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Glass Painting

You can achieve a lovely stained-glass effect, just by painting on a glass jar.

Glass Painting

Safety Signals

If you'll be working with adhesive lead for more than one or two projects, you'll want ot wear plastic gloves and make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before eating or drinking, since lead is poisonous.

Painting on glass is a fun way to create a beautiful work of art. You can use both paints that do not need firing in a kiln and paints that do, and the results are different. I'm going to assume you don't have access to a kiln and would like to work with paints that harden on their own.

I recommend DEKA paints from Decart, Inc. You'll find DEKA-Transparent paint, a professional-quality, solvent-based glass paint; DEKA-Translucent, a water-based glass paint; and DEKA-Outline Paste, which is also water-based and used to create the "leading" for a stained-glass look. The outline paste comes in black, gray, silver, and gold. Make sure whatever you buy is specifically formulated for glass, and read the directions carefully for drying and cleanup. You'll need to know whether water is sufficient for cleanup or if you'll need a solvent.

For your first project, why not work with a free material you undoubtedly have an abundance of – used glass jars? Once you start looking at common jars as a crafts material, you'll start to notice the many shapes and sizes that are available and ideas for uses will suggest themselves. Large jars (mayonnaise or pickle jars) can become canisters; smaller jars (jelly or baby food jars) can be votive holders or hold cotton balls or cotton swabs on the bathroom counter.

Any glass jar you might use as a container can now become one you've decorated yourself.

Project: Painting on Glass Jars

Level: Medium

Age: 7 and up

Materials needed: Used glass jars and bottles, glass paints in assorted colors, outline paste (optional), an assortment of brushes (synthetic brushes, flat, round, and outliners)


  1. Wash your jar in hot, soapy water and remove any labels. (If there's a glue residue left behind by the label and you can't get it off with just soap and water, try one of those citrus solvents formulated for this purpose.) Dry the jar completely.

  2. Cover your work surface with newspapers and have whatever cleaning solution you'll need for your brushes already set up. Open a window or otherwise make sure you have good ventilation.

  3. If you're going to do an outline, test the outline paste before you start to learn how much pressure you need to apply to get it to come out evenly from the tube. Remember, if you make a mistake with either the outline paste or the paints, it's easy to correct by wiping it off with a paper towel before it dries or scraping it off with a craft knife after it dries.

  4. Paint your outline first. If you're working from an existing pattern, you can tape the paper pattern on the inside of the jar and follow it from the outside. Or, you can work freehand. Let the outline dry according to directions, then paint with transparent glass paints. Hold the jar up to the light periodically to see how it looks. It'll look different with the light coming through it.

  5. Allow your design to dry thoroughly (this usually takes about two days). To turn your glass jar into a lantern, put a layer of sand on the bottom and add a votive or tea light and a wrapped wire handle (20-gauge works well).

The uses for handpainted glass are unlimited and jars are just the beginning. Look for clear-glass votive holders in bargain stores and at garage sales. The square ones are easier to paint on than the round ones, especially for younger children. Add some handpainting and they become a special holiday accessory, a decorative accent in your home or at the family table, or a special gift.

You can handpaint glass globes that fit over lamps to give them a custom look. Or try using your child's handpainted glass as an accent to his own self-decorated bedroom. You can also paint the glass "chimneys" that go over colonial-style-candle lanterns or oil lamps. I've seen complete landscapes and scenes painted on these, which look wonderful when the light glows through them.

Even flat pieces of glass or medallions can be painted and then hung. The raw edges can be finished off with adhesive lead or metal foil tape, both of which you can get at craft or stained glass supply stores. You can use metal foil tape to put flat pieces of glass together, too, to make your own votives.

You can also stamp on glass using any enamel glass paint and either flexible stamps (you can get these in rubber stamp stores or your local crafts store) or stamps made out of sponges. You'll need a paintbrush or applicator sponge to get the paint on the stamp evenly. Press firmly over the entire stamp, especially over curved areas, and lift it gently off the glass. If you want to switch colors with the same stamp, just blot off the color on a double-thickness, damp paper towel.

Another word about paints: There are many different paints on the market and more are becoming available all the time. Next time you go to your local art supply or craft store, ask about glass paints. Experiment with different products, including those that need to be baked in your home oven. You'll find they have different characteristics that create different effects, and you may discover products you especially like working with.

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