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I am pondering a project to make candle holders from wine bottles. I'd like to paint a "stained glass" style pattern on the outside, so it looks like a much more complex project than it actually is.

What paint will provide color for the "panes", but still be translucent? What paint should I use for the "lead" borders (not translucent)?

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A very simple approach are Window Colour types of paint (example).

They basically produce removable decals. You can either work directly on the glass or - if bottle design and pattern permit - work comfortably on a flat surface, then transfer it to the bottle. (Or combine both and connect pre-made parts on the bottle with fresh paint.)

Lines / contours are done with opaque paints, they come in "lead grey" explicitly to mimick the lead of stained glass.

It needs no curing, but is admittedly less sturdy than classic glass paint. Otoh, I've had one design on a big jar for two decades now, including the occasional hand-washing. It has so solidified over the years that it is no longer removable.

enter image description here

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  • Welcome to A&C :) – Erica May 24 '16 at 16:24
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    Hagar! Haven't seen that horrible guy in ages – user24 May 25 '16 at 2:50
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Most of the sites I've found on the internet recommend Deco Art for buying glass-staining paint. They sell specialised paint for use on glass, both transparent and pearlescent, as well as an opaque variety to use for leading. Unfortunately their website (or at least the page I linked to, listing their products) doesn't give a great deal of detail on what kinds of paint these are or what's in them.

However, this site tells us more about the makeup of glass paint:

What exactly is glass paint?

  • Often called enamels or vitreous enamels, they are a mixture of metallic oxide pigments, flux and ground glass.
  • They are used for surface decoration, and are fired on permanently in a kiln.
  • Their colour and opacity depends on the type of metal oxide used.

They also discuss the difference between opaque and transparent paint, but that's less relevant to you since you only want the transparent kind.


For the leading, what's traditionally used is lead came, thin soft metal strips which can be fixed onto the glass. You can find detailed instructions here on how to use lead came. Alternatively, you can just use a different kind of paint, which is essentially glass-staining paint of the same kind as above except opaque and in a black or dark grey colour:

leading paint

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  • "are fired on permanently in a kiln" -- does this mean I'd need to bake it, or would it probably be fine just sitting on the counter for years? – Erica May 23 '16 at 19:12
  • @Erica A similar Deco Arts product "gloss enamel" here tells you to bake at 275 F for 30 minutes to get a dishwasher-safe finish. This specific product "glass stain" doesn't say anything about whether it needs to be baked or not... so I'm guessing it doesn't... if the same brand lists curing info on one page, I think it's safe to guess that, if omitted, it's not necessary. – Catija May 23 '16 at 20:17
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When I did my faux stained glass window (see below) I used hot glue to do the "lead" outline. It worked really well on glass because although it sticks very well, if I made a mistake I could remove it with a little effort. (And it was easy to remove the little strings of glue you always get when using a glue gun by just pulling them off.)

Next, I painted the dried glue with black acrylic paint. It was a little tedious but I switched to using an oil paint pen for touching it up and that worked pretty well too. This gives you the opportunity to make your glue lines look much neater, because you can pick and choose which of them show by which you paint black.

Then, to fill in the areas in between the lines of black I used more cheap acrylic paint mixed with Elmer's glue and a bit of water. The ratio wasn't exact, I just experimented until I got a consistency that was fluid enough it sort of flowed into the empty spaces. The Elmer's glue makes the acrylic paint translucent and look a lot like colored glass. You can build up however many layers you want, increasing the opacity.

Finally, I sealed with a clear Rustoleum spray paint and hung it up in my window. It has held up very well in direct sun for the last few years, I attribute the paint not cracking most likely to the elasticity from the glue.I hope this technique will work for you!

Painted Peacock on recycled window

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    Thank you for sharing the picture! You got a really nice effect there. – Erica Mar 16 at 13:04
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You could use glass paint, it is meant especially for glass.
You could also experiment with acrylics, they come in different opacities. I've painted with acrylics on translucent plastic. I know it's not glass, but at least it holds, and when applied in a thin layer, it's even translucent.
Here's the result I got: acrylic paint on plastic
Even though I didn't use translucent paint, some light can shine through (especially the sky and the windows).

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