How to Decorate Glass Ornaments

Etching and painting glass are the two most straightforward ways of embellishing glass. Once armed with these techniques you can create the most striking of finishes ranging from fantastically colourful glass vases to handsome panes of glass to install in interior and exterior doors. However, before embarking on these decorative ventures, you will need some specific materials and equipment. The results, however, make this effort worthwhile.


  • Contour paste: creates raised lines on glass, giving the look of leaded windows. Acts as a barrier for paints.
  • Cotton rags: needed for drying glass.
  • Etching paste: an acid paste that eats into glass to leave a matt ‘frosted’ finish. Use for decorating clear and pale coloured glass.
  • Eye goggles: vital for eye protection.
  • Fid: used for pressing down self-adhesive lead.
  • The pretty stained-glass effect on this vase is created with glass paints and the stick-on lead is added afterwards.
  • The etched-glass panels add a light touch to what is otherwise quite a plain door.
  • Glass paints: translucent and give a vibrant colours. Be aware that these paints are not washable.
  • Masking tape: ideal for making straight lines for etching and painting.
  • Paintbrushes: a selection of sizes are essential for applying different paints and etching paste.
  • Rubber gloves: vital to protect your hands from etching paste.
  • Ruler: essential for measuring.
  • Scissors: small and large ones are useful for many cutting tasks.
  • Self-adhesive lead: this is easy to use and looks like real lead to given an authentic stained glass window effect when combined with coloured glass or glass paints.
  • Self-adhesive vinyl: useful for masking-off large areas when painting and etching glass.
  • Sponges: natural or foam, cut into pieces, these are ideal for applying Paint over a large area of glass.
  • White spirit (paint thinner): used as a solvent to clean off most paints.

Etching Glass

  1. Self-adhesive vinyl makes a good mask when etching. Cut out shapes from self-adhesive vinyl. Decide where you want to position them on the glass, remove the backing paper and stick down.
  2. Wearing rubber gloves, paint the etching paste evenly over the vase with a paintbrush. Make sure you do not spread it too thinly or you will find the effect quite faint. Leave to dry for 3 minutes.
  3. Still wearing the rubber gloves, wash the paste off under a running tap. Then wipe off any residue and rinse. Peel off the shapes, wash again. Dry the glass with a clean cotton rag.


  1. Glass paints should be used with white spirit (paint thinner). Use masking tape for large areas to define the edges. Pour a small drop of paint on to a tile or saucer, take a small piece of sponge and dab it into the paint and then on to the glass.
  2. Take a small paintbrush and paint freestyle on to the glass. Clean your brush immediately you have finished with one colour so that it does not go hard.