Preparing Slippery Surfaces for Decorative Painting

Woman painting design on glass bottle


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The keys to successful decorative painting on slippery or smooth surfaces such as glass or ceramics are a thoroughly clean surface and the right paint.

Getting Started on Decorative Painting

  1. Regardless of what type of slippery or smooth surface you're going to be painting on, you need to start with a thoroughly clean surface. So wash it with warm soapy water. If there is an oily film on the surface or glue from a label, wipe it off with some solvent on a cloth, and then wash it in warm soapy water.
  2. Painting on Glass: Paints created specifically for using on glass can be applied to the clean glass (check the drying instructions; some need to be heat set in an over). Create a slightly rough surface or tooth for acrylic paint to adhere to by first painting a layer of water-based varnish (apply another coat over the paint to protect it). Applying glass etching cream (which will make the glass slightly opaque or frosted-look) before using acrylics also works.
  3. Painting on Plastic: Wash the object in warm soapy water to remove any grease. To help the paint adhere, sand lightly with fine sandpaper or spray with a matte fixative (which creates a slight tooth when dry).
  4. Painting on Terra Cotta: Wash in warm soapy water and leave until thoroughly dry before painting. (If you're in a hurry, leave it in a warm oven that's turned off for a few hours.) Seal the surface with several coats of gesso or primer. Paint with acrylics and seal with a water-based varnish. Spray paint will also work.
  5. Painting on Wood: Ensure the surface is clean of grease and dust. Sand lightly to create a tooth, and apply several coats of gesso or primer before painting.

Tips for Decorative Painting Success

  • To create an opaque surface on glass, apply a neutral or background color before painting the design.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly in warm soapy water so you don't transfer grease onto the surface you're painting.