Light-up Shirts: Revolutionary Technology set to transform the garment printing industry

Dec 24


Jean R Desvernay

Jean R Desvernay

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Electro-Wear: Unique Light Up sound sensitive Shirts Light up shirt, luminous shirts are all based on the same technology. Simply imagine a neat Neon Sign, like those in Las Vegas, reduced, flattened out and patched directly on almost any garment. A regular Tee is now turned into a wearable Luminous Animation.


Call it light up shirt,Light-up Shirts: Revolutionary Technology set to transform the garment printing industry Articles luminous shirts, glow-in-the-dark tees, electro shirt, EL shirts, Animated Shirts they’re all based on the same technology: Electroluminescence. But what the fuss about them and why do they have the potential to change forever the way you wear a tee? Here’s a simple description of their use and technology written by Jean R. Desvernay from Electro-Wear Ltd ( and Robert Doornick from Allura Intelligent Product(


Light up Shirt: What’s the fuss?


Who today doesn’t have in its cupboard a dozen of lousy tees with a company name printed on it?

From College, Mom and Pop shop to top 500 company, advert tees have became such a norm that it has almost became an obligation for any company to give away tees with their brand printed on it to their customers.

However, because it has became a decades old norm in a media saturated age, printed garment are losing their advertising power.

Electro-Wear, a company based in New York with manufacturing facilities in China has found a radical new way to give a tremendous boost to printed ads on garments with electro-luminescent technology, distributing its light up shirts also called EL shirts to a wide range of industries.


Simply imagine a neat Neon Sign, like those in Las Vegas, reduced, flattened out and patched directly on almost any garment. A regular Tee is now turned into a wearable Luminous Animation. Not only that but it comes with mind blowing features, such as being sound sensitive with a logo on the front shirt lighting up with the sound of your voice or with the beat of music.


Because of those luminous features those Light up Shirts are showing that they can increase by the 1000’ fold the viewer and passer by attention, making them an ideal way to advertise a brand.

Big corporation are now increasingly turning their attention to this very promising advertising medium.

Warner Bross is the latest in a row to start advertising their product on Light up Shirts, among dozens of others brands varying from FM Radio station to Hokey Team.

That’s what Light up Shirt are all about, and this technology is about to give a pretty big revival to the traditional garment printing industry.



How does it work?


Light up shirt, luminous shirts, glow-in-the-dark tees, electro shirt, EL shirts, Animated Shirts are an ordinary t-shirt enhanced with a graphic illuminating electroluminescent panel. While glow-in-the-dark apparel and apparel utilizing LED displays have long been popular novelty items, light-up t-shirts with electroluminescent displays are a fairly recent phenomenon. The unique characteristics of electroluminescent light-up technology make light-up t-shirts a versatile and unique alternative to traditional light-up methods. This article aims to discuss the science behind an electroluminescent display and maps the development of electroluminescent displays from their most basic form to use in today’s ‘light-up’ t-shirts. The process of creating a completed ‘light-up’ t-shirt will also be discussed.


An Electroluminescent Light Source.


In its most simple form an electroluminescent light source consist of a phosphorous material sandwiched between two electrodes, one of which is transparent. A phosphorous material is simply a substance that glows when excited by electricity. An electrode is a material that emits or receives electricity, for example glass or metal. Two fine wires lead from the electrodes to the source of power and an AC current is required. The device remains cool while lighting up and this is a defining characteristic of a luminescent light source. Electroluminescent light sources provide bright uniform light over a large area and are extremely thin. For this reason electroluminescent lamps have many practical applications. Electroluminescent lamps may be found in clock and instrument dials, in safety lighting and bill board displays. However, an electroluminescent light source in its simplest form is not readily adaptable to more creative applications.


Early Developments in Electroluminescent Lighting.


In the 1970s the basic electroluminescent lamp was modified and a wide range of applications for electroluminescent lighting became apparent. The most significant modification being that the phosphorous material is no longer sandwiched between two electrodes. (2) Rather the two electrodes, separated by an insulating film of polyester, form an electrical grid on top of which the phosphorous material may be ‘painted’. The grid-like nature of the electrode continues to allow the electric field to penetrate the phosphorous layer. This form of electroluminescent lighting has been used to literally paint electroluminescent artworks.


Further Developments in Electroluminescent Lighting.


Further modifications to the basic electroluminescent lamp bring us to the electroluminescent panel found on ‘light up’ t-shirts. Like the electroluminescent lamp developed in the 1970s today’s electroluminescent panels consist of an electrical grid on top of which a phosphorous layer is printed in the desired design. A thin pliable and transparent sheet of material is placed on top of the phosphorous layer. Areas of the membrane are opaque while others are transparent in accordance with the printed design of the phosphorous layer. A transparent protective coating is applied as the final layer. Using different phosphorous materials creates different colors while alternating and dividing the power supply between different areas on the electrical grid creates designs that light in sequence. Finally an inverter is used to allow the electroluminescent panel to be run by a small battery pack.


Electroluminescent Panels and Light up T-shirts.


A light-up t-shirt is created by applying an electroluminescent panel to an ordinary t-shirt. In a well made light-up t-shirt the electroluminescent panel will be stitched to a Velcro backing. A Velcro patch sewn to the t-shirt allows the panel to be attached and removed at ease. A slit in the t-shirt itself and Velcro patch allows wiring from the panel, in the form of a thin plastic cable, to be threaded inside the t-shirt. Wiring then runs to a battery pack concealed inside and at the base of the t-shirt. 

The Future of Light up Apparel


Electroluminescent panels today are a highly versatile light source. Electroluminescent panels may be created in an infinite number of designs and in a range of colors (see  for more information). Flashing sequences may be manipulated to animate the design and in recent developments may even combine a sound activation device to create sound responsive animations. Electroluminescent panels are increasingly popular in the advertising industry for their versatility. The light-weight and flexible design of an electroluminescent panel allows it to be applied to a variety of other mediums, besides t-shirts. ‘Light-up’ caps and ‘light-up’ wrist wrap or independent light up panels are increasingly popular forms of ‘light-up’ apparel and work in much the same way as the electroluminescent t-shirt described above.