When it comes to painting on glass, only certain types of paint will do. The non-porous properties of glass make it a smooth surface that nothing likes to stick to.
There isn’t much that will stick to glass long-term, even with moderate amounts of preparation, like etching the glass.
Many types of paint will adhere to the glass for a short period of time, but once they begin to really dry out, they will fade, chip, or peel right off.
So what kind of paint will stick to glass? The best kinds of paint to use are paints that are specifically formulated for use on glass. The most common types are enamels and acrylic paints. Each with their own best uses, depending on several things. There is even an acrylic enamel blend that gives the best of both worlds.
If you ware searching for acrylic paint, that sticks well to glass then I would recommend the Amsterdam expert series(Link to Amazon). These acrylic paints are high-quality paints, that have great vibrant colors and stick well to glass surfaces.
If you want to use special glass paint (which I would strongly recommend) then go for the Marabu GlasArt Glass Paint. These paints are cheaper than acrylic paints and they are specially made for sticking on glass without the need for preparing the drawing surface first.
Differences Between Enamel and Acrylic Paints
There are a few differences between enamel and acrylic paints.
Opacity, flexibility, and colorfastness differ between the two options heavily.
Deciding what the paint job will need to do will determine which paint should be used. Both are long-lasting and durable. There are a few instances where one or the combination of the two is more suitable.
The main difference between enamel and acrylic paints is their opacity or transparency. Enamel paint is solidly colored and acrylic paint is very transparent. For solid color painting, like on a coffee mug with a solid color background, go with enamel. If the project is on clear glass and a stained-glass effect is desired, acrylic will be the best bet.
Flexibility once the paint has dried will be a major deciding factor when deciding on the paint that should be used on glass. Enamel paint dries hard, like nail polish, acrylic paint never dries completely, so it is much more flexible.
While acrylic paint will adhere to the surface of glass so it’s great for windows and mirrors, it won’t hold up well being run through the dishwasher.
The final difference that will matter when deciding which paint to use is colorfastness. Acrylic paint has the upper hand in this instance. Enamel paints, being oil-based, will start to yellow over time.
Acrylic paints will hold their color permanently. That doesn’t mean that enamels are not a solid choice if the job calls for it, but it bears mentioning that this is what happens with enamel paints.
Preparing The glass For Painting
With paint formulations made specifically for painting on glass, there is a lot less preparation that needs to happen before applying the paint. There was a time when “roughing” the surface of the glass to make sure the paint would stick was necessary. Paints have come a long way since then.
With most formulas created specifically for glass, simply cleaning and drying the surface is all that is required. Always read the directions to be sure that no extra preparations are needed, but don’t be surprised when that is all that is needed.
A tip for working with paint and glass is to wear gloves while working on the project. A dust and oil-free surface are necessary. A good pair of latex gloves will keep oils from fingers from being left on the surface and needing to be cleaned repeatedly.
Permanence of Paint on Glass
Glass is a smooth surface down to a microscopic level.
There are no nooks and crannies for the paint to creep in and cling to, so permanence without some kind of roughing of the surface to create the nooks and crannies or sealing is going to be something to consider.
Even the best and highest quality paints, designed specifically for use on glass, will eventually begin to pull away.
While roughing the surface of the glass will create nooks and crannies that will elongate the time it takes for paint to begin to pull away, it is a lot of work to get down deep enough into the glass without creating deep gashes that will be hard to cover and recreate a smooth surface.
An alternative to roughing is sealing. A sealant bond with glass better than paint, is easy to apply and dries clear.
After all, painting is done and the layers have all dried, a clear coat of acrylic sealant can be applied over the paint and will seal the paint in place permanently. There are both spray on and brush on options for sealants.
Best Paint For a Stained Glass Effect
A favorite for painting on glass is creating the stained glass effect. It’s a wonderful aesthetic and adds flair and beauty to any room it’s in.
Thanks to acrylic paint and it’s ability to allow light to shine through, anyone can create a stained glass looking masterpieces, on windows, mirrors, and hanging sheets of clear plastic.
The trick to this masterpiece creation is not only selecting the right paint and colors for the job but also thinly layering paint for optimal transparency where it is needed and less transparency where it is not.
The thinner the paint, the more light gets through. You can adjust the thickness of the paint in spaces that need more or less light. That is an effect that is difficult to achieve with actual stained glass.
Selecting the right acrylic paint for your stained glass project doesn’t need to be difficult even though there are many many options to choose from. Knowing the medium being used (ie. glass, tempered glass, mirror, plexiglass, etc.), it’s exposure to direct sunlight, and cleaning needs and options will help make the selection much easier.
Best Paint for Glassware Projects
The paint hardens when it dries so it won’t peel off. In fact, most types of enamel paints can be baked in the oven to cure. Doing this makes the paint durable and top-rack dishwasher safe.
This is a great option for glassware projects like wine glasses, bottles, candle holders, and mugs.
The need for transparency isn’t usually a factor with enamel paints, but if and when it is, there are colors and formulas available in enamels that are translucent to serve that purpose too.
The options can be endless, but knowing your medium, the purpose the item will serve and how it will be cleaned ahead of time will help narrow things down.
Painting on glass is not a new concept, but the formulation for paints that will stick and stay on glass for the long-haul has improved greatly over the years. With more and more options becoming available all the time.
Still, glass is glass. Selecting the right paint for a project can take some care and due diligence.
Knowing a few things prior to shopping for the right paint can make the selection process much less complicated. Glass comes in many forms and each of those forms carries its own preparation as well as paint type that will work best on that type of glass. What works on regular clear glass might not work on tempered glass or on plexiglass.
What might work on plexiglass, might not work on regular glass.
Sunlight is damaging to any kind of paint. Excessive heat can cause some paints to degrade quickly, direct sunlight can cause paint colors to fade or turn yellow. Knowing the long-term location of a project prior to purchasing paint will aid in deciding what paint to buy to produce the longest lasting project possible.
How the project is expected to be used should also be considered prior to purchase paint.
Knowing if the item will be used and washed regularly will determine if a paint that can be baked is necessary, or if a sealant should be used. This is especially important if the project is going to end up being a gift for someone else.
Then there is preservation. Glass doesn’t hold on to anything long term. Its non-porous surface makes it the best non-stick surface next to Teflon.
With paint on glass, the goal really is to figure out what will preserve and hold the paint on the glass the longest. Even if the project is just going to sit on a shelf out of direct sunlight, ensuring that the paint will hold on for many years is a must. Especially for keepsakes and projects that are meant to be kept for a long time.
The final thoughts about what paint to buy for a glass painting project boils down to what colors to get.
Nothing is more frustrating than getting going on a project with colors that work in the bottle but finding out upon application that it isn’t the color expected.
An off-color will not only look off-putting when putt on display, for the creator, but it can also stop a project dead in its tracks. Taking the time to select the right colors is imperative to creating a glass painting project one can be proud of.
The real question is what type of paint will produce the wanted results and what can be done to extend the life of the project once the paint has been applied? Is the desired result of a stained glass effect or something that needs to be safe for cleaning in the dishwasher?
When you want a project that will last a life-time, quality over quantity applies. Knowing some basic information in advance will eliminate a lot of guesswork, get a project started, and produce the desired results.