Making acrylic glow...need help!

Discussion in 'Replica Props' started by EurobeatJester, Apr 4, 2015.

  1. EurobeatJester

    EurobeatJester New Member

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    Hey everybody!

    A few years ago I designed and had a prop cut out by Pololu Laser in Vegas. The prop is Uryu Ishida's bow from the anime Bleach.

    In the show, the bow is made out of pure energy, similar to a lightsaber blade.

    I didn't know much about the material, but I had thought that simply putting lighting around the edges would make the entire thing glow. I now know a lot more about acrylic, having worked with it the last few months.

    Currently, the bow has a strand of EL wire that goes all the way around the perimeter, but because the surface is smooth, it does not cause the acrylic to glow or light up.

    Is there anything I can do to the acrylic at this point that will cause it to glow? Etch it with a sandblaster, hit it with sandpaper, etc? I've finally lost enough weight to do the costume and I want to wear the outfit this summer.

    Thanks for your help!

    If this is the wrong place to post this, I apologize.

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  2. Sean


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    not sure if this will help. and if he uses a cheap dremel to get the effect. I would think a fine sandpaper mite achieve the same goal..

    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 8, 2018
  3. robn1

    robn1 Master Member

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    It needs to have a frosted surface to glow so you're on the right track. But it needs to be even across the surface so sanding may not be best. Sand blasting or maybe flat clear spray is better.
    Sean likes this.
  4. coldfire

    coldfire New Member

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    you need to frost the front surface. 320 grit sandpaper is good. Then i would use the EL wire on the back side the frosted surface will diffuse the light making the whole bow glow. If you want to get a little more involved i would take and use surface mount LEDs i think blue would be a good color. white might not give the right effect (which are tiny but super bright and a pain to solder ) and drill small holes around the edge use 30 awg wire and put my power supply in the handle. this allows a finish look and self contained piece. hope that helps

    you can pick up a 100 smd leds for about 8 bucks on ebay
  5. Duncanator

    Duncanator Sr Member

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    Frosting the acrylic is the way to go.
    If you want get fancy, there are colored light-transmitting acrylics available that really glow well. They still want to be frosted but your side lighting will transmit fabulously.
  6. EurobeatJester

    EurobeatJester New Member

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    How would I frost the acrylic? Is there a spray, or is that shorthand for some sort of process? I apologize, the net is full of so much confusing information that I want to make sure I do it correctly.

    I do have access to a sandblaster, although I'm not sure what blasting media to use.

    Would an orbital sander with 320 grit achieve the effect?

    Thank you all for the help :)
  7. skint

    skint Active Member

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    While I agree with the frosting I would try an adhesive frosted film first, you can get it from hardware stores. As for the lighting I would go with an LED strip around the whole thing with the LEDs facing inwards, you will want something with a high density of LEDs. You will loose a lot of light out the back so if you aren't going to see it from behind then spray the back with some blue paint to help reflect the light forwards.
  8. Teddz

    Teddz Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Like everyone else said, you're going to need to frost the acrylic.

    Sanding it would get you the result you want. An orbital sander would help, but sometimes it'll leave sanding marks on the surface and may not be 100% frosted (gaps in the 'frost' ). Still the go to option when a sandblaster isn't available. Just take your time with it and don't apply a lot of pressure.

    Sandblasting would give you a "perfect" frosted finish and when it lights up, you'll get that even glow.

    I haven't tried the flat clear spray or the vinyl sticker so I don't know how those will work out.

    When in doubt, get a couple pieces of scrap acrylic and try different methods (sanding/spray/vinyl/sandblasting) and different media (sandpaper grit/blasting media grit) and do a quick mock up to see if it's what you want. Last thing you want to do is start working on the actual prop, not knowing how it'll turn out, and possibly ruin it.

    If you're not above remaking the prop, you may want to look into specialty acrylics that are made to light up with LED's via side mount or back light. They are pricey but work very nicely and some are already frosted.

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