A Guide To Printing Your Own Pictures, Text and Designs Onto Glass Surfaces

Decorating glass techniques vary as widely as the potential glass projects themselves. Here are a small number of popular projects that you may be considering:

Stained glass effects and simple designs are popular especially in period style properties, small alcoves, porch and front doors as well as adding finishing touches to glass windows on stairs.

Wine and beer glasses
Printing styled and coloured text is often seen on many pub glasses and effects can vary from frosted to brand logos, engraved and raised print.

Decorated mirrors tend to be a little more subtle, maybe a design in the mirrors corner or small sets of draws with mirror fronts can often have printed silhouettes on them.

Clip frames
Clip frames often have printed border decorations to enhance the beauty of your favourite pictures. Flower borders and designs in corners are common.


Beginners embarking on their first glass painting projects often start with a selection of plain glass vases to decorate. Again flowers head the list of popular designs as they lend themselves very well to outliner and glass colour inks.

Decorating glass – techniques, options and expectations

Glass printing techniques vary as widely as the potential projects but for sure, certain techniques are far simpler than others. It all depends on what you need to achieve. For example, let us say that you needed to print “Congratulations Susan and James” onto several glass vases for their wedding day. As this is a one off event, this project could easily be achieved with waterslide papers.

Waterslide papers are fantastic for transferring any image, picture or text that you’ve printed, onto virtually any hard surface. Projects are not dishwasher safe but as the effect is required for one day only, this would be the correct choice as pictures of flowers or other images could also be placed next to the text without any additional effort.

How to use waterslide decal papers for decorating glass

Packs of waterslide papers often come in 5’s or 10 A4 sheets which is enough for potentially hundreds of decal slip designs. If you have an inkjet printer you will also need to purchase some clear varnish spray. If you have a laser printer, clear varnish is not required.

Start by printing your text and / or picture onto the shiny side of the waterslide paper. Waterslide paper acts like regular paper and will travel through your printer in the same way.

Once your design is printed, wait for around 30 minutes to dry before spraying a layer of clear varnish on. (Inkjet only) Apply a couple more coats of clear varnish in quick even bursts to seal the print on the paper. This is necessary as the next stage is to dip your design into water for around 30 seconds.

The backing paper will then start to slide off, enabling you to remove from the water and slide the film containing your design, onto the glass surface. You will have several moments to reposition your design whilst gently removing any remaining water from underneath your design with your fingers and thumbs. The design will start to harden onto the glass over the next couple of hours.

Reasons for not using waterslide decal papers on glass

If the glass surface that you wish to decorate is going to be exposed to the elements or washed in water, you may want to consider other permanent options if possible.

Decorating glass with glass paints

With a little artistic ability a permanent effect can be achieved with some tracing paper, outliner and glass paint.

If your glass surface is flat like a glass coaster for instance, place the glass horizontally and trace the outline of your design onto the glass. If your glass is rounded you will need to fix the design to trace onto the inside of the glass.

Obtain some glass paint and cern outliner. Vitrea as a brand are a good choice and both glass paint and outliner are dishwasher proof once fixed in an oven at around 150c for 30 minutes.

The purpose of starting with your outline is to prevent your colours from bleeding into each other. Take a simple design like a flower for instance and imagine drawing a stem and several petal outlines around the top of the stem.

Your cern outliner comes with a precision tip. Create your outline by squeezing a little outliner into a tissue to check there are no blockages or airbubbles in the nozzles tip. As you work, keep wiping the tip. This will help prevent lines becoming too thick.

The next step would be to fill each petal with colour.

Start by applying the paint generously by puddling the paint or using a pipette. This will give a flat, stained-glass effect. To get a lighter colour paint, dilute with water. For non-water based paint use a gloss varnish.

Brushes can be used for filling in colour or for an easy option, glass paint markers can be used. Bullet tip markers are great for detail work and quick projects. Markers are especially smart for novice painters and kids. Bake-on markers, just like the paints are highly durable once baked. Synthetic brushes allow for more brush strokes whilst natural haired brushes allow for more paint to be applied for a smoother coverage.

Printing onto clear window cling film

Window cling is a clear film which uses static to cling to glass. Car window stickers for instance are made from window cling. It is now possible to obtain clear window cling to print your own images or text onto. Transparent designs and stained glass effects are quick and easy to achieve.

Print on window cling is a single sheet of film with a backing sheet that peels away after printing. Once you print your design out, cut your pictures or colours out, close to the edge before peeling the backing sheet away. Now, place your design directly onto your glass surface. You can move your window cling around until you are happy with the positioning but be careful not to touch the static side as finger marks can ruin your finished work.

Window cling can also be used to funk up indoor mirrors and are popular in kid’s bedrooms.

Decorating glass with clear adhesive paper

Probably the quickest way to transfer virtually any image, design or text onto glass is with clear adhesive film. This is a transparent a4 sheet of film with a clear adhesive backing. The process to use is very similar to that of the window cling except that you are not able to reposition your designs after applying to glass.

Where to buy glass decorating products

Your local arts and crafts store will always stock a wide range of glass paints either in tubes, as a powder or a paint. Ask for advice on which is best for the project that you have in mind.

Google shopping and eBay are also packed with a wide variety of glass paints and outliners. Pebeo are a leading brand and outliners can often be picked up in 20ml tubes fairly cheaply with a little shopping around.