Want to save your empty glass jars from the recycling bin? You can upcycle them into decorative containers by painting them with simple designs.
This tutorial shows easy techniques anybody can do using sponges, glass enamel paint and some office supplies.
Painting on glass and other nonporous surfaces is not difficult. Although it seems a bit intimidating, all you need is the right paint and a little care in preparing the glass.
Handpainted glass jars make impressive gifts for any occasion. They can be used as vases, candleholders, canisters, drinking glasses and more. After mastering these simple techniques, you might want to take glass painting to the next level, and I’ll give you some suggestions for that.
Round up some empty glass bottles and jars to use for glass painting
Your cupboards and refrigerator are filled with treasures! Glass bottles and jars will look different to you when you start thinking of them as canvas for your artwork. Each one is kind of interesting. Some are smooth. Some have texture. Some have embossed details or indentations. Often these features will influence your design.
I’ve got quite the assortment of jars and bottles to work with here.
Supplies for painting recycled glass jars
You’ll also need a couple of small paintbrushes, disposable plate, rags, rubbing alcohol, cooking spray, an Xacto knife or other small knife and a Sharpie marker.
Why I recommend Plaid Enamel Glass Paint
Painting on glass requires the use of enamel paint. Acrylic paint will easily scrape off of glass, ruining all your work.
I’ve used Plaid Enamel Glass Paint on many projects. No primer is needed. The paint is thick and creamy. It glides smoothly over glass. Many times you can get by with just one coat. Brushes are easily cleaned with just soap and water.
After the paint has dried, it has a nice shine, which means you don’t have to go over it with a gloss sealer. Plaid Enamel Glass Paint cures in 21 days. If you’re in a hurry, you can put glass into a cold oven, then turn it up to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes.
When the paint is dried and cured, it can even be washed on the top shelf of the dishwasher.
Prepare glass jars for paint
Before painting, jars must be clean and free from oil so that the paint will stick.
Jars must be washed with soap and warm water, then dried thoroughly. Make sure to remove the labels and any sticky residue that might be left behind. I’ve found the best way to get rid of it is with vegetable oil or cooking spray. Put some oil on the sticky bits and scrape it off with a knife. Then wipe off the oil and clean the outside of the jar with rubbing alcohol.
When you’re cleaning the glass with alcohol, make sure to keep your skin from touching the glass so that the oils won’t transfer onto it. You can either wear gloves or hold the glass with a paper towel.
Make simple designs with polka dots, sponges and paint
Polka dots are hot in fashion and also make cute designs on recycled glass jars. One easy way to do this is with round labels. All you do is stick the labels on the glass in any pattern you want. Paint the glass, remove the labels and you have instant polka dots. I’ve done the same thing with star stickers too.
Before painting, dip the spouncer in water and squeeze out. Then pour some paint onto a disposable plate. Dip the spouncer into the paint and pounce a couple of times on the plate to remove some of the excess. Then sponge paint the glass.
Sponge painting makes an interesting texture on the glass. Most of the time you’ll only need one coat of paint with this method.
For the best result, remove the stickers while the paint is still wet. If you wait until the paint dries, when you remove the sticker some of the paint will peel off and ruin your design. I paint a small section of the jar and then remove the labels immediately with an X-acto knife. Don’t worry if you get a little paint smudging. That can easily be scraped off after all the paint has dried.
Note: Paint should not come in contact with food. The jars in this tutorial are painted on the outside so that they can be used to store food. If you were going to use a jar as a drinking glass, make sure the paint starts about an inch below the top.
Instructions for curing the paint and washing the jars
As mentioned before, Plaid enamel paint is very durable once the paint has cured. There’s a difference between dried paint and cured paint. Plaid enamel paint dries fairly quickly but it won’t be cured until it has air dried for 21 days. You can speed up that process by putting your finished jars in a cold oven, so that they don’t shatter, then turning the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake the jars for 30 minutes, turn off the oven and let the jars stay in the oven until it has completely cooled off. At that point, the jars are ready to use and should be scratch-resistant.
The jars can then be cleaned by hand washing them or putting them on the top rack of the dishwasher.
Glass painting design using round labels: Pink and black polka dot wine bottle
Glass painting design using star stickers: Small blue jar with stars
More simple glass painting ideas using spouncers, polka dots or round labels
Glass painting design using spouncers and combining dots of different sizes: Yellow jar with pink flower
Glass painting design using spouncers, dots and squiggles: Cute ladybug jar
Another glass painting idea using spouncers: Polka dots gone wild
This glass jar design has layers upon layers of polka dots.The jar was painted turquoise. Flowers were painted with a large spouncer. A small spouncer was used for the center. The squiggly stems were added with a paintbrush. Then there are polka dots sprinkled everywhere. The lid is yellow with turquoise polka dots.
Glass painting design with sponge painting and polka dots: Peace sign flower jar
Adding embellishments to painted glass jars. Turn your painted glass jars into special gifts.
Painted glass jars make nice gifts for any occasion. Fill them up with candy, cookies, tea or recipe mixes and add some simple embellishments. The purple jar is tied with a pink ribbon and a yo yo flower (see my tutorial for making yo yo flowers with a kick). The clear jar with the orange and pink dots is decorated with tulle. And the yellow jar is decorated with fabric.
Taking glass painting to the next level
Making flowers with One Stroke Painting techniques
After you’ve tried these simple glass painting techniques for recycled jars, you might want to try something a little more challenging (like this easy hydrangea painting). You can do that with One Stroke Painting techniques. Pictured below are some nice glass jars that originally held cashews. I painted flower designs on each one, filled them with assorted teas or hot chocolate, and gave them as Christmas gifts.
Tea canisters made from recycled glass jars with One Stroke Painting techniques
These are the glass jars I painted and made into tea canisters using One Stroke Painting techniques.
One Stroke Painting books, worksheets and brushes
Donna Dewberry’s All New Book of One Stroke Painting
Brushes for glass and enamel paint (softer than typical craft paint brushes)
More brushes that can be used for glass painting
Sometimes Donna Dewberry’s enamel brushes are hard to find. This Royal Gold set of seven brushes looks like a good alternative because they can hold a chiseled edge, yet they are soft.
Donna Dewberry shows how to paint on glass
This is an old video of Donna Dewberry on HSN demonstrating One Stroke Painting on glass. The kit in the video is no longer available, but the demonstration is still worth watching.
Going beyond One Stroke Glass Painting
Don’t be afraid to do your own thing
Experiment by creating your own designs on recycled glass jars. You can’t really make a mistake because you can wipe off the paint and start all over. Just have fun and see what you can come up with.
I painted several empty glass soup jars in various designs. The one with the moon was turned into a mason jar lamp. If you want to see how I did it, please read my mason jar lamp tutorial.
Handpainted glass jars, designed and painted by Lynda Makara
More glass painting designs. Easy ideas for everyone in these great videos.
Simple chalkboard paint jars
Painted Easter jars with homemade stencils
Cute baby food gift jars
Handpainted Christmas wine glasses
Colorful beer bottle vases
Donna Dewberry’s flower designs on wine glasses
“Stained glass” jars
Shabby chic mason jar vases