How to Paint Glass

Upcycle Glass Jars with Three Painting Styles

How to Paint Glass 3 Ways
Mollie Johanson
Overview
  • Working Time: 1 - 2 hrs
  • Total Time: 1 - 2 days
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5-10

From thrift store vases to jars headed to the recycling bin, there are lots of glass pieces just begging for some painted decor. It could be as simple as an all-over paint job or as fun as creating colorful designs. Painting on glass is easy, but it does require some special preparations and supplies. This tutorial has all you need to know to get started, including three options for types of paint and simple ways to upgrade your glassware.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Cardboard, Paper, or Dropcloth
  • Disposable Gloves
  • Masking Tape

Materials

  • Glassware
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Paint Suitable for Glass (see below)
  • Paint Brushes (natural bristles are best)

Instructions

Notes on Safety

When working with different types of paint, always follow the manufacturer's instructions, as some have different requirements for how to cure the paint or even if it would be safe to cure the paint with heat. You should also make sure you have proper ventilation when using certain paints. Depending on what you're using the glassware for, always pay attention to warnings about whether the paint is food safe.

Be aware that some types of glass (especially those that have been recycled) can't be placed in the oven or they will explode. When heating glass items that are oven-safe, place them in a cold oven and let them heat up with the oven, then step the temperature down so it cools slowly.

  • Prepare the Glass

    Before you start painting, wash the glass with warm soapy water. If you're using recycled jars, be sure to remove any residue from the labels.

    Clean the Glass With Isopropyl Alcohol
    Mollie Johanson

    Wipe down the entire glass surface with isopropyl alcohol. You can do this with a paper towel or even using alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Let the alcohol dry.

    Tip

    Wear disposable gloves while you work on this project to avoid getting oils from your hands on the glass, which can affect how the paint adheres. The gloves will also protect your hands from the paint.

  • Acrylic Paint

    Not all acrylic paints are created equal; many craft paints simply aren't formulated to work on glass and require you to prepare the surface with a glass primer before use. However, if the paint is labeled as an "all-surface paint" there's a pretty good chance that it is suitable for painting on glass. Be sure to read the label before starting on any project.

    There are lots of ways to paint glass with acrylic paint. One option is to swirl paint around the interior.

    Mix Paint With Medium
    Mollie Johanson

    For this jar, the paint is swirled inside the bottom of the jar. This lets it show through the glass and have a shiny finish on the outside.

    In order to thin the paint so it can flow around inside the jar, you will probably need to mix it with an acrylic medium (not water). For this example, we used gesso, which added an opaqueness to the metallic paint.

    Swirl the Paint on the Glass
    Mollie Johanson

    After mixing the paint and medium, carefully pour a small amount into the bottom of the jar, making sure that it doesn't get on the sides or top.

    Swirl the paint around so it comes up the sides as much as you want. If you need more paint, you can add some, but you don't add so much that the paint pools on the bottom. Roll the jar periodically as it dries so that the paint doesn't settle into one spot.

  • Glass Paint

    Specially-formulated glass paint is usually translucent and sometimes even comes with outlining paint so you can make stained glass-like designs.

    A pretty way to paint a jar without needing lots of artistic skills is with simple brush strokes.

    Brush on Glass Paint
    Mollie Johanson

    Make upward dabs or strokes of paint in one color, then let it dry. Add another layer of strokes in a color that will go well with the first color. You can even overlap the paint in several layers to create additional shades.

  • Enamel Acrylic Paint

    Enamel acrylic paint is another material that doesn't need any kind of special preparation, and it results in a great finish that's top-rack dishwasher safe. Best of all, it's not too hard to find enamel acrylic in spray form for fast full coverage.

    Mask the Glass With Tape
    Mollie Johanson

    Before spray painting your glass, use tape to mask off the opening of the jar. If you prefer patterns to solids, you can also create lines or designs with the masking tape.

    Spray Paint the Glass
    Mollie Johanson

    Spray the outside of the jar with several light coats of paint.

With any type of paint you choose, follow all of the recommended guidelines for drying times and curing the paint. This is especially important if you want to place the glassware in the dishwasher. Of course, when in doubt, handwash your painted glass.

3 Styles of DIY Painted Glass Jars
Mollie Johanson

Group your painted jars to make a floral arrangement, use them as candle holders, or keep your pens and pencils handy. These techniques can be used to enliven other glass items in your house with paint, as well.