Light reflective paint provides safety through visibility
Whether you drive a car, a bus, a motorbike, or a bicycle, driving at night can be dangerous. Obstacles and signs, so clear during the day, are harder to see and also to avoid. Light reflective paint (also light reflecting paint) is a special coating that uses retroreflection (or retroflection) to reflect light back to its source. This means that if a car’s headlights shine on a substrate coated in light reflective paint, the light will be reflected directly back to the car and its driver, immediately illuminating what is coated.
Whatever is coated in the paint – a fence, a bike, clothing, a sign – will appear completely lit up to the driver, making it easier to avoid. This not only increases safety for the driver, but if you are walking or riding at night it increases your visibility and safety, too.
Top 5 benefits of light reflective paint
Anyone who as driven down a dark road at night can see the benefit of a reflective coating. By illuminating nighttime obstacles, a light reflective coating can prevent accidents. As well as that, they also:
- Improve the safety of nighttime walkers and drivers
- Illuminate without blinding nor distracting, and can only be seen by those with the light source
- Are not visible during the day
- Works in rain, fog, snow – increasing safety in bad weather
- Are water resistant, and do not crack or peel
How to use light reflective paint
Light reflective paint comes in different forms depending on the intended purpose. Some uses require a more heavy-duty application method, or extra additives during the coating process. The two main applications are light reflective paint for concrete and reflective road paint, and light reflective paint which comes as a spray.
Light reflective paint for concrete and roads
A reflective coating is an important part of nighttime road safety, applied to road markings, road surfaces, on vehicles, fences, gates, parking spots. These heavy duty coatings reflect light because they contain thousands upon thousands of glass beads per square foot, stuck to the pavement with a binder such as an epoxy coating. The beads can be:
- Pre-mixed with the paint before application
- Dropped or sprayed into the wet paint after application
- Or a combination of both
Retroreflective road paint is very popular in parts of the US and Canada because it is not affected by snowplows (unlike raised reflectors, which are torn off the road). With rules about road behaviour in bad weather changing, more states require headlights to be on during adverse conditions, and the uses of retroreflective paints are increasing.
Light reflecting paint for bikes
In the US, where about 40% of bicycle accident deaths happen at night, reflective paint helps with the problem of limited visibility. There are already visibility-improving measures on the market, such as Hi Viz clothing and reflective strips, but there has been a recent increase in the number of spray-on coatings and reflective bike paint products available.
As you can see from the video above, these sprays use retro-reflection to shine light back at its source. Tiny microspheres are embedded in the coatings, and it is these particles which give the coating its retro-reflective qualities. There are transparent versions for use on clothing and textiles which are also non-permanent and washable.
For bikes there are permanent light reflecting paints which cannot be washed off. The added benefit of these paints is that they are water repellent, protecting the bike itself.
Where to buy light reflective paint in the US
Suppliers and maufacturers of reflective paint for bikes, mailboxes, fences, and textiles (and horses!) operating in the US include Rust-Oleum, Reflect-All, Hub Powderworks, and Albedo100. For road paints there is PQ Corporation, Noxton, and Ames. If you would like any more information on light reflective coatings, or need guidance with your coatings project and finding suppliers, our experts are here to help. Just use the “Request a quote” button at the bottom of this page!
|Albedo100||Reflective Spray – Permanent||$15-20/4.6oz||Approximately 80 sprays|
|Liquid Reflector||Reflective Glass Beads Additive||$25-30/20lbs||Add ~5lbs per gallon of paint|
|Reflect-All||Reflect-All Spray||$10/8oz||13-16 square feet|
|Rust-Oleum||Industrial Choice R1600 System Reflective Finish||$70-80/12oz||8-10 square feet|
Finally, retroreflection and… the moon?
That’s right, the moon. Apollo missions 11, 14, and 15 all installed retroreflective mirrors on the moon so that NASA could accurately measure the distance between the moon and Earth. NASA beams a laser at the retroreflective array, which then reflects the beam straight back, allowing distance to be measured.
Of all the Apollo experiments, it is the last one to still be in use.