A beginner’s guide to glass painting
Glass painting is a fun and easy way to breathe new life into old glassware, and with just a little know-how it’s easy to learn. Read on for our beginner’s guide to glass painting!
Glass painting is a fantastic way to upcycle old glassware and give it a new lease of life. Whether you’re eager to bring some colour into your decorative homewares, or looking for inspiration for a side hustle, knowing how to paint onto glass can be a useful skill to have. And if you use a template (glass painting stencils) there’s no artistic skill required – all you need is a little know-how. In this article, a beginner’s guide to glass painting, we share our expert knowledge, tips and tricks, as well as a full in-depth step-by-step tutorial with free glass painting stencil, so you can get started on your next craft project. If you can hold a paintbrush, you can learn how to do glass painting. Do you have any glass painting advice? Let us know in the comments below!
Do you like this article, a beginner’s guide to glass painting? Why not check out some of our other beginner’s guides, right here on Gathered. If you’re into painting, why not try your hand at paint pouring and our beginner’s guide to acrylic paint pouring or how about watercolour painting for beginners? If you’ve got the glass painting bug, have a look at some of our other glass crafts, including how to make a stained-glass window, and how to make these fantastic wine bottle lights. Have you ever saved sea glass from walks along the beach? We’ve rounded up all the best sea glass crafts for you to do with your collection. Illustrator Becki Clark has given us this beautiful step-by-step glass painting tutorial, where she creates this delicate floral Easter egg. It’s something to be treasured year after year, and she even shows us how to add your own pressed flowers to your design!
We love seeing what you make, so don’t forget to share your craft projects with us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, too!
What is glass painting?
Glass painting is a way of adding decoration and interest to glassware, by quite literally painting onto glass, and creating a unique piece of artwork in the process. Glass painting enables you to add texture and colour to glass (or ceramic) items, such as tea-light holders, mason jars, tumblers, or vases, transforming them into colourful objects to suit the scheme of a room.
How to prime glass for painting
The best way to prime your glass for painting is to first wash it using warm, soapy water. This will remove dirt or any dust build-up. Rinse and let it dry thoroughly. Next, use methylated spirit on a clean, dry and lint-free cloth to fully degrease the glass surface (making sure you’re working in a well-ventilated area). If you don’t have any methylated spirit, rubbing alcohol or white vinegar will also work. Set aside your now-primed glass in a dust-free area to air-dry for around 10-15 minutes and your glass will be ready for painting.
But I’ll let you in on a little secret – if you’re stuck for how to prime your glass, just use regular glass cleaner – you know, the type that comes in spray bottles for your windows. It does the trick nicely, and you’ve probably already got some around the house.
If you’re painting on brand new glass that you’ve bought especially, then chances are you won’t need to prime your glass before painting. Priming is more important for older glass items that have been handled a lot as dirt, oils and dust can hinder the paint from adhering to your glass.
How to get paint off glass
It’s possible that glass paint is going to get somewhere it shouldn’t – in which case, you’ll need to know how to get paint off the glass. If you have some nail varnish remover in the house, then this will do the trick. Add a few drops to a microfibre cloth, and carefully wipe away the rogue glass paint. No nail varnish remover? Not to worry – rubbing alcohol will also work. Another option is to use white vinegar – mix a 1:1 mixture of white vinegar with boiling water and use a cloth to rub gently over the paint you want to remove. It doesn’t matter whether the paint is dry or not, so if you spot a mistake after you have finished – you can still fix it!
Glass painting supplies
The main thing you’re going to want to think about is what paint to use on glass. There are several different options open to you, including the typical glass paint, but you might also want to consider glass paint pens and glass spray paints. Think about the effect you’re wanting to achieve and how big your working area is. If you’re just looking to dabble in glass painting, then glass paint pens will be a great option for you as they are extremely easy to use and relatively mess-free. Here are our recommendations for the best glass painting supplies:
Buy now: £31.43, Amazon
Glass paints come in a wide range of vivid colours, and they come as both oil-based and water-based. Some of the water-based glass paints can be useful if you’re making practical homeware items, as the paints can be fixed in the oven so that they become dishwasher safe. If you’re a complete beginner, look out for a glass paint set that also comes with a glass outliner, like these glass paints from Pebeo Vitrail.
Glass paint pens
Buy now: £21.21, Amazon
Glass paint pens are extremely versatile and can also be used to decorate ceramics as well as glass. Go for transparent glass paint markers for the traditional stained-glass look or opt for something like the POSCA paint markers if you’re after solid blocks of colour. You can get dedicated glass paint pens, otherwise, any type of permanent marker will work – we especially like acrylic paint pens here on Gathered.
Glass spray paint
Buy now: £6.74, Amazon
If you’re working on a large area, then it might be worth considering using glass spray paint. Most spray paint is suitable for use on glass but do be sure to check the instructions first. If you’re looking to block out large areas with colour before adding finer glass painted details over the top, then spray paint is a good idea. Ideally, you’ll want to use spray paint outside or in a well-ventilated area.
Buy now: £4.49, Amazon
Methylated spirit is not essential, but it is a useful commodity to have when glass painting, especially if you’re looking to sell your wares. Before you start painting, it’s a good idea to clean the glass you’re painting with methylated spirit. This ensures that the surface of the glass is de-greased, and the paint will adhere better to the surface. Be sure to do this in a well-ventilated area.
Buy now: £5.15, Amazon
A craft knife is useful for neatening any rogue blobs of glass outliner that have dried out of place. It’s also useful for hand-cutting your own glass painting stencils, especially ones that have intricate details. A craft knife is also a useful all-purpose item to have in your craft room, but of course – keep it out of the way of children and animals. This one is the number 1 best seller in Art Knives on Amazon, and we appreciate the soft grip this particular one has.
Buy now: £3.90, Amazon
Glass outliner is actually a type of acrylic paste. It comes in a tube with a thin nozzle, and you apply the liner by piping (squeezing) through this tube. The glass outliner makes a raised outline that prevents the different sections of paint from running into each other. The most popular type of glass outliner is back, but it’s also available in other colours, including gold and silver. You don’t need to use a glass outliner (we’re not using one in this tutorial), but if you like the stained glass effect then using a glass outliner is ideal.
Buy now: £3.99, Amazon
If you’re using regular glass paint that you apply using paintbrushes, then having a good set will go far. Look for a set that contains a range of brush sizes and be sure to wash your brushes immediately after use. Check out our round-up of the best paint brushes to buy for some expert advice by one of our resident artists, Sarah Orme.
Glass to decorate
Buy now: £13.99, Amazon
You probably already have some glass lying around the house that you’re keen to decorate. But if you don’t, it’s easy to pick up at most pound shops, craft stores and supermarkets. Clear glass is the most versatile and easiest to paint on, but it’s worth also considering coloured or frosted glass – as applying glass paint to a lot of frosted glass will make it transparent. If the frosting is the result of etching – then, of course, that won’t make it transparent – but if the frosting is a result of a coating applied to the glass, then applying this will most likely go transparent.
Glass painting stencils
Buy now: £7.99, Amazon
If you’re looking for quick and easy glass painting projects, then using glass painting stencils is a brilliant way to go. Why not let someone else do all the hard work for you? And to use glass painting stencils couldn’t be easier. Simply stick them behind the glass using low tack tape (such as washi tape or masking tape) and trace the design over the top. Use a fine permanent pen if you wish, or go straight in with the glass outliner or self-adhesive lead.
Buy now: £18.75, Amazon
Self-adhesive lead comes in rolls, and if you’re interested in making your own stained-glass windows, then using lead is a great alternative to using the liquid glass outliner. Using lead in your crafts may sound scary – but I promise, it’s not. If you can use double-sided tape, then you can use self-adhesive lead. Just make sure it’s pressed down well onto your glass before you start painting. The lead itself is quite soft, so it’s easy to handle and easy to cut to size. And this may sound obvious, but it’s worth saying: don’t use lead for any item that may encounter food or drink!
Glass painting tutorial: How to do glass painting
Follow our easy step-by-step glass painting tutorial, and you’ll soon have made your own unique wildflower glasses, ready for a special candlelit dinner or just for sprucing up your glassware. Although ideal for Valentine’s Day, this project would also suit anniversaries, birthdays, and special occasions, but equally it would be perfect for some well-deserved me-time. Not only in the making of the project, but also in enjoying the finished piece. Pour a favourite tipple into your glass, run a relaxing in the bath with your own handmade bath bombs and handmade soap and let the worries of the day melt away for an hour or two.
You will need
- Soft, lint-free cloth
- Methylated spirit, rubbing alcohol or glass (window) cleaner
- Glass paint
- For mistakes: a cotton bud
- For mistakes: nail varnish remover
- Your exclusive template
First, wash your glass with warm soapy water to get rid of any dust or grub that may have accumulated. Dry the water, then rub the surface where you intend to paint with some methylated spirit, glass cleaner or rubbing alcohol (we’re using the latter). This will ensure the paint adheres properly to the glass. This first step isn’t essential, but I find you get a nicer finish if you clean the glass properly to start with.
Next, download and print your glass painting template. Cut off the excess, so that it fits behind the object you are painting.
Roll the template into a loop and pop it into your glass. Try to choose a glass with straight sides, but if you’re decorating a curved object (like a wine glass) – carefully mould the paper to the shape of the glass by pressing into the curves of the glass. Wildflowers are rarely tidy in real life – so don’t worry too much about losing any of the details. Now you’ve got your template in place, secure it in place using some low tack washi tape.
The template is designed with practical use in mind – meaning, there is enough room to allow people to drink from the glass without risk of accidentally touching the glass paint with their lips (we’re using a half-pint, straight-sided glass). However, if you would like to be absolutely certain, you might like to add a length of low-tack washi tape around the rim of the glass, to ensure that no stray glass paint finds itself somewhere it shouldn’t be.
Now for the fun part! Contrary to other types of painting, if you’re using transparent glass paints (as we are here) I find it easier to build up your design, by painting the foreground first and working your way to the background (as opposed to starting with the background).
So, using a fine paintbrush and some yellow glass paint, start by adding some blobs in the middle of the flowers.
Next, add some red berries and dot some red petals around the outside of the yellow blobs to create flowers. If you can, try not to make the petals touch, as this will cause the glass paint to morph into a different shape.
Paint the lavender by dotting blues and purples together to create the flowers.
Paint the butterfly using blue glass paint, adding a purple trim to the edge of the upper wings.
Load your paintbrush with green paint, then paint the leaves by first pressing light, then pressing hard, then pressing light as the leaf tapers off.
If you would like to mix in different shades of green, you can mix glass paints as you would normal paints. So grab some green and mix with a little yellow to create a lighter, more lime green colour and use this to build up the green foliage.
When you’ve finished all the flowers and leaves, it’s time to move on to the stalks. (We left ours overnight before starting on the stalks.) Draw thin lines from each of the flowers, extending them all the way to the bottom of the glass.
If you mess up – grab a cotton bud, dip it in some acetone (nail polish remover) and wipe away the mistake. Leave a few moments to dry (it will evaporate on its own – you don’t need to risk touching it) before trying again. If the paint is still wet (i.e., you notice the mistake after a few seconds/minutes) and you’re using water-based glass paints, a water-based wet wipe will also do the trick!
Once you’re happy with your design, leave overnight to dry.
Remove the template and peel off the washi tape. If you want to make your glass painting dishwasher proof, bake in the oven according to the instructions on your particular glass paint.
Lightly polish with a soft, lint-free cloth to remove fingerprints and enjoy your mini-masterpiece!
How to do glass painting: Top tips!
Here are some of our expert top tips to help you get the most from your new glass painting hobby:
- Glass paints can be mixed to create new colours, just like normal paint.
- Glass paint dries relatively quickly. So, if you’re using a palette, only pop in a little at a time, or you risk wasting paint as it dries onto the palette.
- Some people find it easier to mix the glass paints on the glass itself. To blend colours, add a little of both colours to the glass you’re painting, then mix them together where they meet using a fine paintbrush or cocktail stick.
- Glass paint comes as water-based or solvent-based. If you are a beginner, we recommend opting for water-based glass paint, as it’s easier to clean and can be diluted with water if needed.
- Glass paint is generally quite viscous by nature, so mandala-style designs made up of dots work really well.
- If you’re having trouble creating smooth lines with your glass paint, start by adding a dot, then spreading the paint out from that dot.
- If you can, leave your design to dry flat. This prevents the glass paint from “pooling” in one area.
- If you’re working with water-based glass paints, keep a water-based wet wipe handy for cleaning your paintbrush between colours – I find it more effective when you’re working with a fine paintbrush, rather than swilling the brush around in the water. You can also use the wet wipe to quickly remove any mistakes or rogue paint that finds itself somewhere on your glass where it shouldn’t be.
- Use good ol’ household glass cleaner to prime your glass before painting. It does the job well and will leave your glass smelling lovely and fresh.
- Water-based glass paints will dry hard within an hour or two (although the instructions always say to leave for 24 hours), and most can be baked in a domestic oven to make your design dishwasher proof.
- Cocktail sticks or anything with a sharp point, are useful for manipulating the wet glass paint by pulling it outwards.
- When painting on a non-flat object (like the glass we painted in this tutorial), it’s a good idea to rest it on a non-slip surface, like a piece of kitchen roll.
7 glass painting kits
Don’t want to have to buy everything individually? Not to worry – we’ve rounded up some of the best glass painting kits so you can get crafting straight out of the box.
House of Crafts: Stained Glass Craft Kit
Buy now: £16.95, Amazon
This glass painting kit comes with everything you need to make a stained glass votive, trinket box and suncatcher, using glass paints with self-adhesive lead strips.
Metallic glass paint
Buy now: £14.22, Amazon
Using metallic glass paints is an easy way to add a touch of luxe to your glassware with very little effort. Use matte metallic glass paint on normal glass (for example, wine glasses) for a pleasing combination of textures. This set contains metallic, glossy, opaque glass and porcelain paints and comes in at a decent price point.
Decola Porcelain colours set
Buy now: £16.97, Amazon
If you’ve already got some paintbrushes and glass to paint, then this glass painting kit would be useful. It contains 9 different colours of glass paint, including white, yellow, green, emerald green, red, dark blue, black, brown and pink. These acrylic-based glass paints have high coverage and can also be used on porcelain, ceramics, plastic or paper.
Buy now: £19.69, Amazon
If it’s quality you’re after, then Maribu have this glass painting kit on Amazon at the moment – and they’ve been producing high-quality specialist paints for over 155 years. You only get four different colours in the set (Carmine Red, Light Green, Yellow, Dark Ultramarine), but like ordinary paint – you can mix them to create new colours. And it comes with a paintbrush and liner to get you started.
Magicdo 12 colour set
Buy now: £19.00, Amazon
If you’re looking for lots of colours, and you’re not keen on mixing them yourself, then this is a good option from Magicdo. You get 12 colours in the pack, plus a useful palette to squeeze your paint into while you’re working. Colours in the pack include violet, crimson, deep blue, orange-yellow, light green, cerulean blue, black, rose, viridian, burn umber, mid yellow, titanium white.
PEBEO inc glass painting kit
Buy now: £29.60, Amazon
This glass painting kit from PEBEO contains 10 assorted colours in generous 45ml bottles. Colours include white, yellow, red, paprika, emerald, luzuli (dark blue), turquoise, green, brown and black. They can all be mixed together, and there’s currently a nice saving if you buy this kit on Amazon.
Jinzi Stain Glass Paint kit
Buy now: £18.99, Amazon
This glass painting kit contains 12 different colours, titanium white, lemon yellow, yellow ochre, vermilion, scarlet, burnt sienna, burnt umber, emerald green, viridian, ultramarine blue, phthalic cyanine blue and black, all with rich pigment. This kit also comes with a 10-pack of brushes which would be useful for other crafts, too.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our beginner’s guide to glass painting and that we’ve inspired you to try it out for yourself. For more brilliant craft tutorials, check out our beginner’s guide to decoupage and our beginner’s guide to acrylic paint pouring.