Understanding Neon Sign Gases and Their Colors

Gases used in neon signs and their colors
Gases used in neon signs and their colors
Resource: https://lighting-gallery.net

Different neon sign gases produce different colors when electrified. This is what allows neon signs to be so colorful. This article will help you understand the different types of gases used in neon signs and their colors. The information should guide you when choosing the right color for your custom neon sign or even ready-made sign.

How is Neon Used in Signs?

When electricity is applied to some gases, it produces light. Neon sign lights are based on this principle. Electrified neon gas inside a sealed tube causes the gas to emit a bright glow. This is why these signs have been so popular for decades—they produce amazingly vibrant colors!

But then, how is gas introduced in the glass tubing used in neon signs? Here is what happens, even though the exact steps or procedures may vary across manufacturers

  • First, air is drawn from the tube, creating a partial vacuum.
  • Once the pressure inside the tube is low enough, the gas is introduced, using a special type of pump.
  • The tube is then sealed with electrodes attached to each end. These will help carry electricity into the gas when a voltage is applied to the tube.
  • Several other processes follow this step. These include burning the tube (aging) and quality control.

Neon, when used in these tubes, neon gives out a characteristic red-orange glow. In order to produce other colors, other gases may be used. By combining different neon sign gases and fluorescent materials, beautiful color combinations can be created.

An example of neon, neon sign or a sign that uses pure neon
An example of neon, neon sign or a sign that uses pure neon
Resource: https://www.telecomtv.com

Gases Used in Neon Signs and Their Colors

Neon signs often consist of multiple tubes bent in different shapes and connected to a single power source. This allows for intricate designs that produce stunning visuals. These signs are made with a range of gases, each producing its own color when electrified. Here’s a quick look at the different types of these neon sign gases and their colors.

1. Neon Neon Signs

Neon is a type of inactive or inert gas and that’s extracted from the very air that we breathe. When an electrical current is sent through it inside a glass tube, the gas will glow. Neon, which is characterized by a bright red-orange color, is one of the most frequently used neon sign gases.

When you think of a classic or vintage sign, you are likely thinking of this type of gas. That’s where the name “neon sign” comes from — neon gas. In lower concentrations, using neon in signs produces a deep red, while lower levels of the gas create a lighter red or pinkish hue.

2. Argon Gas in Neon Signs

Argon is another of the most popular neon sign gases. Found in larger quantities in the air than neon, it produces a soft blue tinge in neon signs. The use of argon gas in neon signs has been common since the 1900s up to the present day.

When combined with mercury vapor and colored phosphors, argon can give out many other colors, from white to purple and yellow. This allows signs made from argon to be used in many different settings as well as different applications.

3. Xenon Signs

Xenon signs are made using xenon gas, which produces a bright white light when electrified. In order to make colors other than blue, sign manufacturers combine it with other gases and phosphors. Xenon signs are, therefore, mostly suited for spaces that need a more subtle look and tranquility.

For example, you can use this type of neon sign in hotels, and other places where a soft glow is needed. Xenon signs are also used in outdoor spaces to create a soothing atmosphere that does not overpower the natural environment.

4. Helium Neon Sign

On its own, helium gas produces a pinkish-red color in neon signs. However, it’s often combined with mercury vapor and argon enable the gases inside the sign’s tubing to make them heat up much more quickly.

Again, a helium neon sign may produce different colors, depending on the phosphor or gas combination. Manufacturers will then use these neon sign gas colors to create custom colors and patterns to transform the look of a sign, logo, or image.

5. Krypton Neon Signs

Krypton is a noble gas that has a light whitish-blue hue when used in neon signs. Like other neon sign gases, krypton requires a phosphor or gas combination to produce other colors. That means an array of possibilities when manufacturing krypton neon signs, whether for decoration purposes or for advertisement.

Krypton neon sign colors are popular in nightclubs, restaurants, and other places where an appealing atmosphere is needed. Its soft bluish tones allow for a very pleasant and inviting ambiance in any space.

6. Mercury in Neon signs

Our list of neon sign gases and their colors would not be complete without the mention of mercury. This silvery liquid metal produces a distinctive blue-white hue when inside a neon sign, and it works in combination with other gases to produce many other colors as well.

The use of mercury in neon signs is not a popular option today, though. When introduced in a sign’s tubing, it’s typically a drop or two of liquid mercury, which creates a fluorescence that is very efficient and long-lasting.


Neon signs provide a unique visual appeal and can be used for both decorative and promotional purposes. Several combinations of neon sign gases are what give these signs their special visibility and color, with each gas providing its own unique hue.

From the bright red-orange of neon to the deep blue or lavender of argon, these signs can create a range of colors that provide for a heightened impact. When choosing your neon sign gas or gas combination, be sure to consider the environment where you’ll place it, as well as the impact that you’re looking for.

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