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July 17, 2013

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Simple Tips for Using Glass Paint

Madigan made… advice for painting on glass and ceramic.

Helpful tips and advice about using glass paint on glass and ceramics.

Love the look of colored and painted glassware? Me too! (As you can tell after Monday’s glass bowls and yesterday’s cute mini vases!)  It’s a popular trend that is unlikely to go away anytime soon…. and painting glass is an easy DIY project that can be achieved in an afternoon.

I’ve told you before that, yes, glassware can be spray painted, but that there are some major limitations to using spray paint on glass… namely, durability. Traditional spray paint is a quick and dirty way to paint glass… but  it may not hold up to a lot of wear and tear. I only use that approach with items that are purely decorative and that won’t be handled much.

But how do you paint glass items that will be used regularly or that you want to wash, like serving pieces? Well, I’ve grown to love and appreciate glass and enamel paints. These paints are much, much more durable than spray painting on glass and often once cured…the items can even be put in the dishwasher!

I’ve received many questions from y’all about these glass paints and I wanted to review with you my experience with this crafting medium. In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that most of the glass paint I’ve used in the prior year has been sent to me complimentary. I’ve received glass paint from the two top manufacturers: Plaid makes Martha Stewart’s glass paints and DecoArt produces the Americana glass paint line that I’ve used.   I am not compensated to talk to you today about either brand paint – I like working with both of them. I’ve also purchased and used Gallery Glass and enamel paints for prior painting projects, too. And there are other brands of glass paint out there, like Pebeo Vitrea and Tulip (I’ve never tried these personally – so I will not review them here).

So, what should you know about painting glass? Here is my advice:

Practical advice for painting glass and ceramics

My Tips to Paint Glass with Glass Paint


Find cheap glassware.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money for your glass pieces. I love grabbing inexpensive items from thrift stores, garage sales, craft stores or dollar stores.

glass paint ideas

But one of my favorite places to find glass for crafting is in my own recycle bin! (I like free!)


Clean your glassware thoroughly.

Dirt (and oil from your hands) can prevent the paint from properly adhering to the glass. I run all my glassware through the dishwasher first. Then, right before I paint, I use a rag and clean the glass with isopropyl alcohol.

how to paint glass - clean glass with isopropyl alcohol


Plan out your painting design.

Do you want to draw a raised pattern on your drink ware? Add just a wash of color to a mason jar? Free hand a design? Create a stained-glass look? Stencil on a design? Paint in the grooves of the glass? Splatter the glass?

painting on glass

Think long and hard about how you will paint your glass. Sketch out your design if needed and make sure you have all the right tools and paint handy.  But don’t worry… if you make a mistake, the paint can often be removed by wiping it off right away with alcohol or gently scraping it off before it cures.


Use the right glass paint for the look you want.

Each type of glass paint will achieve a different look and finish. It is important to use the right product so your craft looks the way you envisioned it.

Comprehensive guide to the different types of glass paints and the look they will give you on glass.

NOTE: The links below to paints are here for your resource and also may be affiliate links. That means that I might earn a very small commission off of any purchases made through those links, at no additional cost to you. (Thanks for supporting my painting habit!) 

What effect do you want on your glass piece?

Most of these paints can be purchased for under $2-3 per bottle at your local craft store (or cheaper with a coupon!).


Keep the right tools handy.

You’ll need more than glass pieces and paint to create a successful and polished paint job. I usually have these items nearby when I’m painting glass:

 glass paint tips: use toothpicks and cotton swabs

  • Brushes and sponges
    • Useful for different application methods… depending on if you want a smooth look or a stippled/textured effect to your paint.
  • Cotton swabs and toothpicks
    • These items are perfect for cleaning up your mistakes as you paint. Dip the swabs in alcohol to wipe away an oops or use a toothpick to scrape away any freshly dried paint that went awry.
  • Paper towels and rags
    • I cannot paint without these… they are a must for a messy painter like me!
  • Tape, stencils and silkscreens
    • Painter’s tape or stencil tape can help you paint a crisp line or pattern on glass.
    • There are some really pretty stencils and silkscreens out there for glass these days. They are sticky and flexible, too, so you can apply them to a curved surface.
    • Stencil patterns that I’m fond of: (note – these are affiliate links)


Wait and cure the paint as directed.

Glass paints typically will dry to a paler/clearer shade than the color it was while wet. Be aware that sometimes you may need to apply another coat or two to get your desired look.

bake glass and enamel paints on glass

Plus, it is important to know that you may not be able to use your glassware right away. Be patient until the paint cures and sets. Some paints will air dry over a few weeks while some can be baked and set in an oven. Always read and follow the directions on the paint to find out how to set your paint. (And some glass paint, like some of the Gallery Glass formulas, may intentionally be temporary and will peel off over time… be sure to read the manufacturer’s information prior to purchase.)


Be aware of the paint’s limits.

I love glass and ceramic paints… but they are not perfect. Keep these facts in mind as you plan your project:

  • You may see brushstrokes in the coat, even after the paint dries. Apply the paint in multiple, thin, smooth coats to minimize this from happening.
  • The glitter in the glass paints may not cover as thoroughly as you hoped and may require more coats.
  • I want to emphasize that these paints are not considered food safe. If I’m painting something that may be used in the kitchen, I apply the paints to areas of my glass that will likely not touch food. 

Despite these limitations… you can do a lot with glass paints! I love that the designs are more durable for cleaning and washing.


Have fun!

Painting on glass is easy and fun. It is a simple craft that can be created at any age or skill level.

glass paint craft ideas and tips

So, go raid your recyclables or dollar store and get painting!!

Curious about how to paint other surfaces? My friend Amanda has some fantastic tips for how to paint on plastic.