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How a street artist creates fake glowing neon lights with spray paint

Straker is an Australian street artist who paints unique murals that appear to light up the streets. His pieces look just like real neon signs, but they are actually 2D and created using only spray paint and a special technique that makes them pop off the wall. We spoke with Straker about his work and watched him create one of his pieces. Following is a transcript of the video.

Straker: My name’s Straker, I’m a graffiti artist from Perth, Australia. I’m best known for my neon style that replicates the look of neon signs using spray paint.

I started painting back in late ’95 as a graffiti artist working mainly with lettering. I was painting a sports bar. I figured neon would be a fitting style. That kind of led to doing one kind of cheerleader piece. I liked the look of it, and then kind of kept going with it.

It always, for me, starts with like a black background. The best kind of surface for the neon style would be one that’s flat. No brick mortar joints interrupting the flow.

I start by painting what becomes the reflection of the neon. Then layer that with the color, creating the glow. Then come back and do an offset outline, which becomes the kind of neon tube, so to speak. And then mist color back over the top to kind of finish it off.

Whenever I’m creating a neon piece, I’m doin’ it true to how a neon sign maker would create it. You don’t have an infinite length of line, you kind of have to think about if I were bending this, how would it work? So I like to, yeah, really kind of put myself in their shoe.

As far as planning a wall goes, I generally take a photo of the site that’s it’s gonna go, and more recently, been using the iPad where I then essentially do the same process, but just kind of like, finger painting on the tablet. It’s almost like I’m spray painting, but just digitally.

This style is fast. I spend more time getting the design right than panting itself. I’m a fast painter though, you know, I grew up painting at nighttime under, you know, pressure. It takes about five to 50 minutes, I’d say, depending on colors and size.

I use a variety of materials when I’m painting, it all depends on the size of the wall. The bigger the wall, the more I’m gonna use bucket paint, rollers, anything to apply paint, you know? Getting clean lines with the spray can’s a lot easier than it ever has been, due to the brands of paint made specifically for that kind of art. It really comes down to can control, how much you press that nozzle down.

I use as many fluorescent spray cans as possible to create my work. The downside to fluorescent colors is they fade really quickly, so the work has a pretty short life span when it’s outdoors.

A lot of people always ask like, “Does it glow, does it glow, you know?” and I’m like, oh, no, it doesn’t, but I guess that’s kind of almost thinking it’s real. And if you put a blacklight on these, they fully pop out and look like they’re glowing. I think people are attracted to it, you know? It’s designed to catch your eyes.

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Originally posted at BusinessInsider.com

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