Glass paint is a specialty product, but that doesn’t mean you need special tools or techniques to use it effectively. Here are a few tips to help you get professional results from any glass paint project.
Surface preparation is key for glass paint success
All painting projects start with proper surface preparation. If you plan to paint glass, you can complete this key step in just minutes, using ordinary supplies. You’ll need rubbing alcohol, fine grit steel wool and paper towels. Don’t use expensive or “lint-free” paper towels, and don’t use shop towels. Cheap, store-brand towels work best for this job!
Lay the glass on a flat surface, with the side you intend to paint facing up. Pour rubbing alcohol on the surface of the glass. Using the steel wool, gently scrub the entire surface to remove oils, finger prints, manufacturing marks, dirt and other contaminants. When you’ve finished scrubbing the entire surface, add more rubbing alcohol to the surface, then dry it with paper towels until the surface squeaks (literally).
Once the surface is “squeaky clean,” it’s ready to paint. Don’t handle the cleaned surface with your bare hands; pull on a pair of latex gloves if you need to move the glass. You should prepare the surface no more than 30 minutes before you plan to apply your first coat of paint.
Applying glass paint
The easiest way to apply glass paint to the work surface involves using a high-volume, low-pressure paint sprayer. These handy devices are available at your favorite local home improvement store. An HVLP paint sprayer isn’t a specialty tool – you can use it with most types of paint, varnish, lacquer, stain and other finish products.
The primary advantage of an HVLP paint sprayer is that it delivers an extremely even coating of paint to your work surface. An HVLP provides better coverage using less paint than any other application method. In fact, HVLP sprayers can reduce paint usage by up to 40%. That kind of efficiency is hard to ignore!
HVLP sprayers offer other advantages, too. Thin coats of paint dry and cure faster and produce better results than thicker coats do. HVLP paint sprayers also clean up easily with ordinary paint thinner, and they’ll be useful for a variety of painting projects.
If you don’t have a HVLP paint sprayer, you can use any other traditional paint applicator you like. That includes rollers, brushes and sponges, but you’ll need to choose your tools carefully.
If you plan to use a paint roller, select a solvent-resistant mohair roller with a thin nap. Rollers with thick nap will absorb a lot of paint, and will produce thick coats of paint. Thick coats take longer to dry and cure than thin coats do, so a thick-nap roller will vastly increase your drying time between coats.
It’s also important to choose materials that can stand up to paint thinners. Some plastic-cored rollers and some synthetic naps will deteriorate or dissolve in paint thinner. This all but rules out using cheap rollers on your project.
If you plan to use paint brushes, the same advice holds true. Find a solvent-resistant mohair paint brush. Brushes come in a variety of widths, but the goal is always to create thin, even coats of paint. Paint brushes are best reserved for small surfaces and detail work. If you must cover a lot of surface, choose a roller or sprayer.
Mixing and storing glass paint
Glass paint is used with a special catalyst. Since the paint and the catalyst are packaged separately, you’ll need to measure and mix the catalyst and paint together. Mix only the amount of catalyzed paint you need to finish your coating. Store the paint and the catalyst separately, and keep them tightly sealed. If you store the unused paint properly, you can use it later and achieve good results.
Speaking of the catalyst, sometimes people want to know if the catalyst is the “secret ingredient” in glass paint. Can you just add the catalyst to regular paint and get glass paint? In short, no. Glass paint is the secret sauce. The catalyst speeds the curing time for the paint significantly. Without the catalyst, glass paint could take up to a year to cure. Since no one has a year to watch paint dry, we strongly recommend using the paint and catalyst together on any glass paint project.
People also wonder about using ordinary paint for reverse painting. Most paints will dry on the surface of the glass, so in theory, you should be able to paint glass, flip it over and bond the painted glass to the wall or surface. The glass should protect the painted surface, right? That’s the theory, but that’s not what will happen. Ordinary paint will dry on a glass surface, but it will never cure. The adhesive will damage the paint, and will show through on the exterior side of the project. Simple contact with the wall surface behind the glass will damage ordinary paint on glass, and the paint will continue to absorb humidity from the air. Eventually, the paint will bubble and peel. It will also fade when exposed to direct sunlight.
The good news is that you’ll be able to see all of this happening from the other side of the glass. You may start out with pleasing results, but they won’t last long. Genuine glass paint, on the other hand, is guaranteed to perform for 10 years without fading or peeling when you follow our instructions.
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