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How to Paint Glass


Glass painting is an art that once was done mostly on tableware and such art items as suncatchers and decorative lamps. However, now glass painting also refers to backpainted glass, an architectural covering that can add a modern look to kitchens and bathrooms as a backsplash. Tables, counters, and walls also can be beautified with backpainted glass. This innovative concept is similar to the making of mirrors, and indeed, the backpainted tiles are installed the same way that mirrors and mirrored tile is mounted. The only difference is that the back of the glass is painted with opaque paint rather than mirror backing. The result of backpainting is an extremely glossy, reflective colored surface that can be mounted as tiles or panels on a wall or piece of furniture.

Backpainting Glass Backsplashes

Lay a sheet of glass on plain white paper on a flat, solid surface. Wipe it clean with rubbing alcohol and a paper towel. After this cleaning, if a polyurethane paint is used, a permanent bond can be made by pretreating with a molecular activator which is sprayed on and wiped off much like a cleaner, but then the paint must be applied within a short time after the glass surface is activated. If a permanent bonding glass paint is used, this pretreatment is unnecessary. The glass is then ready for painting. The glass paint must first be poured in a mixing cup and mixed with a proportionately smaller amount of catalyst and used within the drying time. The ratio of paint to catalyst and the drying time depend on the temperature and the humidity, and can be found in the instructions. The best applicator for the glass paint is a spray gun because of the short drying time, although a roller or a brush can be used for smaller tiles. Allow to dry for 10 to 15 minutes and apply another coat, for a total of three to ten thin, even coats and allowing each coat to dry before applying the next coat. The first coat should be sprayed with a side-to-side motion, the second with an up-and-down motion, alternating coats so that they cross one another at right angles. Paint past the edges onto the paper underneath before starting a new stroke in the opposite direction to prevent the paint from being heavier at the edge of the glass. When the final coat is applied, allow to dry for at least 2 to 3 hours before handling gently. Now the glass can be cut with a glass cutter and a straightedge into tiles if desired, and if the glass was not already cut intotiles before painting. The panel or tiles can then be glued to the wall with the painted side toward the wall with a clear glazing acid-free silicone glue. The paint itself will be totally dry in 15 days.

Artistic Painting with Transparent Glass Paints

As opposed to backpainting, which uses an opaque glass paint, transparent paints are usually painted on the top surface of the glass. A line drawing used as the design can be placed behind the glass so that the pattern shows through the transparent glass substrate. This can be held in place with tape, or by filling the glass with rice. A dimensional black outliner paint is gently squeezed onto the top surface of the glass over the pattern lines. After this has dried, the outlines can be filled in one at a time with a drop of transparent paint base and a drop of tinted catalyst within the outline which is mixed with a small brush and spread to fill the outlined area. After the glass object is completely painted, it is allowed to dry. The painted glass object is then placed into a cold oven and baked according to the directions. The oven must cool completely before the object is removed. The finished glass object has the appearance of jeweled or stained glass. The design will show up nicely with a light or candle behind it, or sunlight as when hung as a suncatcher in a window. This paint can come in several effects, such as glossy, frosted, and iridescent, or dimensional, as well as simple transparent or opaque. It can be diluted with thinner to produce a drip effect on tableware. Glass mirrors can be painted with a border design. The artistic possibilities of decorative glass painting are limited only by the artist’s imagination.

Other Kinds of Glass Painting

It also deserves mention that the automotive industry uses glass paint for tinting and black-out edges on windshields. These are applied and baked on at the glass factory. For the individual who wants to decorate glass in the home, specialized glass paints generally can be found at craft stores. These paints have different qualities of permanence, translucency or opacity, color, ease of application, price and durability depending upon their intended use. To paint a design on the top surface of a car window requires a paint that is opaque, weatherproof and dries quickly, can be applied with a brush, does not require heat treating and can be removed without damaging the glass. Window decals are often used for decoration. Painting on windows that is meant to be temporary, such as window murals, requires a paint that can be washed off or peeled off easily when removed.



Sorensen, Dorris. Glass Painting for the First Time. tba: Sterling/Chapelle, 2003. Print.

Embry, Karen. Painting on Glass & Ceramic. New York: Sterling, 2008. Print.

Aimone, Katherine Duncan. New Ideas in Glass Painting. New York: Lark Books, 2002. Print.

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