Everything You Need Know When Oil Painting On Glass

Michael Daly
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Is Oil Really The Best Medium For The Job When Painting On Glass?

Almost any medium can be used for the purpose of painting on glass. The fact that, oil is don’t necessarily make it the best or consider all the pros and cons before making a final choice.

Oil is great for this type of project because it can hold thick layers of paint. If you’re a beginner, ensure that you get the best possible paints you can get your hands on. Your cheapest paints will probably be still quite expensive, therefore it’s better to find the best cost to value ratio for your situation.

You also need to consider the drying time of your paints. The longer the drying time, the more time you have to protect your paint from smudging. The paint may however dry too fast that your colors and blending may not be mistake-proof. To avoid such situation, ensure that you have ample drying time before you display your piece of art.

Besides being thicker than acrylics and other types of oil-based paints, you need to resist the urge to be flawless in your work. Glass tends to be a capricious surface to paint on because it’s quite hard to judge how the final piece will look like. Unlike painting on paper, your mistakes will not be as easy to mask even if you have the best oil paints.

Glass Must Be Thoroughly Cleaned

If you have first hand experience with oil painting, you know that it can be hard work. Painting on glass can be about three times harder.

Most people don’t realize that the glass must be absolutely clean.

There can be no dirt, dust, oils, fingerprints, smudges, hairs, lint, etc. because oil paint will adhere to it.

If there is anything that will get in the way between the paint and the glass, it must be removed. Glass is an abrasive surface that the paint needs to adhere to.

After thorough cleaning of the glass, if the surface is still not tacky, you need to wash it with a pH-neutral soap and make sure that nothing but water is left on the glass.

The glass should be coated with one of the special gesso paint, varnish or wash primer.

What happens is that the solvent in the paint combines with the primer and one can finish the painting directly on the dry surface without any fuss.

It is important to keep in mind that the higher percentage of linseed oil, the thicker will be the paint that settles in the tiny irregularities in the glass.

This makes the surface look dull, grainy, and mottled after the paint dries.

Creating A Texture On The Surface Of The Glass

When you oil paint on glass, the first step is to create a texture on the surface of the glass. This will make the movement of your paint on the glass smoother so that it wonÔÇÖt create bubbles between the glass and your paint.

To create a texture on your glass, first you must mix the glass medium to the oil so that the consistency of it is like pancake batter.

Drop the pancake batter all over the piece of glass and then use the paint brush to spread it all over the glass.

Use a foam cutter, if you purchased one, to clean the texture that you created on the surface of the glass.

If you didnÔÇÖt buy a foam cutter, then use the paint brush to clean it and remember to not make the brush go directly on the glass.

It is recommended that you use a hand towel instead of a paper towel because the texture that the paper towel creates has a tendency to be seen at the end of your painting.

Now, instead of spreading the oil paint all over the piece of glass like you typically would, only paint in dots.

To make the dots, dip your paint brush in the paint and then tap it against the piece of glass. When you do this, the paint will cover only a small portion of the glass.

You can create dots anywhere on the glass.


Sandpaper is a great way to give your glass painting a special aged appearance. You can use F100 and F180 for rougher surfaces with obvious paint strokes. For a great aged weathered look, use 120, 180, 220, 320, and 400 grade sandpaper.

Product number 220 grit or higher will work well for rustic surfaces. Simply skip rougher sandpaper steps and work up to 220 grit and over again.

Be sure to be careful and use water and lots of it to keep the sandpaper from scratching your glass paint.


Ground, primer.

Gesso is a preparation of whiting mixed with glue. It is used to prepare wood or canvas for painting.

The gesso is applied to “toothless” canvas so that paint will adhere to it.

Gesso is thicker than the ground and the primer. It is more or less a glue and white pigment mixture. Gesso’s are an especially important in painting on glass.

It takes more preparation work and paint mediums than regular oil painting.

The paint that is used to paint on canvas consists of pigment, medium and size. The pigment is the pigment that makes the color. The ground is the surface that lifts the paint pigment off of the canvas. That is the layer that the paint sits on.

The primer is a layer between primer and ground. The primer is where the gesso goes.

Important Reminders When Painting Oil On Glass

Make sure the glassware is clean and free of dust. Dip a dry rag in turpentine and wipe the glass with it.

Beware that the paint must be completely dry before recharging with solvents, or the paint will dissolve.

Be aware that paint will slowly dissolve and vanish. The final products may differ from what you see in the above photographs.

When painting onto colored glassware, ensure that the paint is completely dry before the next charging.

A Varnish To Finish The Piece

The finish on a painting can be very important in setting the tone of the work.

Even if you do not finish your piece, having that knowledge will help you in the next painting you complete.

Personally, I like to use a varnish to finish my pieces. It is hard to find a good varnish spray that does not fog your painting, though.

I try to avoid the dark and glossy varnishes that have a tendency to produce a glare on the glass.

My most favorite varnish spray is made by Bullseye Glass and in my opinion it gives a chemical resistant and very professional look to the painting.

I do still need to varnish my work even when it is framed because as you know, light and humidity can have an adverse affect on a piece that has already been painted.

Personally, I would not use a varnish that has been too thickened up as this may give the painting a different finish than you intended.

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The same is true for glass. Definitely, it is much more difficult to paint on than regular canvas. However, you'll get a nice artistic atmosphere and a great work of art if you put your efforts into it! It's a great idea to learn some glass painting on glass techniques.

Some of the glass paintings are so beautiful that you'd enjoy to hang them on the wall but if you are not sure how to prepare the glass and make a lasting painting, you are going to be disappointed when your beautiful art dries up with time.

This is because there's a need to seal paint on glass and you may need to resort to a special glass painting sealer.

By learning how to paint on glass, you are not only going to create beautiful art; but your skills will be amazing!