How to Paint Glass Windows

Looking to add a little panache to those boring windows in your home and wondering if you can paint a glass window? Of course, you can. There are many paints available that will allow you to paint glass in a wide variety of styles. Whether it’s a solution for your privacy needs, an outlet for your artistic talents, or a fun project to keep the kids occupied, there are plenty of options when it comes to painting glass windows.

At a Glance: How to Paint Glass Window

  1. Clean the glass with soap and water
  2. Prepare the surface by adding a base coat and/or outlining the design with marker or paint liner
  3. Apply the paint using a natural (smooth finish), synthetic (brush strokes show), or foam brush (stencils and base coats)
  4. Allow the paint to dry in between coats/colors
  5. Cure the painted glass for a week to 30 days for maximum durability

How to Paint Glass Windows

Why Paint Glass Windows

There are a variety of reasons, both aesthetic and functional for painting a glass window. If you’re looking to add some artistic flair to a room, painting a window is a good way to add art to your living space.

If you use a stencil, you don’t even need a lot of innate artistic ability. Depending on what kind of paint you use, painting glass can be a fun activity for kids that can be later cleaned off or a permanent way of decorating a window with an intricate faux stained-glass design.

Painting glass is also an effective way to add privacy to a room. Wondering what to do with that large window in the master bathroom? Looking for a way to add some privacy to an office with french doors? Frosting the glass, a process that can be completed in less than an hour, is an excellent way to create privacy while still allowing light into the room.

Perhaps you live in an older home with french windows. Painting the glass using stencils is an excellent way to add style to those old windows.

Painting a window can also be a great option for blocking the sun. Depending on what kind of paint you use, this could range from a full blackout to a light filter.

What Paint to Use on Glass Windows

Paint for glass window

Before you start taking a paintbrush to your bedroom windows, keep in mind that you can’t just use any paint on glass. Your standard water-based latex or oil-based paints won’t work.

Oil bonds best to porous surfaces like canvas wood and hardboard. Latex paint can be used to paint glass, but you won’t get a good coating. Also, don’t expect it to last as it can be easily peeled off or washed away.

So, what paint can you use to paint glass? You have quite a few options here. Choosing one depends on what look and purpose you’re trying to achieve as well as what you hope to accomplish with the job.

If you’re interested in painting a window a solid color for privacy or light filtering, then acrylic enamel is your best paint. Acrylic enamel, which is used to paint cars, adheres well to glass and is long-lasting.

If you want something even more permanent, check out the product Glasspaint. This paint designed especially for application to glass for actually alters the surface of the glass to create a permanent bond. Once Glasspaint has cured, it will not chip, fade or peel. It also makes an excellent sunblock as it will not fade.

Keep in mind that both acrylic enamel and Glasspaint are pricey. Acrylic enamel costs upwards of $100 for a gallon. Glasspaint may be the best paint you can buy for permanently painting glass, but it isn’t cheap. Expect to pay three times what you would for a regular gallon of acrylic enamel for a gallon of Glasspaint.

Want something with less light filtering but will still offer privacy? Frosted glass paint is an excellent option. Frosted paint is easy to apply, looks great when completed, and provides privacy but is semi-transparent enough to allow natural light through.

Frosted glass comes in spray paint form, can be applied in minutes and dries in minutes. It’s also one of the cheapest ways to paint a window, costing just a small fraction of acrylic enamel.

If you’re looking for a matte finish that is more permanent, considering mixing gesso into acrylic paint. Gesso is a thin acrylic paint mixed with a binder that consists of chalk, gypsum and pigment, all of which combine to give it a matte finish.

You can also purchase artistic paints made specifically for different finishes, including gloss, which will provide you with a shiny finish, frosted, which will also give you a frosted look and crystal gloss, which creates a shiny and frosted look.

Perhaps you don’t want something quite as permanent as Glasspaint. Maybe you don’t want something permanent at all. Maybe you want to paint the windows for the holidays, or perhaps your daughter or son wants to turn their bedroom window into their work of art.

You don’t want to squelch your daughter’s creativity, but you also don’t want her artwork to still be on display long after she’s left for college. Nor do you want those pumpkins and witches your wife painted in the living room windows for Halloween to be still haunting your house come Thanksgiving.

No problem. There’s a temporary option for you, and it’s called tempera paint. Tempera will allow your kids to fully explore their artistic abilities on their bedroom window without making their masterpieces permanent fixtures in the house.

Tempera paints offer bright matte colors and adhere well to the glass. However, tempera paint can be easily removed by dipping a rag in a solution of vinegar and water and lightly scrubbing the window.

Perhaps you’ve heard of faux stained glass and would like to add that look to your home? Combine any of the aforementioned paints with liquid leading to achieve that effect.

Liquid leading is a black paint that comes in a b bottle and can be squeezed into the glass to create realistic looking leading lines. Leading are the black metal frames that hold the individual pains of glass in a stained glass window and create the individual shapes in the window. It’s called leading because these frames are made out of the lead.

What Paint Brush to Use

You have a few options when it comes to brushes. As with paint, the brush you choose will determine the kind of finish you end up with. If you’re looking for a brushed look, go with a synthetic brush. A synthetic brush will distribute the paint such that you will be able to see the brush strokes.

Want a smooth finished? Go with a natural brush, which will distribute the paint smoothly onto the glass. Just make sure you purchase a high-quality brush. The last thing you want is individual paintbrush hairs coming off of the brush and sticking to your project.

Using a resin-based paint to go for a frosted look? Then use a high-quality foam brush. Foam brushes also work great if you’re using stencils.

If you’re producing a work of art, then you’ll need a variety of sizes of artistic brushes. Smaller brushes work well for fine details, while broader flat brushes allow you to create a more even coat. Just remember that the notes about brush materials also apply to artistic brushes.

How to Paint Glass Windows

Once you’ve decided how you’re going to paint your window, and you’ve purchased your paint and your brushes, it’s time to begin.

1. Clean/Prepare the Glass

Before you start coating the window, you’ll first need to prep the surface. Begin by thoroughly cleaning the window with warm water and soap. This step is essential as you’ll need to remove all of the dirt and oils on the glass that will resist paint.

For very thorough cleaning, wipe down the surface with rubbing alcohol after cleaning.

2. Prepare the Surface

As you prep the surface and paint, it’s essential that you wear a pair of rubber gloves to prevent the oils from your hands from getting on the glass.

Begin by using painters tape to tape off the areas that you don’t want to be painted. This would include the window frame and any parts of the glass that need to remain paint-free.

For artistic painting, you may wish to apply a base coat, which will serve as a

background for your design. If you’re planning on making the glass opaque, you can apply a layer or two of gesso before adding your base coat. Due to its matte texture, gesso creates an excellent surface on which to paint.

Apply an even coat using a natural brush. Make sure you allow the base coat to dry for at least an hour to prevent the paints from bleeding together when adding the top coat. Drying times may vary, so make sure to consult the directions on the paint can for specifics.

Some enamel paints will list a curing time of 5-7 days. This denotes the time needed for the paint to fully harden. It’s not necessary to wait this long to add additional layers of paint. You only need the surface of the paint to be dry.

If you’re planning on completing a faux stained-glass finish, then you’ll want to apply the liquid leading first. As with a base coat, make sure the leading thoroughly dries before applying the paint layer.

If you’re creating a design, now is the time to outline that design onto the base coat or the bare glass if you’ve opted not to use a base coat.

You can use a common marker or a paint liner to accomplish this task. Once the base coat is dry, carefully draw the outline for your design onto the base coat. Again, make sure you are wearing rubber gloves while carrying out this task as any oils from your hand that end up on the glass or base coat will resist the paint.

If you’re using paint liner, carefully squeeze it onto the bass coast to create your outline. You’ll need to wait until the paint liner is completely dry before moving to the next step.

If you don’t plan on painting an opaque base coat before outlining your design, consider using this simple trick for creating a professional-looking design: attach a stencil to the opposite side of the glass and trace the design using a marker or liner paint.

3. Apply the Paint

If you’re using a single coat of paint to completely cover the glass in one color, then this process is pretty straightforward. Use your brush to coat the glass evenly. Depending on how opaque you want the window to be, you may need to apply multiple coats.

For artistic designs, select the size brush to allow you to paint to the level of detail that your design requires. Begin at the top left, if you’re right-handed, or the top-right if you’re left-handed.

This allows you to paint without placing your hand in areas you have already painted, potentially smudging your design. Begin by adding small amounts of paint.

Adding more paint is much easier than removing surplus paint. Once you get used to the process, begin adding more paint to your brush.

Have a paper towel or rag on hand to lightly dab away any mistakes. If you’re using enamel, you may need to soak the rag with a little paint thinner to remove any unwanted paint. Mistakes need to be removed immediately before they dry and become permanent.

Work with one color at a time, painting all the parts of the design that use that color before moving onto the next. If you’re reusing the brush, make sure to thoroughly rinse the brush in water or clean with paint thinner. Allow the brush to dry before beginning with the next color.

If time allows, it’s best to wait for the paint to dry into between colors to prevent accidentally mixing colors. Tempera paint dries in minutes, while most water-based paints take about an hour to dry. Enamel may require 8-24 hours to dry, depending on the thickness of the coat.

Waiting for each layer to dry is required if colors overlap to prevent the two from bleeding into each other. Fixing unintentional bleeds once they happen is difficult if not impossible, so be patient!

Continue this process until you have completed the design. Once done, review your work. Are there any areas that need to be brighter? If so, add a second coat once the first coat has dried.

4. Curing the Glass

Curing the glass is an important step as most paints take up to a week or even more to fully harden. Until the paint is fully hardened, it’s susceptible to chips and peeling.

Baking glass painted with paint in an oven is the ideal method for curing and one commonly used for arts and crafts glass-painting projects.

Obviously, that isn’t possible when painting windows. While some suggest using a hairdryer to accomplish the same task, a hairdryer doesn’t create enough heat to make this a viable option.

You simply need to wait. Acrylic paint can take as much as a month to fully cure. During this waiting time, it’s best to refrain from touching the window and to keep it protected from water.

Best Paint for Glass Windows

As I discussed above, there are many paint options available for glass. Below are a couple of paints to consider:

Colorations Simply Washable Tempera Paints

painting on glass windowsLooking for a paint that will allow you to do some temporary glass painting with the kids? Then check out Colorations washable tempera paint. This set, with 11 bright colors, includes everything you need to create a temporary design on any window in your house. The paint adheres well to glass and dries in minutes, making it an easy medium to work with.

It’s also usable in a wide variety of art projects, so you’ll get your money’s worth. Best of all, it washes easily off of glass, skin, and clothing with soap and water.

Liquid Chalk Markers & Metallic Colors

how to paint on glass windowIf you want to make some designs on glass, but aren’t into paint and paintbrushes, check out these dry erase marker pens from Chalkola. These water-based chalk pens can be applied directly to the glass.

With 10 bright Neon colors, your child will have plenty of options for window art creations.

And, without the need for paint or brushes, this is a true mess-free option. Since these markers are dry erase, your window can go back to its normal state in seconds with the swipe of a rag.

For more options please check out my article Best Paint for Glass.

Conclusion

Whether it’s a permanent window painting project for privacy, a way to show off your artistic skills, or an afternoon activity for the kids, there are plenty of great options for painting windows. I hope this article has inspired you for painting windows in your home.

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