This craft was somewhat of an experiment for me. I’ve made these before but this time around I was able to take the original idea and put my own twist on it to make it unique. I found the original craft tutorial on Pinterest years ago. I would love to credit the original idea-maker, but with Pinterest, that’s hard to do. This craft technique is so versatile. Once you master the original method, you can use this on various materials and experiment with different colors and painting styles.
The original crafter’s idea was to use craft glue mixed with food coloring to create a frosted “sea” glass effect when painted on glass pieces. That method does work and yields a pretty decent result. In my first attempt at this craft, I followed the directions given and was able to reproduce the sea glass effect, but I wanted to try something a little different this time.
I took the original idea a step further and used the same materials with a different process to create a more impressionistic look. Impressionism is a style of painting (typically done in oil paints) made famous by artists like Claude Monet. Typically, impressionistic paintings use long, visible brush strokes and muted, pastel-like colors, blended together to achieve a soft texture. Here is an example of a well known impressionistic painting by Monet called, Water Lillies, painted in the early 1900’s.
The consumer paint industry has come a long way in the last 10 years. It is now possible to go to most superstores (like Walmart or Fred Meyer) and find a spray paint aisle and various specialty craft supplies. In the spray paint aisle, you can usually find paints of different sheens and textures. One novel invention of recent years is “sea glass” finish spray paint. This spray paint has an ultra-matte texture that adheres to glass perfectly, giving it a look similar to a piece of glass textured by tumbling beach waves and rough sand.
These sea glass spray paints work so well that they almost avoid the need for alternatives like glue and food coloring. But if you’re looking for convenience and have glue and food coloring on hand, it will do in a pinch. Plus, spray paint can be expensive if you’re wanting to use multiple colors. Using glue and food coloring is more flexible and easier on your wallet than canned spray paints. I was able to mix 4 different colors initially and 2 shades from leftover colors just from one bottle of glue and a box of colorings.
Paper to protect your work surface
1 bottle of white craft glue
Desired food coloring(s)
Toothpicks or skewers (the thicker the better)
Tape (any kind will do)
Plastic wrap (static cling plastic food covering)
Various glass pieces (cups, bowls, plates, candle sticks, candle holders, etc.)
2-part Epoxy (make sure it lists “glass” as a surface it adheres to)
1 or 2 paint brushes or sponge brushes
Small dishes or cups for mixing glue and colors (at least 1 for each color you plan to make)
Matte finish sealing top coat (either in spray form or paint-on form like Mod Podge)
dish soap and white vinegar for sticker removal (if necessary)
I made it a point to do this craft as inexpensively as possible. You don’t need to spend a lot on this project to get a good result. I got my glass pieces from the dollar store. The dollar store commonly has a dishware aisle that has various glass plates and bowls, most with interesting designs that look good when accentuated with colored glue. Make sure to look also for the home decor section of the dollar store for candle sticks of various heights and shapes. These can be glued to the bottom of the bowls, plates, or cups to offset their heights and give an eclectic mix-and-match look. You can also find many of these similar glass pieces at thrift stores but may end up paying a little more for them. I usually play it safe by shopping for them at the dollar store.
Before you begin this project, you’ll want to remove all the price tags and stickers from your glass pieces. If you have stubborn stickers that leave behind a residue like I had, you’ll want to try my easy removal method. Fill a sink or large tub with hot water and place all glass pieces in the water so that the stickers are completely submerged. While filling sink/tub with water, add a bit of dish soap so as to create a decent amount of bubbles. Then add about ¼ – ½ cup of white vinegar to the water. Let the glass pieces sit in the water overnight, if possible. The longer they sit, the easier the stickers will come off. Once they have soaked, simply peel off the stickers and wipe off any residue left behind with a soft cloth.
- Cover your work space with paper or plastic to protect the surface.
- Using your tape and toothpicks/skewers, tape skewers to your paper work surface in arrangements that run perpendicular to the lip of each glass piece being painted (see IMG 2 & 3) so as to keep them from sticking to the paper once they are painted with glue mixture. The tape keeps skewers from moving when the glass pieces are picked up.
- Using the desired number of mixing containers per number of colors, divide most or all of the bottle of glue between them (see IMG 5).
- Add about 4 drops of food coloring to each of the divided amounts of glue (see IMG 6).
- Mix the food coloring into the glue. I used one of the thick toothpicks I had available to mix with because I could throw it away and use a new one for each color. You could use the paintbrush and wash between colors or use a kitchen knife that you thoroughly clean off afterwards (see IMG 7).
- Once, color is thoroughly mixed into glue, cover each dish with plastic wrap to keep the glue from drying out (see IMG 8).
- Add a small amount of colored glue to your paintbrush and paint a thin layer on desired glass pieces. Try to keep each layer of colored glue very thin (see IMG 9). Once painted, the glue will try to pool and drip if too much is added at one time. Thin application allows for the glue to dry faster, creating a more even layer and no drip marks (see IMG 10). But don’t worry if your first couple layers look blotchy, each added layer will even out the color application more and more.
- **Make sure to paint only the outside of the glass pieces that would come in contact with food. Craft paint and food coloring are usually non-toxic but most sealants are not and you would not want that to come in contact with foods. You can also choose not to spray a sealant on at the end if you’re worried about it coming in contact with food. But be aware that the dried glue surface would be easier to scratch without a sealant top coat.**
- After the first colored glue layer dries completely, add additional layers while allowing it to dry completely in between. I usually let my painted pieces sit overnight (see IMG 11) to dry but this can take a long time with multiple layers. 1-2 hours between layer applications should be sufficient. If at any time you’re unhappy with the color or application of your layers, you can always wash off the colored glue. Craft glue is water soluble and should wash off with minimal scrubbing. Then just start the layer application process over again once the piece is completely dry.
- To achieve an impressionistic look similar to what I did, layer complimentary colors with dry brush strokes. Melt colors into each other using an ombré effect. I chose to paint my pieces to resemble flowers, blending a darker green to a lighter green on the candlestick bases to imitate flower stems and using darker colors on top of lighter colors to give the impression of flower petals.
- Once you have achieved the desired color effects, decide which pieces will need to be glued together.
- In the areas where two pieces will need to be glued together, colored glue layers will need to be removed. This is easy to do with with a wet towel, rubbing gently in a circular motion until only clear glass is revealed.
- In a small disposable cup, bowl, or dish, mix the two-part epoxy together with a toothpick/skewer and gently apply to the cleaned glass pieces to be glued together. Less is best in this case so as not to detract from the look of your pieces with globs of glue. The best way I’ve found to do this is to apply epoxy only along the side with the thinnest edge and then place it upside down on the piece you’re gluing it to. This keeps the glue from dripping down the piece while drying. **Make sure all pieces are sitting on a completely flat surface to ensure that pieces do not slip off center while epoxy is drying.**
- Let epoxy-glued pieces dry completely before moving on. My epoxy claimed to have a 5 minute drying time, but I left them drying overnight to ensure a strong bond.
- Once glue has completely dried, take pieces, work surface cover, and toothpicks outside (for proper ventilation) and spray the painted surfaces with a top coat sealant. This may take a couple layers to achieve completely even coverage. If possible, spray pieces outdoors on a sunny day. The sun helps the sealant dry quicker and more evenly.
This craft can be used in many ways. I used this method to decorate glass candy dishes for Easter, using pastel colors and flowery designs for a spring effect. You could also decorate dishes for other holidays or even paint the outside of clear ornaments to hang on a Christmas tree. Some craft stores also sell glass blocks that can be filled with lights or keepsakes, and this craft method could be used to decorate the outside of those. Please leave a comment below and let me know how you’ve used this method to create something fabulous!