the surface.  So thin coats allow for this.  Multiple coats can be applied, however, the first coat must be dry before the second coat is applied.  And remember, the last coat must be thin.

how to apply reflective paint
Applying Reflective Paint

For the brightest effect, you can purchase a pack of reflective powder, and then while your coat of paint is still wet, sprinkle the powder over the top and let it dry.  This will give you the brightest and most reflective coating possible.  Use silver or metalized reflective powder for our silver paint, and white reflective powder for our standard whit reflective paint.

Silver Metalized Beads Reflective Paint
Reflective Paint – Silver Metalized Beads

Art Project Using Reflective Paint for House Numbers

Reflective House Numbers – by Leigh (customer)(click to shop)

I am an elementary teacher and have a particular winter art project in mind for my students.  Before launching into the classroom lesson, I needed to test the reflective paint on a similar home project to determine the best instructional approach. I purchased the white reflective paint to apply to silver house numbers to make the numbers brighter and more visible – a similar application to my class’s winter art project.

reflective letters paint

Upon arrival, the container of paint was securely packaged with instructions, a stirring stick and applicator included in the box.  The paint had separated during shipping, but with few shakes and small amount of stirring the components mixed easily.  I used the sponge applicator to apply three very thin coats of reflective paint to the 4” tall house numbers and allowed approximately thirty minutes of drying time between each application.

house letters reflective coating

The results are that the house numbers reflect bright white and can be seen from about 75’ away in car headlights during a dark, clear night.  This reflective paint will work well for my classroom winter art project.



Great for outdoors.

Some settling during shipping but easy to shake/stir back into solution.

Only one coat was needed to achieve reflectivity.

Original color changed to white semi-translucent finish.

Amount of paint used was less than expected for items.

Additional coatings cover flaws created from brush strokes or uneven applications.

Fast shipping.

Good price.






How Durable is Retro Reflective Paint?

Is Reflective Paint Durable? (click to shop)

Retro reflective paint made with Clear Water Based Polyurethane is very durable both inside and out.  Because of its tough characteristics, Polyurethane based coatings last a long time in rugged outdoor conditions.  They also bond well to surfaces, assuring that the reflective properties will last for years.polyurethane reflective paint

Water based Polyurethane coatings are compatible with more surfaces such as cement, rocks, wood, etc.. because of it’s ability to soak into the surface and harden.  Oil based coatings tend to sit on top of these surfaces and will later sheet off.


Different Types of Reflective Beads and Their Purpose.

Various Types of Reflective Beads (click to shop)

Reflective glass beads come in different types and sizes.  Bead size is measured in microns or mesh size.  A 50 mesh bead (297 microns) for example would be used for making traffic paint reflective.  The larger beads sit up higher in the paint and reflect at sharper angles.  Large beads come in several types with standard  AASHTO beads being the most common, and FAA spec airport beads being the most specialized and the brightest.  Traffic or paint beads are distributed on top of wet paint rendering it retro reflective.  Traffic beads are why you can see road lines at night.

reflective retro glass beads
Glass beads for traffic striping

For applications such as reflective paint, reflective tape, or reflective garment trim, small beads are used.  These are normally 300 mesh and above in size.  Note that the higher the mesh size, the smaller the bead.  And the lower the micron size the small the bead.  Small beads are often referred to as reflective powder because of their powder like consistency.  Because they are small, they mix in with a liquid clear base and stay in solution longer than larger beads would. They also work better for making reflective tapes. Reflective powder beads are why you can see road workers and road signs at night.

In summary, larger reflective beads are generally used on highway lines to make them brighter at night. They are dropped onto wet paint.  Small microscopic beads or reflective powder beads are used for making reflective fabric, reflective tape, and reflective paint.


How is Retro Reflective Paint Made?

How is Reflective Paint Made? (click to shop)

Retro reflective paint is made by intermixing clear polyurethane paint with either white standard glass spheres (beads) or silver metalized glass spheres (beads).  To help keep the beads in solution, an anti settling agent can be also be used.  The purpose of the clear polyurethane is to bond the beads to the surface of the object being coated.  Exposed beads that sit higher than the paint surface are what provide reflectivity.  To enhance this effect, we use plenty of reflective powder in our paints.

make reflective paint

Because glass beads are heavier than liquid polyurethane, the beads tend to sink to the bottom of the container over time, so when you are ready to paint, the container should be shaken, and then stirred.  I normally stir, then immediately dip my brush in and paint.  This assures a plentiful supply of beads in the coat and an even distribution over the surface.

It would seem that the thicker the coat, the better, however, the coat actually needs to be thin so that beads are exposed through the top of the layer of clear.  This allows light to enter the microscopic beads, bounce off the back, and exit the way it came.

Silver Metalized Beads versus Standard White (clear) Beads

Silver beads, which are dark in color, actually reflect at twice the intensity that white (clear) beads do.  This is because the metalized finish of the silver beads gives them a mirror backing which reflects light much more efficiently.  Reflective Paint made with metalized silver beads in preferred for applications where a bright return of light is required.

silver reflective paint
Silver Reflective Paint

White beads do not have a metalized coating, so they appear to be white in color, although they are actually clear.  Light enters these clear beads and reflects, but just not as intensely.  Reflective Paint made with clear (white) glass spheres is preferred when a more clear or white coating is desired and reflectivity does not need to be as intense.

White reflective paint
White Reflective Paint

In summary, retro reflective paint is made by mixing a clear medium like polyurethane with microscopic glass beads, either silver metalized, or white standard.  The beads that are exposed take in and return light back to the source, hence making the paint reflective.

Viziglow reflective paint

Reflective Paint Online Shop

Our company, ViziGlow, specializes in creating and selling reflective paints to consumer, commercial and industrial customers. Our paints are used for a variety of applications ranging from artistic endeavors, to industrial safety applications.

On this page we feature our entire Retro Reflective Paint Collection. We have Standard retro reflective paint with white glass beads, as well as our Ultra reflective paint which uses metalized glass beads. We also have reflective fabric paints, screen printing reflective ink kits, reflective leather paints and more.


What is Retro Reflective Paint?

What Is Reflective Paint? (click to shop)

People often ask what reflective paint is and how is it different from standard paints. Reflective paint and retro reflectivity in general can be a little confusing to understand, but it’s based on very simple scientific concepts of light refraction. In this article I’ll cover what reflective paint is, and how it works. First, let me say that reflective paint is technically “Retro Reflective” because it returns light back to only the source of that light. A point we will cover in this article.

White reflective paint
Reflective Paint with White Standard Beads

What Is Reflective Paint?

Retro Reflective paint is regular paint with retro reflective qualities. As previously stated, when something is retro reflective it simply means that the object returns light back to the source only. This is different from say a piece of colored paper or a mirror which either return light everywhere or back to a single spot. Returning light everywhere is called Diffuse or Scattered reflectivity, and returning light back to a particular spot depending on angles is called Specular or Mirror reflectivity. You will have examples of both of these types of reflectivity in your home. What you may not have however, are examples of retro reflectivity.

specular mirror reflective
Specular or Mirror Reflective

How Does Retro Reflective Paint Work?

All retro reflective paints have one thing in common, that is that they all use micro glass spheres to achieve reflectivity. Glass beads capture light, bend it, and send it back to the light source. Hence the use of the term “Retro”. Reflective paints utilize glass beads in two ways to achieve a retro reflective effect.

glass bead reflective paint

First, glass beads can be intermixed with a clear base. Polyurethane clear is what Viziglow uses because it is outdoor durable. For an intermixed paint to work, the coating has to be thin so that the beads are exposed to incoming light. Beads that sink below the surface will not reflect. So it is critical that coats of reflective paint be thin. This method produces a nice bright reflective coating.

Second, glass beads can be sprinkled on top of either a clear or colored base. This normally results in quite a few beads remaining on the surface, exposed to incoming light. Once the paint dries, the beads will remain on the surface and should not come off. Using this method, the coating does not have to be as thin, since beads will be distributed on top of the layer and should not sink. This method produces an incredibly bright reflective coating.

Silver Metalized Beads Reflective Paint
Reflective Paint – Silver Metalized Beads

So in summary reflective paint is a coating that returns light back to the source, and this coating does this using glass spheres that collect and bounce light back to where it came from.