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How Do Neon Signs Get Their Color?

If you are planning to get a custom neon sign for your business or home, wondering where they get their color is an obvious question that might pop in your head. While some lights retain their color when they are turned off, many appear clear. So, how do these lights shine so brilliantly and vibrantly if they consist of plain, clear glass?


If you think that all neon signs exclusively contain neon gas, then you are grossly mistaken, and you need to read this article to understand better what goes behind the scenes. A neon sign to shine as brilliantly as it usually does requires an expert combination of gases. Creating a custom neon sign is an art, and a lot of effort goes into the making of each signage.


Most manufacturers forge a neon sign by filling a sturdy glass tube with various gases. The different colors that you see in custom neon signs are made possible by mixing several gases with neon or filling the glass tube with another noble gas entirely. Apart from this, the color of the signage also depends on the amount of gas used and the type of inert gases mixed in the manufacturing process.


The following are the gases present in a custom neon sign:


  1. Neon


That was obvious to guess. Since neon signs derive their name from the staple gas that goes into the making of the signage, not listing it in the first position would have been an offense. If you are not a geek, you would probably not know that Neon exists in the air we breathe. Yes, it’s there alongside atmospheric oxygen, although only in trace amounts.


As a result, it is easy and accessible for manufacturers to obtain pure neon since they only require a paltry amount to fill the glass tube quote. Pure neon gives a deep red glow at normal levels. Therefore, once you start filling the tube with more gas, you will get a paler red or even pink, thus giving the sign one of the most popular colors.


And if you are a business owner, coming across this fact will come to you as a delight; pure neon signs are an efficient light source and consume less energy than their counterparts.


  1. Mercury Vapor


If a manufacturer wants to create a cool base color, they would consider utilizing mercury vapor. Mercury Vapor creates a subduing bluish glow. So, if you notice the gentle blue coming before the tube light turns on completely, you know it’s mercury vapor doing its magic.


Mercury vapor and neon can be used in combination or individually in signage based on the color the client desires. Therefore, several manufacturers utilize mercury vapor to produce cool colors such as green or purple.  


  1. Argon


If you want a stronger, more vibrant blue color, argon is your go-to gas. Sometimes, the manufacturer can paint the inside of the glass tube with ultraviolet-sensitive phosphorus to create the illusion of different colors. Once the mercury present in the tube comes in contact with phosphorus, it gives off ultraviolet light and makes the phosphorus shine vibrantly. Therefore, if you see neon signage featuring effervescent blue, green, yellow, or white coloration, it probably contains argon.


  1. Helium


If you put it up in a colder region, the manufacturer who would supply you with the sign will probably add helium into your sign’s tube to let it heal faster. Pure helium creates a pinkish-red glow. As a result, it is often mixed with mercury and argon to create a color that is soothing to the eyes. Of all the gases mentioned in this list, helium is the most difficult to obtain. Most industrial-grade helium arises from radioactive decay or is siphoned off from a natural gas deposit.


  1. Xenon


The gas that is behind the classic lavender glow is xenon. However, it can reflect an array of colors once combined with other noble gases. Manufacturers primarily use xenon in strobe lights and photography, although it is also added in signage that contains pure neon.


  1. Krypton


Krypton gives out a low whitish-yellow glow. As a result, the gas is used to produce various colors. When neon sign manufacturers add Krypton to lighting tubes, they typically rely on the color of the glass to emit the perceived color. Besides neon signs, other applications of Krypton include being used in safety lighting, including airport runway lights.


Since every neon sign represents a complicated chemical reaction to produce vibrant colors, you cannot necessarily call the signs exclusively made of “neon.” Therefore, when you look at the neon sign you currently possess or of the businesses around you, see if you can guess which gas went into the making of that signage.


You can also ask your provider about the gases that are available for you to use to alter the color of the neon sign you currently possess.




Custom neon signs are getting increasingly popular. You can find them in quirky restaurants or at business offices that strive to give the “chill” vibe. Neon signs are also getting integrated into home decor, with individuals embellishing their rooms with customized quotes shining brilliantly in neon colors. These vibrant signs have acquired a customer base that is going nowhere.


Since neon colors represent the more hip culture, their signage has become a staple in cafes and restaurants that cater to such a demographic. Creating a neon sign is more than what meets the eye. It is an art that requires careful curation of gases to give off the perfect color that the client needs.


Apart from this, pure neon signs are even energy-efficient. Therefore, you can keep your sign’s lights on day and night and still not incur a bill that will knock your socks off. Getting a custom neon sign is all you need to blow your business and attract the kind of customers that will raise your revenue collection exponentially.


Therefore, what are you waiting for? Get yours today and become a part of the trend.