How To Paint on Glass

Painting on glass
Glass painting has gained popularity over the years. It is the process of adding paints to glass. The finished result looks a lot like stained glass. The whole process is fairly easy and over time an artist can get good at it and produce great results.

Step 1

Choose your paints. Glass paints come in two types. You can get water-based glass paint and non-water-based paints. There are many people who won't touch the water based products claiming that they aren't real glass paints. However, each paint has some advantages over the other and the one you choose in the end is really up to you.

  • Water-based paints - Highly recommended for children and beginners. They are easily diluted with water and tools are easy to clean. Paints dry to the touch after a mere 20-30 minutes. This can make a project a lot faster to complete and easier to work without accidentally blending colors. The final piece dries in 4-8 hours. 
  • Non-water-based paints - These paints are often considered of a professional grade. They hold up better, but have some down sides. You can dilute these colors using ceramic thinner and clean your tools with the same product. However, cleaning tools has to be done quickly so they don't become ruined. Dry time is also 2 hours to touch and a minimum of 8 hours for final dry time. This can make it difficult to finish a product quickly and can present color challenges. 

Step 2

Choose your outliner. Glass paints are thin and run all over the place when you try to paint with them. Therefore, an outliner is used to form a solid barrier between colors. This holds the color in and will become part of the project. There are several options for outliners.

  • Outliner stickers - Many craft stores will have stickers that will make up the outline of the picture. These are easy to use, but don't always have a good finished look. It is recommended to try these as a beginner if you are needing something a little easier since they are very easy to use. 
  • Outliner paint - These are paints that are in a tube and can be piped onto the project using a small nozzle. They come in a wide variety of colors and sizes. The disadvantage to these is that they often come off the project later on. 
  • Lead tape - Lead tape can be used to form the picture. It is easier than working with liquid lead, but isn't as professional looking. Lead is dangerous so be careful if you choose to use it and make sure you read and follow any directions and warnings.
  • Liquid Lead - For a very professional look you can use liquid lead. This comes in a squeeze tube. It is harder to manipulate than the other options, but gives the best finished look. Lead is dangerous so be careful if you choose to use it and make sure you read and follow any directions and warnings. 

Step 3

Prepare your glass. Begin by thoroughly washing and drying your glass. Smudges, oils, dust, and dirt will all make it hard to paint the glass. Next use white spirit or another solvent to make sure that it is really clean of all the things that will make it hard to have the paint stick (some recommend vinegar instead). You should wear gloves to handle your piece after this so as not to add oils from your fingers.

Step 4

Attach your picture. Pictures are easy to attach to a flat surface and should simply be placed on the reverse side. You can use small amounts of tape to adhere it or be careful to keep the object in place on top of it. Curved objects often provide a little more challenge. The picture will need to be curved on the inside of the piece.

Step 5

Outline the picture. Using the outliner of choice carefully outline your picture. Follow the directions to let the outliner sit and dry if need be.

Step 6

Paint the picture. The project will need to remain on a horizontal angle the whole time each section is drying. This can add challenge to 3 dimensional pieces. Start with a single color and fill in all spaces that will be that color. Be careful not to move the project (if there are spaces that are going to be this color and they are on a different section they will have to wait till later). To fill in the space put a little paint in your brush and dab it around the whole edge of the section. Next fill your brush and fill in the center.

Clean your brush with the method for the paints you are using. 

Next move on to the next color. It is a good idea to do this after the first color has become dry to the touch. Be careful to move from one corner at the top toward the bottom (start left upper corner if you are right handed and the right upper corner if you are left handed). This will keep your hand, wrist, and arm out of the fresh paint. 

You can blend colors of the exact same material, usually with really good results. However, expermenting with blending different types of paints can produce interesting results. Remember to mix on a pallet or other item that it is okay if paint ends up stuck on. Use small amounts so as not to waste a lot of paint, a little goes a long way! 

Step 7

Optional - Add decorations. You can add beads, glitter, and sequins into the wet paint before it dries. It will then act like glue and hold the object in place. Be careful when doing this and don't move your glass a whole lot. Instead use tweezers to get the larger objects where you want them and do the glitter when the section you want is still wet, but other sections are not. Carefully sprinkle it on.

Step 8

Finish the piece. You now have a painted object. You can use glass varnish to finish the project and add a protective layer. This can make the piece last longer and look well finished. It comes in a clear gloss and a matte finish that will make the piece look like frosted glass. Follow the directions of the product to finish your piece.

Glass painting is beautiful. It is important to remember that glass paints are toxic and should be used in a well ventilated space. They should also never be consumed, used on objects that will hold food, and are for decorative use only. Once a piece is painted it should no longer serve as service, dishes, or hold food or drink again. Nonetheless, these pieces are beautiful. You can use them as decorations all over the house! You can also make your own sun catchers that look like real stain glass.


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