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Sunday, March 25, 2012

How to Paint Window Glass

Turn an old window frame with glass panes into a work of art then add screw-in hooks at the top and hang.

I found this old window along with three others sitting in a disposal bin on the porch of a very old house that was being torn down. I wrote a note asking the owner to contact me in regards to the fate of the windows then taped the note to the door. A couple of days later, I was contacted and after a bit of negotiation the house owner told me he'd call when all the windows were removed and that I could have them for a dollar a piece. The price allowed me very little investment and an opportunity to turn it into ten to twenty times profit.

What you'll need:

Old window frame with glass
Scrub brush
Acrylic paints in a tube or for crafts
Enamel paints for glass (optional)
Paper towels

Remove any old nails or tacks you find.

Fill the bucket with warm water, a bit of ammonia and vinegar. Using your scrub brush dipped in the ammonia mixture, begin scrubbing the wood window frame. Don't use a lot of pressure. You want to leave the paint intact while removing loose paint and putty.

Once the frame is clean, scrub the glass panes and dry with crumpled newspaper. Newspaper is great for cleaning windows. It doesn't leave lint behind nor streaks.

Turn the window around, scrub the frame and the glass as above.

Let dry thoroughly before you begin.

The scene you see painted on the window glass in the above picture is loosely based on the fields I see when driving from Fayette, MO, to Boonville. And because I love butterflies and flowers, I added them into the foreground.

Put your window frame on a table with the back side of the window facing you. Using your largest brush, wet and squeeze out the water with a paper towel. The brush should be barely damp. Dip your brush into the paint and work it in so all the bristles are coated then dip again grabbing lots of acrylic paint and paint your background scene. In the above picture, I painted a blue sky and green rolling hills; nothing else. The rest of the scene was painted on the front of the glass. This gives the painting some dimension.

Don't skimp on the paint because you want good coverage.  And don't go back over the fresh wet paint because you'll end up removing what you just painted since the wet acrylic hasn't adhered to the glass.

If you must go back over areas, wait for the paint to completely dry and use a light touch.

Flip your window pane over making sure you don't allow the wet acrylic paint to touch anything. Or, grab a hair dryer or fan to speed the drying process then flip over the frame.

Begin with the objects furthest back and begin laying in the second part of the background. In the painting above that would be the clouds, purple flowers on the hills and trees on the horizon.

Using a fairly dark purple, pounce the purple flowers on the grassy hills.

With a fairly dark green, pounce in the trees on the horizon.

Use an off white to scrub in the clouds.

Let dry, or use the hair dryer or fan technique to speed up drying.

Darken the bottom of the clouds with burnt umber (or another dark color like dk blue); highlight the edges with bright white.

Highlight the trees with yellow.

Highlight the purple flowers with a mix of purple and white.

Be sure to leave dark areas in the trees and purple flowers for dimension.

Let dry.

Begin laying in the foreground of bare tree limbs (no leaves, no flowers) coming in from the sides at the top of your painting and the flowers at the bottom.

I layered the flowers which means I had to let the previous layer dry before continuing.

After the bare tree limbs have dried, add leaves and mossy yellow/green highlights.

Let dry then add more defined leaves on the left tree and the flowers on the right tree with a combination of enamel and acrylic. The enamel paint has shine which adds interest.

There is always a bit of worry when I paint on glass that I might screw up the finished bottom layer, and will have to scrape off all the painting I did with a razor.

On the other hand, being able to scrape off paint is a life saver.

If you mess up on clean glass (not yet painted), just wipe with a damp paper towel, let dry and begin again.

I have actually messed up an entire painting and had to scrape off everything I did to begin again. It's a pain but at least the option is there. 

You are welcome to use this design non- and commercial. If you post it on the web, just give me credit.

After posting this blog, several days later I found this awesome blog showing loads of different ways to use/repurpose old windows. Check it out...

And please visit my web gift store, Visages.


  1. Turning an old window frame into something more useful is one of the things you could definitely do to make your house more beautiful. Congratulations, Deborah. Who knows? Maybe this business might turn big someday. :)

  2. Thank you so much. I have been asked to paint a western scene on a piece of glass that was a table top. The gentleman now wants to put it as a divider in a wall. I didn't know where to start.....your site is a good thing. Thank you for being so generous to take the time to share your picture and thoroughly explain in young painter terms. May you be blessed as you have blessed me. Tracy. K. Heath

  3. How on earth did you make it look so quick and easy? This blog post is very educational! I’ll certainly do this on my kitchen window. Your piece is absolutely gorgeous!

  4. I also have a painted window glass in our bathroom. You know what? Painted or stained window glasses are great to have in the house. Not only do they add to the serene atmosphere of the house, but they also add a lot of privacy because of its opaqueness.

  5. Same here. I had my place design with this all over.

  6. Thank you for an absolutely great informative text! You did
    mention "enamel paint" as an option. I spoke with an artist
    at a art/craft show in Banner Elk,NC and she said she only
    used enamel and it had to dry/set for 20 days. Any brand or
    ideas on that approach? Cheers, HK

  7. If you wish to try your hand at window painting without spending $$$, try this. When I was in the service many years ago, my new bride and I moved into our first apt. The tub/shower stall had a casement window. For privacy, I created a mock stained glass window for almost nothing.
    Purchase some food coloring (for baked goods) and a large bottle of Elmer's glue. I used a black "permanent magic marker" to make my lead lines. (a paint stick works even better)Next mix other colors into glue to make your stained glass colors. Paint you heart out!

    Lucky the window casement was on a covered balcony so I never had to seal the painting. This was done on the outside of the glass. Inside, it looked like real stained glass. Light does shine through the Elmer's glue making the colors vibrant. When we transferred 2 years later, it still looked great and all I had to do when we moved was remove it with a razor blade!

    1. Great idea! I never would have thought of using those items! Painting on glass is an old Hollywood special effect, for example, used a lot in the 1933 "King Kong"! Check out this classic to see how much was glass paintings to supplement the 'stop motion' Kong and dinosaurs!

  8. Can polyurethane be sprayed on the glass/painting if being displayed outdoors?

  9. Do you have windows painted by yourself you are selling? I absolutely love country scenes, folk art homes, anything painted. Please let me know if available for purchase and the price. Thank you for your time.