How to Paint on Glass – The Ultimate Crafter’s Guide


If you are looking to paint on glass for any reasons that involve decorations for your home and garden, you’ve come to the right place! Painted on glass can look really stunning when done right. It all starts with the right kinds of tools then how to apply them as it is a very different process from other substrates.

Do you want to transform the look of an everyday object, like a glass vase? Or do you want to dream up a real unique conversation piece but not sure where to get started? That’s OK! I’ve been in both scenarios and I can walk you through it.

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how to paint on glass

Painting with Acrylics

First let’s look at the types of paints you;ll need. If you were anything like me you probably got exposed to “suncatcher kits”  They’d have a pre-made transparent design, a set of paints and a brush, you’d apply the paint to each of the sections in it and let it dry and when it did you’d have something pretty to hang in the window.

For glass, my favorite craft acrylics , will not cut the mustard, as they don’t have the same level of sticking power. You’ll need to use acrylic enamel paints which are made for this purpose.

Fortunately, the same brand I use also carries enamel versions made especially for glass. They not only come in lots of pretty colors, but they also come in various effects like pearlescent or frosted look so you can get some nice special effects too.

which paint to use on glass

Here are some other paints I found in my collection, stores no longer carry this brand (Delta PermEnamels) but I thought I would experiment with them a little to see what I thought of them. I also had a bottle of clear liquid that is made to be applied first before painting.

It’s a two step process – you apply the clear liquid first (I’m unsure exactly what it is, but when you unscrew the cap and take a whiff, what emanates is a lot like nail polish remover – acetone, if you will) and then apply the paint.

I used an Apple Green color for this cute little yogurt jar as you can see here…

enamel painting on glass

You won’t have to do that with the Folk Art brand, fortunately. But it will help if you go over the outside with a little rubbing alcohol first.

Here are some of those lovely gloss enamel paints right here…there are vivid and bright colors as well as more conservative and neutral.

DecoArt DASK267 Americana Gloss Enamels Sample PackDecoArt DASK267 Americana Gloss Enamels Sample PackDecoArt DASK267 Americana Gloss Enamels Sample PackFolkArt Gloss Finish Acrylic Enamel Craft SetFolkArt Gloss Finish Acrylic Enamel Craft SetFolkArt Gloss Finish Acrylic Enamel Craft SetFolkArt Gloss Finish Acrylic Enamel Craft Set of 16 ColorsFolkArt Gloss Finish Acrylic Enamel Craft Set of 16 ColorsFolkArt Gloss Finish Acrylic Enamel Craft Set of 16 Colors

Can You Paint on Glass with Temperas?

You absolutely can – as long as you keep in mind the results may not be permanent. (In which case, might want to think about making use of a sealant. Or make use of these secret hacks.) It all depends on what your goals are.

For instance, if you wanted to paint designs on windows that would be for temporary display only, such as a holiday like Christmas, celebration like graduation or wedding, temperas are ideal as you can wash off your design after the occasion is over. I go into greater depth on the makeup of tempera paints here.

Painting with Nail Polish

Have you ever thought of using nail polish I don;t know why I didn’t think of this before, after all it’s known as “nail enamel” too.

You don’t even have to use the bulit-in brush applicator, a q-tip may be all you need to dab on small designs or details. Also, there’s a lot of attention around swirling it in water to create a marbled effect on 3D objects. (more on that shortly.)

A Word About Painting Tools

When painting on glass, it is best to diversify your tools a little. Don’t rely on brushes alone as they leave unsightly marks behind since enamel acrylic paint is slightly transparent meaning they’ll definitely show. An eyedropper is a good tool to use to lift and distribute paint in small areas. Sometimes air bubbles may show up, if you have a toothpick nearby you can pop them with it.

When you do use your brush, do so sparingly – and always lead with the tip, or “toe” of the bristles.

How to Prep Your Objects

If your object still has a sticker or label left behind on it, remove it first – I have some great tips for doing that here to make it easier.

Using a cotton ball moistened with rubbing alcohol, dab it all over the surface of the object you’re planning to paint to remove fingerprints, smudges, dust, etc.I would also line my work surface with plenty of wax paper to protect it.

Now, on to the three best techniques for painting on glass!

Freehand Technique (Using a Template)

If you would like to do a simple design on the front , you can…in addition to your paints, all you will need is a template and a permanent marker (preferably black and medium-point)

This is a lamp I made form a wine bottle that I embellished on the front with a picture of a rose and a yellow butterfly – I used a Sharpie marker to draw the outline on the bottle and then painted on the colors and details. If you’re especially talented with drawing you could do something like that. Or better yet you could use a stencil to get a more precise pattern for your proposed design.

painting on glass how to

You could probably find many of them if you do a search for “free printable template + type of design” As a pro tip, I would take the design and place it inside the object and tape it down (use painter’s tape so it doesn’t leave “stickies” behind.) This will make it easier to trace on the outside.

Painting From the Inside

Are you just looking to give your glass object a basic solid color? This is a novelty cocktail mixer bottle in the shape of a shoe that I later transformed into a vase. After washing it out I filled it with some enamel paint and then proceeded to distribute it into the bottle.

With all those contours, it took a little bit of skill to make sure the paint was evenly spread out and there were no clumps or uncolored areas. I had to turn it sideways and upside down too, to be sure the coverage was good.

glass object example
He’s stealin’ my thunder. But he’s so darn cute.

If you choose an object that you want to paint from the inside in this manner, you’d probably have an easier time with one that is more “linear”…a sexy stiletto like this probably took an hour or longer to do it right. A Ball jar was a lot easier – ask me how I know!

This is Perfect Purple in a gloss finish in case you are curious.

Follow this approach for best results…

  1. Dispense a small amount of paint into the object
  2.  Slowly move the paint around the inside, you may need to roll it or turn it sideways depending on the shape of the object.
  3. After a moment, check to see that all sides and corners of the object are coated in paint and there are no bare spots showing.
  4.  Tip object upside down to allow for any unused paint to drip out without running back down on the inside. Allow to dry for at least 24 hours.

Getting a Marbled Effect with Water and Nail Polish

This one is highly popular and I thought I would share it here. Hydro-dipping is a really hot technique for embellishing objects for parties or general decor, the paint droplets will bead up on the surface of the water and swirl around, creating some impressive effects. Here’s how to do it:

First thing I did, though, I wanted to experiment with a few of my ArtDeco enamels. That did not go well at all. The colors blended into the water -way too much to have any effect on the jar. When I pulled it out it was almost like nothing happened. . So you must use nail polish to get this effect.

About 3-4 colors should be good, use a dish of water (it should be deep enough to submerge your chosen object. You can use a toothpick or bamboo stick to swirl the colors around. be sure not to swirl them too much or they could “muddy up”  Drop colors in one at a time and use the skewer stick to blend them. But do this with subtlety. Don’t mess with it too much, or you will lose the effect!

It should look something like this. Also, I would choose a lighter shade and two darker shades for the best effects.

paint dip with nail polish

Submerge the object quickly but not TOO quickly (if that makes sense) About 5 seconds is good then slowly pull it out. You will notice how the swirling colors look just like they did on the surface of the object but once they come in contact with something they will land in that spot only. Notice on the right image the water container has no more paint left in it. Leave it like this to dry…it took about 10 minutes or so.

Then a finishing touch with some dots around the rim….Voila!

glass jar embellished with nail enamel

Bonus Tips

More stuff to keep in mind…

Although acrylic enamel paints are nontoxic and permanent, they are not deemed “food safe” I would be sure to use a clear sealant if you plant to do this with any objects. Another thing you could do is to oven set it – place in a “cold” oven at 350 degrees F to let it cure. About 30 minutes should be good, but do keep an eye on it especially if the glass object in question is more delicate (things like mason jars are “thicker” and can withstand heat better than something like champagne glasses.) If you’re unsure, don’t do it, – best to use that object for decoration only.

Be on the safe side and wash by hand. I don’t think I’d run any of your objects d’arte in the dishwasher – the paint may chip off.

acrylics to paint on glass


Well, this is my version of the story of how you can paint on glass  What to have at your disposal, and what to avoid. Now that you have this guide, what will you be working on? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.




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