How to Paint on Glass

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There has been much advancement in paint technology during the past few decades.

Painting on glass, pottery and related products was once available only to industry and professionals able to afford to purchase kilns and associated equipment.

The average home hobbyist who wanted to experiment with this craft was relegated to the local ceramics shop.

There they could purchase greenware, paint and the use of the shop’s kiln to fire their item.

This would take place over a period of time, sometimes several weeks. How times have changed.

Modern Glass Painters

Today, the artist or craftsman who wants to paint glassware, pottery, terracotta or porcelain has a number of paints and formulations from which to choose. After completing his work, he has the luxury of firing his piece in a standard kitchen oven. The firing process takes very low heat, and the baking time is usually less than one hour, so it is a relatively quick method of applying permanent paint to a glass, pottery or a porcelain item.

There are also paints that do not require heating to set. These paints are not as permanent as the heat set paints, but are great for many crafts and art projects. They have varying degrees of durability, depending on brand and methods used to apply them.

Painting on Glass

The real joy in painting decorative items is freehand design. The student may lay out his idea on paper to develop his composition. When he is happy with the design, the real fun begins. Painting the design is performed in stages, as each paint must dry before applying another color that overlaps. If the artist is not happy with the results, the paint can be removed and reapplied. He must make sure that the surface is clean and dry before resuming the painting.

Soft or slightly stiff brushes may be used to apply the paint, depending upon the artist’s preference and style of painting. Sponges may also be used for laying in larger areas of paint. Some manufacturers produce paint markers with bullet tips for fine detail work and writing.

Begin with a sketch on paper to create the composition. After defining the overall composition on a drawing pad, recreate it in the size it will ultimately appear on the item. If this will be placed on a clear glass object, simply tape it into position on the inside of the glass. Voilà, an instant template appears. If the subject in question is opaque and a drawing is needed, use a chalk or wax pencil to lightly lay in indications of the composition.

Stencils can be used, and are especially handy if there is a repeat motif or multiple items with the same image. Position and tape the stencil into place and use a sponge to easily apply the color. Transfers are also available through many retailers, which speed along the creative process.

Picking a Glass Paint

Many companies produce paints for china and glassware. It is important that the artist research the type of painting he wishes to do, and considers the function of the item he paints. Some paints are for decorative use only, while others are very stabile and withstand constant use, cleaning and heat from an oven or microwave. Different brands of paint should not be intermixed, as their formulation, usage and permanence may vary.

Vitrail Paint by Pébéo

Vitrail Paints are solvent-based resin paints and are very transparent and requires many layers to give an opaque look to the work. Drying time between coats is 20 minutes, and care must be used to prevent overworking, as this can lead to paint lifting from the surface. Drying time can be shortened by using a hair-dryer, but the object must cool before applying an additional coat of paint. This product is heat cured and is dishwasher and oven safe.

Delta Permenamel Opaque, Iridescent & Translucent Paints

Delta Permenamel Paints air dry and cure over a period of days without the need for an oven. These paints can be used on glossy tiles, ceramics, glass and shiny metal. It is dishwasher and oven safe and is microwaveable. It is ideal for really large items that will not fit in a home oven.

Using this paint is a multi-step process. A conditioner is applied to the surface before the paint is applied. This allows the paint to bond to the surface. After painting is completed, a glaze is applied and curing is complete after 10 days. The opaque paint can be made somewhat translucent by adding some of the glaze. There are also transparent paints available as well as pearlescent colors.

Ultra Gloss Acrylic Enamels By Decoart

Decoart Ultra Gloss Paints are a very durable acrylic paint that can be used on non-porous and slick surfaces such as hard plastic, resin, leather and candles. It is durable and scratch resistant and has a high gloss finish.

Ultra Gloss Enamel does not need a surface conditioner or finishing glaze. On heat resistant items, it can be baked after curing for 24 hours.

Liquitex Glossies Enamel Colors

Liquitex Glossies Enamel Paint is used on non-porous surfaces such as glass, china, glazed ceramics and primed metal. To achieve a glazing effect, this product may be thinned with up to 25 percent water. They also have a line of metallic paints that may be blended with the enamels to create an iridescent effect. If multiple coats of paint will be used, the medium must dry before adding another layer.

After painting, allow the piece to air cure for 24 hours. This is sufficient for decorative items that are not subjected to wear. Oven baking will give a more durable finish to the paint for daily use.

Helpful Hints For Painting On Glass

  • The surface must be clean, clean, clean. After washing in soapy water, wipe with rubbing alcohol or vinegar water to remove residual grease or oils. Make sure to keep your fingers free of any body oils or perspiration while working with the objects.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions at all times, as the instructions can vary between products.
  • Do not mix brands or lines of products unless specifically recommended by the manufacturer. Formulations and product usage varies and improper mixing could have disastrous results.
  • When baking an item to heat cure it, place in a cold oven. Heat the oven to the proper temperature and bake for the recommended time. Turn off the oven and allow the piece to return to room temperature before removing. Some glass substances are fragile, and rapid temperature changes can cause cracking or breaking.
  • Any type of artist’s brush can be used to paint glass. The style in which the artist paints and his personal preference will dictate the brushes he uses. Sponges are useful for painting large areas with even coverage.
  • Resin based paints are easily removed before baking by using warm water or alcohol. Make sure the surface is dry before repainting the item.
  • Cleanup is easy with soap and water. Clean brushes immediately after use, as some paints dry impervious to water, and you will end up with a stick with a bristly, twiggy end if you fail to clean it properly or promptly.
  • Sticky stencils are available, and these work great on vertical or rounded surfaces. Sponging is very easy to do with these products.

Research and Practice

Spend time researching all the various types of paints, mediums and accompanying products that are available for glass painting. There are frosted paints and mediums, iridescent mediums and metallic paints. Some paints can give a crackle effect and other dimensional outliners will give a puffy 3D appearance. There are also products that will give lead effects for the person who emulates stained glass.

This broad and interesting form of artwork is one almost anyone can enjoy. Beginning artists will enjoy creating fun and usable items the first time they try it. Advanced students will be challenged by the wide variety of products and techniques available.

It is a hobby for anyone who enjoys creating useful, decorative household items and giftware.

2 thoughts on “How to Paint on Glass

  1. I am looking for an old paint…called crystalized paint…I would use this on glass yrs ago and have not been able to find it and was wondering if you carry it??
    thank you for your time.

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