How to Paint on Glass With Acrylic Paints

Updated April 17, 2017

Summer, fall, winter or spring, there is always a new holiday to celebrate and you want to be able to set your table with stylish or trendy tableware without actually breaking the budget. You can create customised tableware, vases, windows or other glassware for every occasion at a fraction of the cost by painting on glass with acrylics. Combine earth-friendly garage sale glassware with some acrylic paints and surprise your next guests with your creative abilities.

Determine the intended use of the finished glassware. Regular acrylic paints can be used on items that are not going to be washed frequently; items can be made semi-dishwasher safe by using acrylics specially designed for use on glass.

Decide the design placement. The intended design should not place paint on any surface that is directly used for food (the top surface of a plate) or that will be touched by the mouth (the rim of a glass). Paintings on glass plates intended for food service can be placed on the bottom of the plate so that they're seen through the glass from above.

Prepare the materials. This is where you use the cotton balls dampened with rubbing alcohol to ensure the surface is clean. While it dries, pour small amounts (less than a dime-size of colour is generally sufficient) of the paint colours you intend to use on the palette. If you're using a stencil, apply it according to manufacturers instructions.

Get creative. Use your brushes and paints to create your design on the glass. Synthetic brushes give you precision, but natural brushes can give you even blending and a smoother look.

Remember, glass is non-porous so a little paint goes a long way. Acrylics can dry quickly, but paint with the surface at a horizontal angle to prevent dripping.

Paint in reverse. Painting reverse means your design will be seen from the other side of the glass. You need to remember to paint foreground details first, allow them to dry, and then paint background details.

Erase mistakes with a cotton swab dampened with rubbing alcohol and start again.

Use a sponge to paint large background areas or 'all-over' paint.

When is it ready?

Allow drying time. Drying time varies by the type of paint, the amount of paint and intended use. It can also be affected by temperature and humidity.

Allow three hours drying time for regular acrylics. If you painted the outside surface of a decorative vase using regular acrylic paints, your vase should be ready to use in about three hours, but not safe for washing for about four days.

Allow several hours drying time for glass acrylics. If you painted drinking glasses that will be thrown in the dishwasher, you may need to allow your work to dry for several hours and then bake it in the oven for a period of time to heat-set the paint.

Follow the manufacturer's recommendations at all times for optimum results.

Wash the painted glass. Even if the paint you selected is deemed safe for dishwasher use, it is best to wash these items on the top rack of the dishwasher and in light load cycles well after recommended drying time has elapsed.


For best results, you'll want to use paints made by the same manufacturer. Not all acrylic paints are made with the same properties and this can cause some unanticipated reactions.


The surface of acrylic paints dries quickly and may feel dry to the touch within seconds. For best results, though, follow the manufacturers recommended dry times, adding more time if there is high humidity or cool temperatures. This is because the inner layers of the paint take much longer to dry.

Things You'll Need

  • Glassware
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton balls
  • Cotton swabs
  • Paintbrushes - variety of sizes/shapes
  • Acrylic paint (type depends on intended use - see Step 1)
  • Plastic palette, paper plate or plastic ware lid
  • Covered work surface
  • Glass stencils (optional)
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About the Author

Wendy Strain's professional career started in 2000 with small community newspapers in Texas. She holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, education and graphic arts from Texas Wesleyan University and Westwood College, plus independent study in many areas. The ideas she’s discovered through her non-fiction work is reflected in her works of fantasy and fiction.