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Star Ceilings... Painted vs. Fiber optics

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#1 of 48 OFFLINE   nightsky



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Posted September 30 2010 - 03:20 PM

(I've been asked a lot by home theater owners... "How do your murals compare to fiber optics?" I also tried to reply to a thread a while back that talked about Faux star ceilings... but couldn't get the reply button to work. So, hopefully the following will help some of you who want a star ceiling in your home theater (or bedroom)... but aren't sure about which way to go.)



Star Ceiling – Fiber optics vs Painted


A star ceiling is a definite plus for any home theater or bedroom... but what is the best way to go? Should you install Fiber Optics or have the ceiling painted (either by yourself or by a professional)? Well, that depends...


(Mural by Night Sky Murals. Black lights help this painted mural shine brighter when there is light in the room)

Posted Image


(This home theater is in California and was really fun to do. The owner built the soffit, on an angle, for the black lights and the stars to show up throughout the movie. I have a special mixture of paint that I use in home theaters for those who want to have bright stars during the movie. Otherwise, with the lights off... the theater looks like the ceiling has been removed and the stars are more subtle.)



(A Fiber Optic Ceiling with black lights around the edge for looks only)

Posted Image



Of course my view is going to be a little biased... but I will try to be fair to all three options.


First, lets go over Fiber optics. They are great to view in almost any light. This is a big “pro” when compared to a painted ceiling. A painted mural acts just like a real night sky and disappears in the light. Fiber optics can still be visible in the light.


When there are lights off in the room... the fiber optics are visible and beautiful. When the lights are on... they are still visible and beautiful. And, you can even make them twinkle.


But, there are some downsides to fiber optics too... The "Cons"


  • They are pricey


  • They require a lot of extra work to have them installed.


  • Holes need to be drilled.


  • Wires need to be run.


  • If there is no crawl space above the ceiling... then panels need to be prepared, covered, wired and then installed.


  • If you don't want to do all of the work yourself.. then you would need to hire someone to do it for you and they may not have much of a clue what to do either.


  • You usually get only a fraction of the number of stars that a painted mural gives you.


  • The holes drilled for the fibers are visible.


  • You'd get one, maybe two, different sizes of stars.


  • You will need to schedule a few days, to a week, for it to be installed.


  • The twinkling stars, while cute, is not very natural.


    But, they ARE nice and the big advantage is that you can see the stars at any time you want basically.



    Now... what about the painted Night Sky Murals... DIY and Professionally installed?


    Well, here is where I can speak with more authority.


    Let's start with the DIY Option. This option can be both good and bad. Bad if you have no talent as an artist and you just throw up some paint with a paint brush. (I have seen, and painted over, many a ceiling where the owner, or their friend, tried to paint the night sky with glow-in-the-dark paint) It looks really easy, but there are definitely some techniques that need to be learned first.


    But, if you or a friend are an artist and you want to freehand it... then go for it. And remember... you don't have to fill every inch with stars; You can always add more stars later if needed. Don't try to go too crazy at first. Paint... step back... look... and then paint some more.


    There are also stencil kits that you can purchase on the Internet. Out of the 4 or 5 different stencils that I have researched... there is one that is much better than the rest, and it isn't even the most expensive. So, do your due diligence or email me and I will steer you in the right direction. If you have more than one or two rooms to paint... you will be sore after painting with the stencil. Just sayin.



    The ”Pros” for the DIY option:


  • Cheapest method to get a star mural on your ceiling.


  • Usually slightly nicer than the plastic stars.


  • You can paint over it if it looks ugly and then try again... or you can call in a professional.


  • You can claim credit for having painted it.


  • If you have to tear out part of your ceiling to fix something up in there... then you can repaint that area yourself.



    The “Cons” to the DIY option:


  • Sore neck and back.


  • It's very easy to create a very ugly mural if you aren't careful.


  • It isn't nearly as nice as one done by a professional (at least the better professionals).


  • More unnecessary work to perform where you aren't already proficient.


  • It is only slightly nicer than the plastic stars.


  • It's frustrating.


  • You'll probably glow in the dark for a few days from the paint that gets on you.



    Now.. ”The Professional Option”. Are they really that expensive? Here's the quick and easy answer... Some are. Some aren't. And, by the way, I am. (But, I am a lot less than having fiber optics installed)


    A quick word about Professionals here. There are many people/companies that will teach others how to paint a star mural. One problem is that most of them have never even painted one themselves. Usually they are either companies who want to sell their glow paint (so they teach you a method which creates a need for their paint, and they usually are terrible techniques)... or they are just lazy people who see a good idea and try to capitalize on someone elses success by marketing a “Star-Painting Business Kit” themselves. And, as a result, the people they “train” have learned really bad techniques from these non-skilled, snake oil salesmen. So you want to be careful who you hire.



    Here's are two examples.


    This first picture is of a mural that was done by one of the popular companies painting and teaching others to paint these murals. Please don't ask who did this because I won't name them. I show it only to make the point that you need to check around. This picture was taken with a black light on because they probably didn't have a camera with a long shutter exposure. Thus, the background color. BTW... the picture at the beginning of this thread is of one of my murals with black lights on too.


    (Another unknown "Professional's" mural)

    Posted Image




    This next picture is of a mural that I painted on a really nice ceiling with big beams in it. 


    (Mural by Night Sky Murals)

    Posted Image



    Having said that... I have seen some work done by other artists that really surprised me, because the murals they painted were actually really nice. They were much better than I had expected them to be after hearing who they'd learned from. But these murals were, for the most part, painted by people who were already muralists before they ever decided to add “star mural” ceilings to their portfolio.


    So please be careful when hiring an artist and try to see their work first... or at least have them drop by with, or send you a sample of their work that you can look at. I mean... do you really want to spend all that time decorating your theater room... only to have an amateur come in and destroy your ceiling? There are good artists out there... but you need to search to find them.


    As for the cost... You can find people who will throw some paint up on your ceiling for anywhere from $1 to $4 per square foot. My prices start at $6 per sq. ft... and can go as high as $12 per sq. ft. depending on the detail and preparation before I can paint. I'm more expensive than most, but I am fair and the value that you get, I think, comes out to be a better deal.



    OK... here are the “Pros” to having a professional paint the mural:


  • The look is Incredible! (When done right by a true professional)


  • Painted night sky murals blow fiber optics away in the dark. (Fiber optics excel in lighted areas) But for realism... there is no comparison to a painted mural.


  • You can have a realistic looking Milky Way in your mural, that has a cloudy look to it and has thousands and thousands of tiny little stars.


  • You can have other deep space objects and the moon added in. (I suggest only having a crescent moon painted in... because I try to make the mural look like a night sky that you would see from a remote location on earth. Galaxies and Nebula aren't really visible with the naked eye from earth) But, it is possible to have all those things with a painted mural.


  • You can create the illusion of mountains surrounding the room when the mural is brought down the walls.


  • Ceiling fans and heat registers can be painted too... so they don't become black holes when the room is dark.


  • If you feed some professional painters some cookie dough (ahem!) they might even throw in a shooting star or two (which are really more like comets since they don't move).


  • Virtually invisible in the light.


  • Thousands of stars in the mural... compared to only a couple hundred with fiber optics and DIY options.


  • 10 to 15 different sized stars in the murals. This is what creates an incredible 3D look.


  • Paint (a good muralist should have this paint) that will glow for up to 12 hours. The smaller stars will fade in about 3 to 4... and the larger stars will glow longer.


  • The paint can be made to fluoresce under a black light for viewing during a movie. Not as bright as fiber optics, but more natural looking.


  • The mural actually changes the longer the lights are off. The mural will look one way when the lights are first turned out... and totally different 3 hours later.


  • Stars seem to twinkle... naturally. Something about the paint and the cones and rods in your eyes will have you swearing that the stars are really twinkling.


  • No smell.


  • Can be painted on most finishes.


  • Usually done in a day.


  • No need for a crawl space in your ceiling for the mural to be painted. Nor is there the need to add a false ceiling. You regular ceiling is just fine.


  • Invisible in the light... just like the real night sky at noon. Your room will look like it always has when the lights are on.



    The ”Cons” to having a painted mural:


  • The cost can get up there, but usually less than fiber optics.


  • You need to make cookie dough for some artists. :-)


  • You need a fairly dark room for the mural to be seen as intended.


  • You need a good fluorescent light source to charge the paint for 10 minutes (Still, plugging in a black light or two is easier than wiring for fiber optics).


  • You could get a bad professional (Do your due-diligence).


  • Invisible in the light. This is a “Con” if you want then to be visible in the light.



    Here is what the painted murals look like in the light and in the dark. Again, we do have a special paint (and others might have something too) that will allow the stars to glow under a black light in a semi-lit room.


    Posted Image



    OK, I tried to give a fair overview of some different options for a star ceiling. But, whatever option you choose... get a star ceiling done. They are so incredibly relaxing and romantic. You've designed everything for the light... now just do this one thing for the dark. You will be so happy you did.


    If you have a day-sky (blue sky and clouds) painted on the ceiling... then get a night sky painted on top of that. When the lights are on, the day-sky will be visible. When the lights go out... the night sky will appear. It's very cool!


    OK, I have gotten many questions about the murals from people who are building home theaters... and home theaters are probably my number one area to paint in.


    Please ask any questions that you have and I will try to answer them for you.


    If you are in the building stages.. and can still add in wiring to power some lights... I can tell you where you should have them placed. If you can still add a soffit around the top... I can give you good ideas about how to build that too.


    So, if you are considering stars in your ceiling.. ask away and I will try to help you out.

    #2 of 48 OFFLINE   AgnesC



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    Posted October 01 2010 - 07:52 PM

    WOW! very stunning. Thanks for sharing some great pics of room theater. It's really fantastic and absolutely elegant.

    Love to see that kind of design in my room.

    net curtains

    #3 of 48 OFFLINE   harpero



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    Posted October 24 2010 - 06:15 PM

    Nightsky, Very interesting and informative article on painting stars on your ceiling.    I have a question concerning paiting starts on a light blue background.  I saw a dome painted to look like a daytime sky, but at night it transformed into a night time sky with stars and planets.   Black light were used in the cove recess to obtain the effect.   What kind and color of flourescent paint can be used to create this effect but the stars not show up on the blue sky during the day?    It seems that any paint I use will be visible during the day.   harpero

    #4 of 48 OFFLINE   nightsky



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    Posted October 25 2010 - 11:18 AM



    I'll bet that looked really nice. I've only done a few truly domed ceilings and they are fun to do. And, when you add in a

    day-sky too... that is my favorite background to paint my murals on. I love the twin murals (even if I can't paint the 



    Here is one that I painted my mural on top of. The customer had a friend paint the day-sky first, then i can in and painted

    my http://www.nightskymurals.com



    Here is the same mural when the room is dark and a black light turned on. Please keep in mind that the camera is only

    picking up about 1/10 of the visible stars. Even with a movie playing, if the black light is on... you will still see quite a 

    few stars.


    Posted Image




    Here is the same mural, as shown above, but with all lights turn off and the room very dark. Again, the amount of stars

    that the camera picked up is only about 1/10th. This mural was, I think, 10 x 12... and there are over 3000 stars in it,

    plus the Milky Way, which are all not visible to the camera. 


    Posted Image



    Is this similar to what you were talking about?


    Most glow paints that you will find at a store will not be what you want to paint with. Besides being very visible in the

    light, the paint will only glow for about 20 minutes in the dark. I can probably sell you some paint if you want to do

    something like this yourself. 


    But, be careful if you attempt it yourself, unless you know what you are doing. I have gone in to paint on ceilings where

    I could see that the owner had tried their hand at it before calling me. :-) And, I also say that from experience too. When

    I first wanted to see if it was possible to paint a night sky on a ceiling... I destroyed many ceilings. If, on the other hand,

    you can do it... then go for it.


    And, if you want some guidance in painting a mural... then I would suggest getting a stencil that you can tape up on

    your ceiling. Then, you just paint through the holes and you will get a very basic, but nice mural. I can also suggest a

    stencil. There are 4 or 5 star stencils on the Internet, but there are 3 or 4 really bad ones. I know of only one decent





    #5 of 48 OFFLINE   nightsky



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    Posted October 25 2010 - 11:34 AM

    By the way... for those of you who are lucky enough to be looking for homes listed in Unique Homes magazine... they just did a little spotlight on Night Sky Murals for their "Fall" issue. There is also an article entitled "The Ultimate Theater/Indoor Entertainment Space" and show a few theater rooms that are incredible! 


    You can check out the little Night Sky Murals spotlight at Ultimate Homes Magazine


    The "Fall" magazine isn't up (as of today), but if you wan to check out the article on the "Ultimate Theater/Indoor Entertainment Space", then you can go to this Unique Homes magazine link and keep checking back for when they put the Fall issue up. Follow this link and then go to the Magazines link. The front of the magazine has an indoor swimming pool on it with columns surrounding the pool.

    #6 of 48 OFFLINE   DavidBick



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    Posted April 24 2011 - 07:15 PM

    Really interesting posts, Jeff.  I'd love to recreate the look of the first ceiling you showed... where do I start?  How does one get a soffet?  Are they sold prefab or do you have to start from scratch?  Also, how was the black light done?  In other words, what kind of black lights do you buy that are not only dimmable but able to be controlled via Luton/X10?     Thanks!

    #7 of 48 OFFLINE   Brian Dobbs

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    Posted April 25 2011 - 08:25 AM

    Awesome and informative thread.  thank you!

    #8 of 48 OFFLINE   Wayne Pennell

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    Posted May 17 2011 - 07:15 PM

    What is really the best type of glow paint to use? I have seen your posts about stencils too. is there one for the cosmic clouds or is this done by brush?

    #9 of 48 OFFLINE   Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr


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    Posted May 18 2011 - 02:48 PM

    I'm not a star-ceiling expert, but I can offer some advice that I hope isn't too far out-of-line.   On a paint-perspective, there's a maker of theatrical black-light paints that (allegedly) go on clear.  They're Wildfire.   On a light perspective, I've run into a lot of black-light fluorescent fixtures, and, in my humble opinion, they're Evil.  I'm not sure how controllable they are via Lutron or X10 systems, but I'd look into some of the UV LED solutions out there.  Look at a DJ lighting supplier, some Best Buys, or, of course, The Big Google.. the ones I'd look for would accept DMX control, but most people don't want to muck around with that.  (Though if you've a spare computer, there are some nice little USB to DMX adapters..)   Leo

    #10 of 48 OFFLINE   rayenf



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    Posted May 20 2011 - 05:53 PM

    Hi   I am planning a nightsky celling need to know what paint to use  

    #11 of 48 OFFLINE   Rcs476



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    Posted June 16 2011 - 07:09 AM

    I saw your ceilings on another forum, they're stunning.

    #12 of 48 OFFLINE   pmcclung



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    Posted June 28 2011 - 03:21 AM

    First i would like to say, WOW. I really like the room with the beams. I have a similar ceiling in my HT, (but no stars, or murals) I was looking into F.O. and stumbled onto your forum post here. I would like to know where and what type of paint i need, and can you use other colors like red, or am I limited to one color. I would like to try my luck on my closet ceiling first then if i do good, great. if not could you recommend a pro in my area. I live in Houston, Tx. thanks Peter

    #13 of 48 OFFLINE   mytvfans



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    Posted July 07 2011 - 06:17 PM

    awsome ,I like your moon painting.

    #14 of 48 OFFLINE   dmiller68


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    Posted July 07 2011 - 08:18 PM

    Very cool stuff. I have thought about doing this in my room.
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    #15 of 48 OFFLINE   Starman55



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    Posted July 14 2011 - 09:27 AM

    You can get the paint at GlowInc.com as well as learn the techniques necessary to do your own. Just practice on paper to get the techniques down and then make your first ceiling a spare bathroom or small bedroom. And don't ever pay more than four dollars a square foot for someone else to do it unless you live in an auditorium and/or want a multitude of special features. Contrary to what they would have you believe, it ain't rocket science. Check out the GlowInc forums: http://www.glowforum.com

    #16 of 48 OFFLINE   Renee from AZ

    Renee from AZ


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    Posted August 09 2011 - 10:38 PM

    WOW ! Your work is beautiful. I want to have this done in my theatre room. The problem is that it is in Kingman, AZ. But we have an endless supply of cookies : ) I am sort of a copy artist & can do a decent job if I can look @ something. This is a little more difficult than other projects I have done. Any & all help you can give me would be greatly appreciated by me & any who will be in the room when the lights go out. Do you plan on visiting the Kingman area anytime soon, or know anyone you could recommend? Once again, you are gifted @ what you do. With cookies, Renee

    #17 of 48 OFFLINE   ohananapili



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    Posted August 15 2011 - 11:34 PM

    Hi: I just read the blog and saw the pics of your star ceilings. I am doing a sort of low level DiY home theater. Its a small room about 12X14 with a low (7ft) flat ceiling. My plan is to give the room a retro tropical look using brown for the walls and some poster art and artificial tropical flowers etc..I am not an artist so I would need a professional to do the star ceiling if I went ahead with it. Would a star ceiling work in this room... Would it give the room a feeling of greater openness and height...or would it have less impact due to the flat low ceiling? How can we discuss this further? Ohananapili@msn.com

    #18 of 48 OFFLINE   SummerNights



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    Posted November 28 2011 - 10:01 AM

    I have been working in Fiber Optic Star field ceilings for over 7 years, and I tend to favor the fiber optic lighting instead of just the painted on stars..the real light shining makes it more dimensional and more of the planetarium feel that we all loved as children and adults. ! However both effects are beautiful all depending on the persons taste and preference! There is never a ceiling the same...always custom star placement for every persons space. Childrens room are one of my favorite to install..as the childs eyes light up like christmas knowing they are sleeping under the stars in their very own room...:) Parents have used this installation for helping with a child wanting to sleep in their own beds etc... Bedrooms are also a wonderful and very unique effect to have when falling asleep..something magical with the feel of being outside under the stars. It's truly a relaxing and stress relieving feature to have in your home decor. ! I offer several different styles under my Summer Nights Collection...from shooting stars, north star , big and little dippers, fireworks, ...to actual astrological signs and exact replica of the night sky when a couple was married. The sky is truly the limit when working with fiber optic lighting. Lights me up ! Summer Monaco

    #19 of 48 OFFLINE   Carlos 31

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    Posted January 28 2012 - 06:45 PM

    Hi NightSky, I am from Brisbane Australia and am just about to start painting my thearte room. I was impressed with the first photo on your page with the raked soffit ceiling you did. I would like to achieve the same nightsky effect. I have similar construction method with black uplighting onto a plasterboard ceiling. A few questions. What was the base colour, brand of paint and acrylic or enamel?(looks like a sky blue)? Also what was the glow paint you used? Do the blacklights need to be on dimmers? Open to any other suggestions that may be of help. Regards Carlos 31

    #20 of 48 OFFLINE   Krunch



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    Posted February 02 2012 - 07:13 PM

    Thanks for being so thorough! I have a few questions, if you could please take time to answer: Where are you located (subsequently, can I hire you near Chicago?) I'm in the building stages, where should I add outlets, etc? I want to do this in my son's Star Wars bedroom- any other creative suggestions? I'm a pretty good painter,may even attempt this myself- any paint recommendations? Thanks for your time, Kelly

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