Painting on Glass

I use small glass tiles to make decoupage magnets. Perhaps unsurprisingly, not every tile is fit to be used in this way. Scratches, scuff marks, bubbles and occasionally nicks and pock marks mar the glass, and consequently, any image glued to it.

Not being one to throw things away, I've amassed a large number of glass tiles that are unusable as such. But it's not that I have an unhealthy attachment to useless stuff, I really and truly believe I can use these dud tiles, either for something other than magnets, or for magnets but in a different way. With storage space running short and numbers of flawed tiles growing large, I've stepped up trying out different ideas on both fronts.

One of the more successful alternative ways I've used dud tiles to make magnets is to paint them with acrylic paint. Abstract designs and patterns do the best job of obscuring scratches and the like, so I've painted the backs of the tiles with them, just as I would otherwise decoupage them with images. Aesthetically, this trick works pretty well. But in terms of craftsmanship it has at least one fatal flaw: Unlike paper, paint can be peeled off the glass. Even when it's finished with a sealant, it doesn't take more than a few scratches with a dull fingernail to pull the whole design off.

If I weren't making my magnets to sell this might not be a fatal flaw. I mean, who would really try to pull a painted design off the back of glass a tile magnet? Probably no one, but you never know. So I had to work out the kinks.

Leafing through the Dick Blick catalog one day, I happened upon heat-tempered paints. Ah-ha! A solution to my non-sticking acrylic paint-on-glass problem, perhaps! It required re-thinking my magnet-making technique, but hooray, it panned out. Hooray indeed. I love work-arounds. I really do. You have no idea.

In any case, the re-think entailed shifting the site of the design from the back of the tile to the front. A little more research led me to the paint I chose to work with, namely, Folk Art Enamels. It turned out to be very much like the soft body acrylics I know and love. But there are a few key differences to note for the especially interested: First, Folk Art Enamel dries much more slowly than typical acrylic paint. I messed up more than a few designs before learning this, so resist the urge to add coats or layers of details as soon as you might otherwise. Second, I found that softer bristle brushes worked better for distributing the paint evenly than springier bristle brushes (this may not apply to surfaces that are less slick than glass). Third, which may not be so much of a difference but I think is worth noting anyway, is that in terms of opacity-translucency, the colors I used to paint my glass tiles, at least, tended toward translucency. Bold designs, perhaps on glass in general, will therefore require multiple coats.

My first painted tile and intro to the opacity-translucency of the paint, visible here in the green and red stripes.
Different kinds of designs.
Solid color backgrounds with with dot- or dab-based details worked especially well.

The final key difference between standard acrylic and this paint, of course, is that it's heat-set (you can also allow it to air-dry but it takes 21 days -- ack!). Once you've got your glass all painted up nice and pretty, you bake it in the oven. Neat! For this particular brand of paint, you need to let your pieces air dry for about an hour, then put them in a cold oven, heat it to 350 F, bake for 30 minutes, and allow to cool in the oven before removing.

Finished pieces with magnets freshly glued to their backs.

And there you go --- a pretty easy, non-peeling painted-design solution to using flawed glass tiles for magnets --- and probably many other things besides! I shall be experimenting.

Until next time --

Have fun!