Glass can be another surface for you to express your artistic talents, whether through etching, creating unique jewelry or the easiest option, painting. Learn just a few techniques, and glass painting can also introduce you to countless opportunities to make your own handmade gifts and decorations. 

If you truly understand how to paint a few types of glass, you’ll be able to turn your hand to pretty much any kind of upcycling project. 


How To Paint Glass

High-quality craft materials will make it so much easier to paint glass. You no longer have to worry about roughing up the surface to get the paint to stick, or deal with flammable materials that can cause irritation. All you need to do to get started is find a glass surface, clean it, and keep it free of dust and oils. 

Types of Paint for Glass

Of all the glass-painting supplies you need, it’s the paint itself that will have the largest impact on the finished project. When you’re deciding what type of paint to get, you need to consider its properties and choose one that’s durable enough for your project. 

You can buy glass paints that are specially designed to stick to the surface and go on in solid swipes of color. They’re inexpensive to buy and easy to use. 

But if you don’t want to stock up on glass paints just yet, you can choose from four other options: acrylic enamel, regular acrylic, tempera and poster paint.

Acrylic Enamel Paint

This is a good option because it sticks to a wide variety of surfaces—glass included—and forms a hard shell that helps ensure your color stays in place. This tends to be one of the preferred options for glass painting because it offers the best of both worlds: it’s more durable than simple acrylic paint but isn’t oil based, so it won’t yellow over time. 

Regular Acrylic Paint

This type of paint also sticks to glass. But because it never dries completely, it can come off easily when washing. It’s not a good choice for anything that will need to be cleaned, like a painted drinks glass or vase. 

Tempera Paint

This type offers a toxic-free, child-safe option. It’s water soluble, so it’s better suited to temporary crafts—for example, painting your windows for a party or as a fun activity with kids. 

Poster paint

While it works well on glass, the color will fade over time, and it’ll wipe off with water. If you choose to paint glass with poster paints, make sure you give it a protective layer, work with a design that lends itself well to opaque color, and don’t use it for anything you want to last.

Regardless of what you choose to paint your glass with, you should always apply a final protective layer to seal in your work. A simple coat or two of clear acrylic sealant is usually all that’s needed.

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Brushes and Sponges to Use on Glass

It’s a good idea to have a mix of brushes and sponges, as they all achieve different looks when painting glass. Acrylic or watercolor brushes will be soft and pliable, giving you more freedom with your strokes. Sponges let you apply a lot of paint quickly, and will cause different finishes depending on their pores and texture. 

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to these supplies, just make sure you’ve got a range of angles and sizes. 

Markers to Use on Glass

You may find it easier to use a marker to add fine detail to your designs. It’s possible to buy markers that are filled with acrylic, enamel or chalk paint, but don’t overlook the properties of each material. 

Glass Painting Techniques

In addition to understanding what supplies you need, knowing how each tool in your kit works and what results they’ll give you will allow you to create more effects with your paint. 

You can use a wide range of techniques to decorate any glass surface, as long as you have the right tools.

Sponge Painting

A quick way to get a lot of paint over a large area of glass is to dip your sponge into the paint and then dab it on the surface until you’ve got an even application. This will give you a more textured finish, and is the simplest glass painting technique to master. 

When you’re painting with a sponge, remember to:

  • Apply a consistent amount of pressure to get even coverage.
  • Don’t place the sponge on the glass for too long.
  • Don’t smudge the sponge.
  • If there are gaps, keep dabbing until they’ve all disappeared.

Brush Painting

For a smoother finish, you might prefer to paint with a brush. It’s really simple, just make sure the brush is clean and dry before you dip it into the paint. 

These tips for brush painting glass will help improve your technique:

  • Place your brush strokes in the same direction every time. Don’t swap between painting up and down, then left to right, as it’ll look messy.
  • Apply at least two coats of paint if you’d like the color to be opaque. 
An empty glass jar with green paint applied by two different techniques to show the difference.
The top of this jar is painted by a sponge and has a rough texture, while the painted lines below look smoother but less consistent. Still from Skillshare class Painting on Glass – 10 Ideas and Guide for Beginners by Panchami Shetty.

Negative Painting

The transparency of glass lends itself well to negative painting, whereby you apply paint to the outside of a shape or design so that it remains see-through, or empty. 

You’ll need to draw your stencil first. It’s easiest to draw it on masking tape and then stick it onto the glass surface. Make sure you cover any parts of the glass that you don’t want the paint to touch.

When you’re ready to paint, you just add the color to the areas that aren’t covered up. You’ll find it quicker and simpler to dab the paint on with a sponge instead of using a brush, especially if you’d like to blend two colors together. 

Once the paint is semi-dry, you can peel off the protective layers. If you’re using acrylic paint and you wait until the paint is bone dry, there’s a risk the paint could peel off with your masking tape. 

The negative space can either be left blank and totally transparent, or can be filled with another painting technique, like line drawing or dot painting. 

The left glass jar has a blank leaf shape thanks to negative painting, but the one on the right has lines in the leaves done by line drawing.
The painting on the left uses negative space to create an image, but the one on the right has used line drawing to fill the space and achieve a very different impact.  Still from Skillshare class Painting on Glass – 10 Ideas and Guide for Beginners by Panchami Shetty.

 Line Drawing 

With the right kind of marker, you can draw directly onto the glass or add detail on top of the paint. This is often done towards the end of the project, once the main painting has been completed and is totally dry. 

Dot Painting 

Set your imagination free by using a series of multicolored dots to create all kinds of designs. It’s a low-pressure painting technique that can be done on the fly, but if you prefer to plan your design then you can draw it on some paper and stick the template behind the glass.

If you want to try dot painting, it’s much easier to ditch the brush and pick up a cotton swab and a toothpick. Since they have firmer surfaces, they’ll let you create more consistent dots than you’d get with a soft brush. 

Correct Mistakes Easily

It’s inevitable that you’ll make a mistake, especially if you’re new to glass painting. When this happens, it can be a relief to learn these are very easy to correct by wiping a damp cloth or tissue over the wet paint. 

If you’ve used acrylic paint and it’s dried, you won’t be able to wipe it off—but you can still correct any mistake by scraping it off with a blade. Be gentle and patient when you do this, as you don’t want to scratch the glass surface. 

3 Glass Painting Projects to Get You Started

One of the easiest ways to get started with glass painting is to grab whatever used glass you can find and upcycle it into something you can display in your home, or gift to loved ones. 

Painted Wine Bottles

Skip the recycling bin and paint wine bottles to transform them into decorative vases. If you’ve got colored glass then you could cover the entire surface by sponge painting it and add detail on top, or use negative painting to let the glass peek through your design. 

For clear glass bottles, you could be more minimal with your decoration and leave the majority of your painted wine bottle transparent. 

A painted wine bottle with a blue background that’s been decorated with gold and black lines and swirls.
This wine bottle was painted with Pebeo Studio Acrylics High Viscosity paint and embellished with Pebeo Relief Outliner. Still from Skillshare class Glass Painting: Transform Used Wine Bottles into Decorative Vases by Rekha Krishnamurthi.

Painted Wine Glasses

A really thoughtful gift is to transform a pair of glasses into something sentimental, with a touch of paint. You could do anything: inscribe a favorite quote, paint their pet or use their favorite colors, for example.

Two wine glasses side by side. The left one has small blue flowers painted on it. The right one has a large, bright pink flower painted on it.
Painted wine glasses can be an easy art project, or a way to create a keepsake or handmade gift. Photo credit: Jeff Manes via iStock.

Painted Glass Ornaments

If you’re throwing a party, it’s really fun to paint your own holiday ornaments and create decorations (or party favors) that are unique to your event. The trick to truly impressive painted glass ornaments is to outline your design first, and then fill in the color after. This technique helps to create an ornament that looks as delicate as it is. 

A painted glass ornament with oval and circle patterns in a range of colors, surrounded by the kit you’d need to paint it: glass paint, paint brushes and an outliner.
Glass painted ornaments aren’t just for the holidays. Bright, colorful designs like this are perfect for decorating a room or garden for an event at any time of the year. Still from Skillshare class Paint Your Own Holiday Hanging Ornaments: Introduction to Glass Painting by Windy Iris.

Show Off Your Smashing New Skill

If you’ve mastered the glass surface, there’s no shortage of ways to show off your new skillset. Your only challenge might be running out of space, or running out of used glass objects to upcycle!

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Written by:

Laura Nineham