The Ultimate Guide To Paint on Glass

The Ultimate Guide to Painting Glass

Table of Contents

Decorating glass is an easy and inexpensive way to let your creative juices flow.  Whether you want to make a stained-glass effect window, add colorful geometric patterns or paint simple designs, this guide is for you! 

First things first, glass is a difficult surface to paint on, and that is something all PaintingGlassGurus agree on. Because of its natural smooth finish, paint has trouble sticking to it and this is why, in order to learn how to paint glass effectively you will need to prime or cure your surface at the end of your work; and in some instances you will need to do both.

That being said, painting glass allows for endless possibilities. With different techniques you can achieve really different results so get ready to free up your creativity and create some amazing work.

How to paint on glass?

Clean your surface

Clean through using soap and ideally, alcohol or vinegar as well. Dry properly.

Use warm water and soap to wipe away any dirt, grime, or fingerprints. Next, dry the surface and set it aside to let it air dry completely. For spotless cleaning, use alcohol or vinegar after washing and let air dry. You can paint any kind of glass surface, including old picture frames, jars, vases, mirrors or even a glass table top. Remember to always handle broken glass with protection gloves.

Choose the right paint

Enamel Paint is ideal for glass surfaces, but acrylic works as well.

Look for a type of paint that works on glass such as acrylic enamel paint (this is oil-based) or chalk paint for glass. Acrylic enamel paint is great when you don’t want to use a primer, it has a glossy finish and is highly scratch resistant. Chalk paint has a matte finish that you can distress for a vintage look. You may also use other type of paint like water based acrylic paint but if you want your work to last you will need to seal your surface before and after painting. Any regular sealer can work.

Skip all of the bla, bla, bla, and go to types of paint if you prefer.

Use the right brush

Brushes with soft bridles are ideal.

Regular brushes work on glass but because glass is a very sensitive surface, your strokes will show easily. This is why experts recommend to use soft bridle brushes or even using sponges after the first and second coat for a smooth finish. 

Time to paint!

Go to 30+ ideas to paint on glass for more inspiration.

Once the paint is ready to go, grab your brush and start painting. The trick to painting on glass is to move quickly and lightly. You don’t want to press too hard on the glass or you risk leaving imprints in the paint. If you notice that your brush is leaving brush marks on the glass, it means you’re pressing too hard. Try to lighten up your brushstrokes and apply less pressure to the glass to avoid this problem.

If your paint is too thick, it won’t spread easily across your surface and you’ll end up wasting paint. Thinning your paint with water is the easiest way to avoid this problem. If you’re looking for a specific pattern or design for your glass you can use painters tape. Once the paint is dry, peel the scraps off and you’ll be left with a decorative pattern on your glass!

Let it dry… 

But really. You have to let every coat of paint to properly dry in between. This is an important step for any painting project but even more so for glass. Because glass surfaces are extremely smooth, any square millimeter of paint that is not completely dry will smudge when you apply the next layer. Guaranteed. 

Cure (Optional)

Put your piece in the oven and set the temperature for 350°F. Allow for glass to heat gradually with the oven. Once the oven has reached 350°F, allow for 30 minutes and let it cool off INSIDE the oven. Curing is a step that, most gurus agree, will fix your paint making it nearly impossible to get scratches. Also, this step will allow your glass to be dishwasher safe. However, if you are just working on a weekend project to have fun painting and you don’t mind using your pieces exclusively for decoration purposes you don’t have to cure.

Below you will find a great guide by YouTube Channel @UpCycledLife on how to paint glass. While she talks about chalk paint, these are the steps that you should follow when using non-enamel paint. If you ARE using enamel paint, just skip the the priming step.

Steps start at Second 54.

Painting Glass Ideas

In my opinion, Pinterest is the best way to find interesting projects for crafts and painting glass is no exception. If you don’t know where to start, here are some great examples for inspiration.

Windows: While this is an extra fun project, you may want to test your idea on a surface where you feel more comfortable making mistakes. For example, use an old frame glass surface, or partially broken one.

Jars: Mason Jars are excellent surfaces and not expensive at all.

Vases: We all have one old vase in our home that could use some color. OR run to the closest thrift store and you will find all kinds of fun stuff to paint.

Glassware: If you are planning on this one and you want to put your work in the dishwasher, make sure you cure your paint in the oven.

Mirrors: I recently came across @Crockd who has made some suuuper cool patterns on mirrors using acrylic paint. Check out how smooth her strokes are!

Lamp shades: a very original way to give a unique touch to your home decoration.

Types of Paint

Acrylic Paint On Glass – Water based

Can you use those remaining jars of acrylic paint you have been saving for a special project? The answer is yes. BUT, you will need to prime your surface and probably cure it in the oven afterwards. This is the step that many people find annoying as priming means you will have to wait for it to dry from 24 to 72 hours. There goes your weekend. However, you can also buy enamel acrylic paint which is made specifically for glass and use it directly without a primer. Now, if you REALLY want to use your regular acrylic paint to paint on glass follow these steps:

How to paint glass with acrylic paint – water based?

Clean your surface: Wash with water and soap to eliminate any dirt or fingerprints, if possible use rubbing alcohol or vinegar for an even cleaner surface.

Prime your surface: After you have properly cleaned your surface, use any regular primer to create a porous base that will allow your acrylic-water-based-paint to stick to the surface. You can use spray or liquid. Regular brands like Zinsser and Valspar come in both forms, quart and spray. Follow instructions on your primer and allow for proper drying. This can take anywhere from 24 to 38 hours depending on the product you choose.

Paint away!: Once you have primed your surface, paint according to your desire and allow for proper drying. Acrylic water-based-paint usually dries faster than oil-based-paint. 

Seal your paint: Depending on the paint you use, you will be able to seal your paint using two methods: spraying with primer or baking.

  • To seal your paint with spray, allow your paint to dry properly and choose a sealant that works for multiple surfaces. Seal and wait for your sealant to dry. Voila!
  • For baking method, first confirm your paint will be okay in the oven by reading instructions of your paint. These products usually specify this fact. If you are cleared to go, put your piece in the oven and set temperature for 350F°. Allow glass to heat slowly, otherwise it can break! Once the oven is set at temperature, wait 30 minutes and then turn the oven off. Wait until your piece and the oven cool off and you are good to go!

Acrylic Enamel Paint For Glass – Oil based

Note she is not priming because she is using acrylic enamel paint. Also note how soft her brushes are.

No primer is needed here because paint is oil based. This is the preferred method of most glass painters and dyers. One of the biggest pros of going for this option is its durability, resistance to scratches and dents, and its glossy finish. If you are wondering if the paint you already have is Enamel Based you should simply look at its tag, it should always be stated by the manufacturer. Note that preferred brand by most experts and based on great reviews is Folk Art. When it comes to curing this type of paint in the oven, the step is optional, but doing so will ensure even longer lasting results.

Note that you have to wait 72 hours after curing to be able to wash your piece in the dishwasher without damaging  your work. Air-drying projects need 21 days to be considered completely dry/cured and it is not recommended to put in dishwasher pieces that are dried with this method only.

Also note that neither of these two drying methods are safe to use in microwaves.

Chalk Paint

No primer needed

For a very original finish you can also try chalk paint. It will give your piece an ultra matte finish and a ceramic-like texture. The trick to prevent chips and peeling for this type of paint is to do two or three coats of paint. Don’t forget to wait for coats to dry completely in between. Use a sponge for the last coat, which will give an even finish and will eliminate any see-through brush strokes. This paint is great for surfaces with texture as the paint will go into all those little crevices smoothly. 

Also, you will want to clean your surface with rubbing alcohol before you start. This is an important step for any type of glass painting project but even more when using chalk paint.

Note that chalk paint is dishwasher safe if and only if you bake your piece at the end, which will transform the matte finish into a glossy one. Still, it is a great technique with great results.

Spray Paint for Glass

Dishwasher safe? No.

Ah, the beauty and ease of spray painting. This is definitely a good way to go if you do not need a highly detailed piece or, for example, when you want to do a design that can be executed with painters tape, aka, striped pattern or two colors. Make sure you are choosing a paint that is oil/enamel based here too as it will ensure the best results. Spray paint also comes with a chalk finish making it super easy if you are also looking to distress the paint for a vintage look.

Food dyes

Say what? Yes! You can paint glass with food coloring. So not only can you paint over glass but you can actually make it look tinted! Wow. As with everything else, there is a caveat with this type of paint: getting to the right color may take many attempts as the color that you usually see on the fresh surface is a very different version of the end result. 

How to paint glass with food coloring?

  • Add two spoons of Mod Podge to a plastic container.
  • Put in a few drops of the food colouring of your preference.
  • Mix with 1/2 teaspoon of water and mix.
  • Take the mix and pour it INSIDE the glass container of your preference. Do not brush. You will let gravity do its thing and move the jar in a way that allows every inch of surface to be covered with the mix. Then, place your piece upside down to allow excess to drain out.
  • Once you are ready, put your piece in the oven and let it reach 200F° until its dry. Usually 30 minutes.
  • PRO TIP: you can get a very similar effect by mixing clear enamel with resin dye.

This guy got a similar result using clear enamel and resin dye. You will note he used a spray gun but you may also use a very soft brush.

Brushes to Paint Glass

Any type of paint brush will work for glass painting, but you may want to try out a few different sizes to see which one you prefer and go for the ones that have the softer bristles as you will quickly learn that glass shows strokes very easily and the lighter pressure you put on it, the more even your paint will look.

Using sponge brushes or daubers can also be a great idea for specific areas where you want perfect shapes or need to cover really tight angles. 


Painting Glass Directly

Pretty self explanatory. Find a pattern and or design that inspires you and let your creativity loose!

Painting Reverse glass

In this technique you will apply paint to the glass surface and appreciate the end result by turning the glass over. For this technique, the key is planning properly and being patient to wait in between colors to dry before you apply the next one, unless you want to purposely mix them, of course. 

The first thing you want to do is make sure your glass surface is clean. Then, trace the image you want to paint onto tracing paper. Next, flip your traced paper and transfer the image into the glass by painting the lines. The main trick for great results with this technique is tracing all the details, lines and patterns that you want to show on your work on the very first layer of paint. So be super detailed on this step.

For tracing lines, you can use either a radiography pen or a thin brush and black paint. Wait for it to dry before you continue. Once you have traced all of your lines in your glass, start painting the smallest details of your image, continue with the larger forms and finish with the background. Remember to wait for paint to dry between colors. For this type of work most gurus recommend oil paint but acrylic works too. 

Stained Glass

Like I said, technically this is not proper stained glass but still, pretty cool!

While this technique requires a bit of a higher skill, there is a way to paint glass to make it look like it is stained glass. The results are always amazing and worth giving it a shot. I’ve learned that crafters use both acrylic and food colouring for this technique, however, food colouring is the type of paint that will give the most see-through finish to your work so if you really want that effect go with food colouring.
Start by finding a surface that is ideal for your project. Glass from an old frame is a great and inexpensive way to start. Then, identify the pattern that you want to create. You can download anything online. If you search with the word “ocean colouring design” for example, you will get a lot of results. Remember small spaces cannot effectively be painted for stained glass so you may want to choose designs with bigger areas to add color to or adapt them accordingly.

Next, clean and seal your glass surface. Use water and soap for cleaning and any type of spray acrylic sealer for sealing. Remember you always need to give your paint something it can hold on to when painting on glass.

Once you have selected your design and your glass is clean and sealed, use painters tape or any other kind of temporary tape to stick your design to the glass surface you selected. Then, trace the black lines of your design on your glass using a mix of black acrylic paint and clear glue. Any school glue will work for this and any black acrylic paint will work too since you want the lines to be a solid black. Let it dry.

Here comes the fun part: Mix one or two drops of food colouring with about 1 tablespoon of clear glue and start filling up the color areas of your design using the softer bristle brushes that you can find. This will avoid ugly paint strokes. When you are done, let the paint properly dry for about 24 hours before you seal with the spray acrylic sealer of your preference. Voila! 

If you are interested in learning how to create stained glass patterns with actual stained glass, check out this video created by one of my favourite gurus. 

Baking Soda For a Ceramic Finish

We all have an ugly glass vase at home that could certainly use a makeover. Baking soda and acrylic paint can be your best ally for this situation.

To get started, clean your surface thoroughly. Have I recommended that step before? Use warm water and soap to wipe away any dirt, grime, or fingerprints. Next, you’ll need to mix your acrylic paint with baking soda. A good rule of thumb is using a 5:1 ratio -5 measures of paint per 1 of baking soda-. The best way to mix is to place a small amount of glass paint in a paper cup and the baking soda until the paint is ready to be spread easily on your glass. Once the paint is ready to go, grab your brush and start painting. The trick is to move quickly and lightly. You don’t want to press too hard on the glass or you risk leaving imprints in the paint.

For an even smoother and matte look use chalk paint instead of acrylic!


Can I use the dishwasher on painted glass? 

Regardless of the method you choose to paint your glass, the only way you can use the dishwasher on your glass paint project is if you have cured the paint in the oven. Even enamel paint, or paint that is made specifically for glass should be cured if you want to put your pieces in the dishwasher.

How to avoid paint from peeling off on glass?

Glass is an incredibly smooth surface and this is why paint will easily peel off. The best way to avoid this is by thoroughly cleaning the surface before painting, using a layer of primer before painting, painting with acrylic enamel glass paint, and curing in an oven after you have finished your project. Depending on the technique you choose, waiting for every coat to be properly dry before doing the next one is also a great step to avoid paint from peeling off.

My paint bubbles up when I cure it in the oven, what am I doing wrong?

Most of the time paint bubbles up because the oven is too hot but frankly, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason why this happens, another reason could be your paint is not adequate for glass or it is just old. While we recommend baking at 350F°, some ovens are not well calibrated and you might have to adjust temperature until you don’t get bubbles anymore. Test and error might be the best way to go here.

My piece looks like a total disaster, can I fix it and start over?

This will depend on the type of paint you used and whether or not you have cured it in the oven. I am afraid to say that, if you have cured it in the oven, it will be nearly impossible to make the paint come off. A good first damage control attempt you can do is soaking your piece in warm water for 30 minutes and scrubbing the paint off until you are back to where you started.



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The Ultimate Guide To Paint on Glass

The Ultimate Guide to Painting Glass

The most comprehensive guide for how to paint on glass, using acrylic paint or enamel-based paint, how to make chalk paint stick and how to cure a glass surface in the oven.