Beginners Guide to Painting Glass

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Photo by Jill Burrow on

Painting on glass can be a great holiday activity for kids, as well as a fun and easy way to brighten up your home for adults. Glass gives you a smooth surface to paint on and can let light through to make some breath-taking and radiant designs. By knowing which paints to use and the right way to work with glass panes, bottles, and drinking glasses, you can start your own glass painting in no time.

Choosing Paint and Brushes

Use enamel paint for long-lasting decoration. There are several different types of enamel paint that will give you different final appearances. All of them will take some time to dry fully but should stay on your glass for a long time once they have set. Here are a few different types of enamel paint you could choose from:

  • Gloss enamel paints will give you the thickest coat and result in a more opaque finish.
  • Frosted glass enamel paints will give a much lighter coat for a slight hint of color.
  • Crystal gloss enamels will provide you with something in between the two.

Choose acrylic paint and gesso for a finished, matte look. Gesso is a combination of a binder and white powder that will make nearly any surface easily paintable. Use a base coat of gesso with top coats of acrylic paint for a totally opaque finished glass painting. Gesso and acrylic paints will work best on bottles, glasses, or other containers with interesting shapes. Painting with gesso and acrylic on a flat pane of glass will look very similar to a painted canvas.

Use glass liner and water-based glass paints for a simple, stained glass look. lass liner or lead will give a dark, solid outline that you can fill with translucent and colorful paints. Building an outline and coloring it in sections will create some cool, see-through colors that look like a stained glass window

Find the right paintbrush for your design. While you can use any type of paintbrush or paint applicator when painting onto glass, they might change the overall look of your finished design. Here are a few different types of paintbrush to choose between:

  • Brushes with synthetic bristles will leave visible brush marks, which can give your glass more homemade, rustic vibes. Use these for smaller, intricate designs.
  • Natural bristle brushes will give you more smooth and even coverage. These will work great when painting base coats over the whole surface of your glass.
  • Applicator sponges will provide an even, textured coat across the surface of the glass. Use sponges to cover the whole glass or to give a slightly frosted look.
  • Make sure you use a paintbrush of the right size for your painting. Smaller, narrower paintbrushes will be better for delicate designs, whereas broader, flat brushes will work for overall coats.

Preparing the Surface

Clean and dry the glass surface. Use warm water and soap to remove any oil or fingerprints left on the glass, as these can prevent the paint from sticking or being applied evenly to the glass. Be careful not to get any more fingerprints or oil on the glass as you clean it.

  • Wear latex gloves as you wash the glass, as this will prevent any oils from transferring from your skin back onto the glass.
  • For a much more thorough clean, use a little bit of rubbing alcohol on a cotton cloth instead of warm water and soap.

Applying the Paint

Outline your design on the glass. Use a marker to transfer the design you want onto your glass. Choose a starting point and carefully begin tracing the outline over your glass.

  • Don’t worry about the marker ruining your design once it is done. The marker will either be covered by your paint or will wash off easily.
  • If you are using glass liner, follow the same method to outline your design on the glass. Lightly squeeze the bottle as you move over the outline to lay down the liner.
  • If you didn’t paint a matte base coat on your glass and it’s still fully transparent, you can use a stencil on the inside of the glass instead of drawing on the outside. Transfer your design to a piece of paper and hold it to the inside of the glass to provide a guide that you can paint over.

Start painting with one color.
 Load a small amount of one color of your chosen paint onto the end of the paintbrush. Start on the side furthest from your paintbrush and begin painting the color onto the chosen places in your design.

  • Use light strokes at first and apply more pressure as you get a feel for the painting process. It’s easier to add more paint than it is to remove it.
  • If you make a mistake, use a paper towel to try and lift the paint away from the glass while it is still wet. For enamel paint, it may help to use a little paint thinner. Make sure you only remove the parts you want to redo!

Clean the brush to remove any leftover paint. Dip the end of your paintbrush into a small cup of water and swirl it around to remove any leftover paint. Dry the paintbrush on some scrap paper before choosing your next color.

  • If you are using enamel paint, you might need to use some enamel paint thinner in order to clean your brush. This should be available from your local craft store, near the enamel paint.

Cure your glass paint by leaving it to dry. Some enamel and acrylic paints will only need to dry for a long time in order for the paint to fully set. Leave them somewhere warm and dry for up to a week before using or displaying your painted glass.

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when curing the paint. Some paints that dry to be cured can only be washed by hand with soap and warm water.

Cure your glass paint by baking it. Some paints will require you to bake your glass to fully cure it and set the paint forever. Put your glass in the oven and set it to the temperature stated on your paint bottle. Let the glass cure for around 30 minutes, before turning the oven off and leaving it to cool before removing it.

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