How to successfully paint glass ornaments

A few years ago I fell in love with this Horchow ad in House Beautiful:

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I mean, maaaaan. That makes every other tree in the world look like Charlie Brown’s. I wanted to replicate it, but I can’t imagine the cost for 500 blown-glass ornaments.

However, the ad reminded me of a blog post featuring beautiful painted ornaments, so I dug into my Pinterest boards and found this:

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Yeah, the colors are divine, and I love how glossy those babies are. There wasn’t a tutorial for painting the ornaments, so I read up on adding paint to the inside of glass balls—I thought having the paint inside would be a good way to prevent peeling or scratching. Then I bought a million glass balls and a bunch of paint samples at Home Depot and started pouring in the paint.

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Unfortunately, the process wasn’t as easy as “swirl and hang.” In fact, I threw away about eight large bulbs before I finally got these ornaments right. Here are a few tips for those tackling this project themselves:

• Use the right paint. I tried at least three brands of sample paint before finally landing upon this:

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It’s Behr Premium Plus Ultra with the ultra pure white base. It can be tinted whatever color you want, and it’s the only kind I recommend. Everything else left hideous streaks that multiple paint applications couldn’t cover (hence the batch destined for the dumpster).

• Or use a little heat. If you can’t get this base, my mother-in-law had some success with another Behr base by using a blow dryer to speed up the process and prevent streaks. It worked great but took lots more time to blow-dry the inside of each ball.

• Let them air dry completely. I put my ornaments upside down in an empty egg carton to drip dry and waited a couple days before putting the caps back on.

• If you decide to spray paint the outside, the color will stick just fine. But please don’t make my mistake of buying matte paint. I used that for my green ornaments, and they look terribly flat. Get glossy instead.

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That’s it! Choosing the exact colors you want for the tree allows for lots of creativity, and these ornaments are so luminous, especially the red ones. Happy painting! •

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