Unexpected Problem - Finding Non Fluorescent White Paper

I am working on the first module in a new N-scale model railroad layout.  In this urban scene, I am using florescent paints of various types under black light to simulate neon and other lighting in night scenes.

I use printed paper in a lot of applications in my modeling - not just for business signs but highway signs, tar paper on roofs, some areas of brick and concrete, small details, etc.  The unexpected problem I am having is finding any white printer paper that doesn't fluoresce under black light (it is the whiteners that are used in modern papers that fluoresce -- in fact one test to see if you have an older document in your hand is to put it under black light).  Stop signs and tar paper roofs of buildings and manhole covers should NOT be glowing at night.

I am told some art supply stores sell non-fluorescent natural white papers, but I have yet to track any down.  I went into the OfficeMax yesterday with a handheld black light (we all own these in Phoenix for finding scorpions in our houses at night, as they fluoresce too, but that is another story).  The good news is that Homeland Security did not bust me for odd behavior, but I did not find anything that would work.  I actually have some clear paint that is a UV block, but it dries glossy, so right now I am painting a layer of the block and then a layer of matte clear coat.  This does not look entirely right, and is a pain to do for every item.

On the off chance one of you has an idea with this ridiculously niche bleg, fire away in the comments.

Update: Solution found! Thanks to commenter Agesilaus


  1. JBHarshaw:

    Look for "natural" rather than "brilliant" white, or some cheaper recycled paper grades (Wal-Mart type drawing pads for kids and the like) those should not fluoresce.

    If everything else fails, look for Strathmore (but expensive) at an art store.

  2. Dane:

    What an interesting problem. It is some years since I was railway modelling, and a few more years than that since I worked in N scale, and I have never thought of your clever black-light idea.
    I used thirty-second of an inch balsa for a lot of applications, especially as it could be scribed into weatherboards (clapboard siding?) and with care into corrugated iron and provided it was painted with an oil based paint the scribed indentations became permanent.
    As for a suitable paper, I have no real idea, only some suggestions. Certain watercolour paper from an art supplier might be OK. Good ones are rag rather than wood derived and might not have the same whiteners.
    What about brown wrapping paper? There are coarse ones like used for supermarket bags (or perhaps USA doesn't use them any more) but an art supply or craft shop should have a range of quality brown paper. Some could be suitable to accept print.
    Apart from that you could start pulling apart that first edition of Shakespeare you have tucked away somewhere!

    Hope that is of some help. Love to see some pics of your model work. Good luck!

  3. Eric Hammer:

    You might try a cheap recycled newspaper sketch pad. Most hobby and craft stores carry them. I find the paper annoyingly thin for drawing, but it is rather cheap. Alternately, depending on the size of the item (propaganda poster or advertisement flyer as opposed to billboard) you might just use the edges of regular news paper.

    Alternately, thin sheet styrene might do the trick as well, if it wouldn't be too perfectly flat for your purpose.

    Out of curiosity, what manner of matte varnish are you using? I find that Testors Dullcote works wonders for scale models for wargaming, being nearly impossible to over spray and making a nice smooth finish without a hint of gloss. Craft store matte sprays and some paint on varieties always displeased me (and one made some technical pen detailing run slightly orange marks, which nearly ruined a model :( )

  4. richard:

    Try Cleanroom paper

  5. Elliot:

    Around here we have Michael's Crafts and Hobby Lobby. They have roughly made artsy paper used for scrapbooking and such. Probably a bit more natural. Would definitely like to see some pics of your scenes.


  6. delurking:

    Does it not photobleach in a reasonable period of time? In other words, if you leave it under the UV lamp overnight, does it still fluoresce?

  7. Larry Sheldon:

    How about the papers sold for printing photographs?

    Or how about bleaching not-white paper and drying it?

  8. TakeFive:

    Model railroading? How do you find the time?

  9. Greg:

    Following Delurking's line of thought above, if the UV lamp won't photobleach the paper maybe a day in the Arizona sun will do it.

  10. steve:

    wallpaper might do the job

  11. Red:

    You may want to try scenicexpress.com. They have premade neon signs (some animated!) that look pretty good, and they have N Scale. They also have an experimental kit, allowing you to make your own.

  12. Bruce H.:

    It's not just printer paper. I've read a number of books recently that glow a gentle purple glow under my halogen reading lamp.

  13. agesilaus:

    As a photographer I can tell you the problem is in OBA, Optical Brightening Agents. These do fluoresce and are added to make paper appear whiter. They will fade over a period of years. You can buy paper without OBAs and as someone mentioned it is called 'natural'. I doubt that you want to pay for printer grade paper but you can find natural papers at red river paper or hawk mountain paper. But the prices will shock you...heh.


  14. Tom Q:

    Try archival bond paper (a little spendy, but not unreasonable) from a good stationary store.
    This is the stuff required by some schools for theses as it has none of the acids in normal paper so it doesn't deteriorate over time - I'd think it has no brightness enhancers either for the same reason.

  15. feeblemind:

    Can't help with the problem but I hope we get regular updates on your modeling.