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)
Cal theater with logo
, on Flickr
(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)
Fiber optic star ceiling
, on Flickr
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
* 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.
* You usually get only about 1/10th of the number of stars that a painted mural gives you.
* The holes drilled for the fibers are visible.
* One, maybe two, different sizes of stars.
* Scheduling a few days, to a week, for it to be installed.
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 can always add more stars later if needed. Don't try to go too crazy at first. Paint, step back and 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 tried out... 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.
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 call 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
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 ones)
* 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 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.
Bad star mural 2 by ?
, on Flickr
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)
, on Flickr
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 painted by people who were already muralists before they 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
* 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.
* Virtually invisible in the light.
* Thousands of stars in the mural... compared to hundreds 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) 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.
* The 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. Your room looks like it always has in the light.
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” only if you want then to be visible in the light. (Note: The murals are invisible on light colored ceilings that also have some texture)
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.
Split Room- NSM
, on Flickr
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... do this one thing for the dark. You will be glad 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 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.