Glass Painting

Ever tried your hand at glass painting? It is a little more intricate than painting on other surfaces like paper, canvas or fabric, but with the right instructions you can churn out a decent glass painting of your very own.

Mahua Khanna, an interior designer specialising in glass painting, offers some basic and handy tips to master this art form.

Things you will need:
~ Glass / mirror / tiles
~ Glass liner
~ Photocopy of drawings/ designs and carbon paper
~ Glass colours
~ Paint brushes

(You can get the paints and brushes from any stationery or art shop, and the glass, mirror and tiles from a hardware store or glass dealer).

Selecting the glass
Choosing a glass piece is very important. But how do we know which is the correct size and width for our painting? Mahua offers the following tips:

~ Ideally, you should use glasses measuring 8 inches by 6 inches, to a maximum of 1 foot by 1 foot, and a thickness of 3 millimeters to 4 millimeters.
~ Avoid very thin or very thick glass. The pressure of your hand may break thin glass, while very thick glass may break due to its own weight.
~ Before using the glass make sure it is free from dust and watermarks, if any. Clean it well with soap and water. Dry with a piece of cloth and place under a fan to remove any water residue.

Using a glass liner
To outline your design on the glass, first take a photocopy of the picture, drawing or design you want to paint. Next, lay a piece of carbon paper over the glass. Place the photocopy over this and tape the sides with cello tape (to prevent the papers from shifting). With a pen or pencil carefully outline the entire image. Once you complete tracing the design, carefully detach the papers from the glass.

The next step is lining the design with glass liner. You could use either a water-based or solvent-based liner in any colour, though black, gold and opaque ones are the most commonly used.

“Beginners can use water-based liners which tend to be cheaper,” say Mahua. The drawback of using water-based liners, however, is that they tend to peel off the glass if water is applied.

“Once you get the hang of glass painting, you can move on to solvent-based glass liners, which are more permanent,” she adds. There are two ways to line an image, you could either directly using the nozzle of the liner or use a plastic cone (like a mehendi cone). Using the nozzle method for large glass surfaces is recommended.

Points to note
~ Be very careful while drawing the outline. Maintain the same pressure throughout the outline.
~ While making the outline try not to lift your hand. Stopping midway will show the break in outline very clearly.
~ After completing the outline, allow at least five to six hours for the liner to dry before you begin colouring it.

Selecting the brushes
You can use regular watercolour brushes for glass painting. Small size brushes are ideal for filling in the colours, and sizes 000, 00, 0, 1 and 2 are recommended. Unlike painting with watercolours, however, the technique for glass painting is different. For small paintings, thin brushes should be used and thicker brushes should be used for larger ones.

Tips on usage
~ Use thinner to get the paint off before you clean your brushes with soapy water. Cleaning is essential as any small residue of paint can ruin a painting.
~ You can also keep dipping the brush in the thinner while painting. Keep a cloth handy to wipe off any excess thinner.

Using glass colours
Now that you have the outline in place, it is time to fill in the colour. Here again there are two types — water and solvent based. Camlin and Fevicryl are the most popular brands. A word of caution: Too much exposure to sunlight can cause this type of paint to fade. Solvent-based glass colours are permanent colours and should be used for larger paintings. You can highlight the paintings by strategically placing lamps and light bulbs around them.

Ready to paint?
Now, we come to the fun part — painting! To fill the image with paint, first start by using the nozzle tip of the colour bottles while making sure there are no air bubbles on the glass. Shaking the bottle too much can also create bubbles which will hamper the process.

To get rid of bubbles, pour the paint out on a separate piece of glass, using it as a palette. Bear in mind that the paint must be used fast once it is opened as it tends to dry up very quickly. You can also drop a small amount of colour on the spaces that need to be painted and quickly brush over the area. Avoid sitting under the fan as far as possible to prevent the paint from drying up before you’ve completed the painting.

Touching up
Dissatisfied with the results? Here are two ways to correct it:
~ Peel off the paint after 10-20 minutes of application. You can also use a blade to scrape off the unwanted part.
~ Take an ear bud, dip it in glass paint thinner to clean up the more intricate areas of your painting.

Before re-filling the portion, ensure that the area is dry and completely clean. Always use the same brand of colour for a single painting. Mixing diffrent brands of paint for the same painting may not give you the desired result. Begin with the smaller areas, moving on to larger ones. Wait for 10-15 minutes for the paint to dry before painting another portion. Also, while filling in the colour ensure that you reach the corners or edges.

Painting on mirrors
Avoid painting on large mirrors as far as possible. Besides being too heavy for framing, larger mirrors are more likely to break. The technique of drawing an outline is the same as for glass painting though you might get distracted by your own reflection! To avoid this, sit at an angle so that your reflection doesn’t fall directly on the mirror.

Also, using a solvent-based colour on a mirror painting usually produces a better effect. Allow five to six hours for the painting to completely dry up. Always avoid wrapping your paintings in cloth or paper as the paint tends to stick.

Painting on tiles
The procedure used for outlining and filling in colours in a glass painting may be used for tile painting as well. Since tiles are heavier, you can skip framing them. Instead, getting the edges of the tile beaded will have a much more artistic effect. Besides paint, you can use mediums such as sand, coloured sand (where you mix some colours to it), sequins and glitter for tile painting as well. Remember, tiles have a heavier base than glass and so will need a larger amount of paint for the colour’s denseness to come through.

Points to note

  • Use a paint thinner for shading on the glass, mirror or tile.
  • Tape the edges of the glass to avoid nasty cuts.
  • While buying glass, ask the storekeeper to polish the sides and blunt the edges.
  • Pick plain tiles for better effect.
  • Don’t eat off the painted glass. It should be used for decorative and gifting purposes only.

For Rediff.com, published on 6th June, 2007.

The Lifestyle Portal

Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai, a post-graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai and holds a Master's Degree in Journalis & Mass Communications from Chandigarh University. A former writing mentor and a seasoned lifestyle writer, Tanya writes columns on The Lifestyle Portal of life and living.

8 thoughts on “Glass Painting

  • Indira

    Hi Tanya,

    Loved your blog, so many intricate details to motivate the beginners. I have one query, as I want to draw on bottles and jars, how shall I copy the Image on them or do I need to draw it directly there. Could you also suggest a black liner brand? I want some golden and silver filling color which brand shall I buy? I guess I need solvent based colors.

    • Hi Indira,
      Thank you for the encouraging feedback. You can pick up a Camlin black outliner for glass paints from a stationary store. You would need Camlin glass paints to be able to paint on glass or you could also use acrylic paints from Fevicryl.
      Hope this helps.

  • Arushi

    Are the colours permanent .What should we do to make them permanent so that when they are coverd with dust or dirt they can be cleaner .

  • Dhana

    Hi, I don’t want to use black, gold,sikver liner. I need transparent. Can we have transparent liner in the market? If you can share the details of transparent liner.

  • Hi Tanya,

    This is wonderful information. I was thinking if the glass colours are permanent. Thanks to you I got the information that I need to use Solvent based Glass Colours for permanent effect. Thank you so much. the information is very detailed. I love it.

  • Abhishek Guin

    Hello, I did a water based glass painting. I am curious to know about any clear coat that can be applied to protect it.

  • Shruti

    Hello !
    Was too curious to ask if light bulbs could be painted ? And what color should be used for the same ???

  • Christina

    Hello Tanya,
    I have some dried up colors – Fevicryl water based , is there a possibility to restore them?.


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