Learn how to paint glass with our easy tips and ideas
Painting glass is a simple crafts project, when you use the right art materials and paints. (And excellent for those indoor January and February winter crafts for the elderly too).
Even if you don’t consider yourself to be an “artist,” glass painting can be a satisfying project no matter what your artistic skill. You can easily paint on wine glasses, goblets, vases, dishes, bowls, ornaments, and candle holders. Just about any kind of glass will work, including colored glass. (Colored glass can look quite striking).
This is a project almost all ability levels can do, and just about any age group. It’s one of our favorite activities for seniors. And if you’re planning special elderly activities (some may need a little extra help), consider learning how to paint glass. It’s one of those crafts for the elderly that can provide a very satisfying end result.
Using a simple stencil like a leaf, flower, bird or heart, rather than drawing from scratch, will also give wonderful results. Or use ideas from our template pages: flower templates, or leaf template ideas.
The first step in how to paint glass is getting your glassware. You can find it cheaply at thrift stores, dollar stores, and garage sales, if you don’t have something already.
How to paint on glass involves a few steps…
* Paint the design
* Let it dry 48 hours
* Bake it on low heat for 15 minutes to set it
* Paint on a finishing coat of special varnish
* Let it dry
The paint on your glass will then be reasonably strong and long lasting, but will require special care. With many glass paints, the glass cannot be put in the dish washer or scrubbed. It needs to be gently hand washed. (So read the instructions carefully). You will find glass paint and varnish for it, in a craft store.
What you need:
- Your piece of glassware
- Decorative stencil, if you are using one
- Glass paint (acrylic enamel) in your choice of colors. My colors were cadmium yellow, red, white, and green.
- Filbert shaped paint brush (a flat brush with rounded tip), #10 for large glass piece; or #6 for a small size like a wine glass
- Small pointed brush for leaves and stem
- Newspapers to spread over painting area
- Water container & rag
- Piece of paper for practicing brush strokes (if needed)
- Plastic picnic plate to use as a palette, or regular artist’s palette
- Plastic palette knife for mixing colors, if needed
How To Paint Glass:
Prep — Make sure the glass piece has been washed and dried thoroughly. Read the instructions on the bottle of the glass paint first. Brands may differ slightly.
The basic technique — When you learn how to paint glass, be aware that many types of glass paint go on somewhat transparent and “streaky.” This is the natural look. If you want a heavier, opaque look, you must put on 2 or 3 coats, letting each coat dry in between. Or read the bottle labels for particularly opaque paint.
Dip the brush lightly in water just to moisten it, then dab out excess with a rag. Too much water makes the paint runny and too streaky.
Another technique in how to paint glass is to sponge paint a background base coat of paint (in a contrasting color) all around the bottom half of the glass. This will make your design, which you paint over it when dry, more opaque with stronger color.
Just cut a small square of sponge, lightly moisten it, dip it in paint, and thinly dab it on. It makes a nice textured coating, and creates a kind of primed base coat. Dry it for at least 4 hours.
Then when you paint your designs, they will be more opaque and less streaky. It’s just a different look. But make sure if your designs are a dark color, that you use a light background, and vice versa (for contrast). Otherwise they won’t show up against each other.
Important — It is also important when you are painting a wine glass or any piece to drink from, that you have the design at least 1 inch from the top of the glass. You do not want the paint in an area that will touch the mouth.
Below is a design ideas for a “snowy” white background. This could be used as a vase, or to drink from.
To make the flowers:
First I painted a small yellow dot for the middle of the daisy. After that it is a matter of painting simple petals around the dot. I used a one-stroke painting method for the daisies, using two colors of paint (red and white) side by side on the brush, then applying it with one stroke. But just one color works perfectly well.
For one-stroke painting: — Put a small blob of red paint about the size of a nickel on your palette, then next to that put a blob of white. Dab one side of your brush in the red paint, and the other side in the white, making a two-tone brush. Make one stroke, starting at the top of the petal and pulling the brush down. If you want the petal to taper at the bottom, then as you draw the brush down, turn it on its side. Practice this method on a piece of paper first before you practice how to paint glass. But don’t worry. If you make a mistake, just wipe it off and start over. Again, you can use just one color and don’t worry about this technique.
Paint your center dot, then paint several petals around the dot. How to paint glass does involve an element of balance and good design. To balance out the design I used, I decided to paint a bud on each side of the daisy. It added just enough, but still kept it simple. To paint the two buds on each side of the flower — each bud is just made of two petal strokes, joining them at the bottom.
Next, the stem and leaves – Take your pointed brush and dip it in green. Make a thin, curved stem under the daisy. Then a very short stem for each bud, pointing toward the daisy. Next, take the pointed brush and make a couple alternating leaves on the daisy stem. And two leaves for each bud. I found that the paint for the stem and leaves was not dark enough, so I waited about one minute, then re-stroked them.
The base — When you consider how to paint glass for your project, decide whether you want to add a little design to the base. I find it makes it look a little more finished. For the base on the wine glass, I simply make another bud, using 3 strokes joined at the bottom. Then I painted a simple curved stem and a few alternating leaves. That’s it! (For the painting part).
Drying and Baking:
You can certainly paint 2 layers on your design if your want it darker. But it’s probably not necessary. If you do, let each coat dry about 4 hours between.
When done painting, dry it for 48 hours before baking. Always follow the instructions on the bottle.
Bake at about 325 F degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Let the oven heat up first. Put the project on a cookie sheet or glass pan.
When done, turn off the oven and keep the glass in the oven as it cools down, until the glass is completely cool.
Lastly, paint a coat of craft polyurethane varnish for glass paint (from the craft store) over your design (and background if you have one).
If you are using more than one coat or varnish, it should dry in between, according to instructions.
Usually about 30 minutes drying time between varnish coats.
The second wine glass with three flowers to the right was done the same way. The only thing that is different is the design – slightly more complicated, but not much.
The buds have 4 petals, and their stems are longer and cross over the main stem. On the base, the bud also had 4 petals and a fancier stem.
Making Stippled Flowers:
To the right is a glass with purple flowers and was also very easy. How to paint glass involves being aware of the contours of your glassware, and working the design around it.
This time I used straight stems that follow the lines of the glass. And large poms on the tops, instead of petals. I used a dark purple and white.
Ideally one rule in how to paint glass is to let the first color dry before applying the next, if the dots are rather thick. But since the second color of these flowers involves just a few little dots, you can just painted them on right away.
If you have an actual stippling paint brush, just moisten it with paint, tap any excess off a couple times on a scrap of paper, then tap (stipple) on the paint to make a circular shape. Or…
An alternative to using a stippling brush is to apply little dots of paint. With a pointed brush, just dab on many dots of the dark purple paint first. Then a few white dots to highlight the flower. I also made a few decorative dots in between the flowers. There is another flower and stem on the base. This type of flower is very simple to make when you are learning how to paint glass.
To the right is a patriotic-theme example, using stencils such as stars, using a color theme of red, white and blue, with a little 3-D paint for the squiggles.
You can see how a sponge painted area was laid down first in blue, as a base coat, with the designs then painted on top when it was dry. This was super easy to make.
You can get more about this one, (plus other patriotic styled projects) on this page:Fun 4th of July Crafts.
It may give you ideas of how to change out designs for different holiday themes, as well.
The next example shows a different shaped jar, tall with a cover. Perfect for cotton balls. I picked it up inexpensively at a thrift store. (But I think this type of jar is actually used for spaghetti — oh well).
This sample also demonstrates how to paint glass with two layers of paint, drying them each in between.
In the “grassy” area on the bottom of the jar, I first sponge painted on a basic background color, then let it dry thoroughly.
Next I painted the flower, stem and leaf design, and let it dry. I allowed at least an hour of drying time between coats.
After that, I re-painted over all the stems, flowers and leaves because I wanted them darker.
There are so many fun types of glass to paint on, and so many ways to do it. Remember, you can always use easy stencils for painting on glass — no need to be super artistic!
Be sure to also see:
Easy Crafts and Gifts You Can Make — Find out about lots more easy yet quality craft ideas (including other projects on glass) for many seasons, reasons, ages and ability levels; plus free templates you can use for a variety of activities.
We have it all in two handy books – it’s a Two-For-One. So do take a look at some of the “sneak preview” samples.
Easy Halloween Crafts — This page includes another lovely sample of a fall leaf motif for painting on glass projects. Or, if you want to go ghoul, get a bat and sliver-of-the-moon template. Lots of other fun Halloween projects that may give you more ideas for what to paint on glass.