Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Stained Glass" stick-ons for windows, mirrors, and more

If you've wandered through your local craft store lately, you may have come across an aisle full of window paint. And, you may have wondered, "Does that stuff really work?" "Is it just for kids?" "Can I do something I wouldn't mind displaying in my house, without breaking the bank?" The answer to these questions is "Yes", "no," and "yes." :)
The finished product can look quite elegant, and will last for years. And actually, I wouldn't let very young kids anywhere near it: terribly messy! :)

This isn't a traditional tutorial today, because the concept is mostly self-explanatory. What it is is a compilation of tips and tricks for getting the best, cheapest results from window paint.

The basic idea of this stuff is that you use "faux leading" to outline your desired image "stained glass" style either directly on a window, or on a piece of plastic. Then you fill in the design with the colored paints. Once dry, it will stay on your window or other object more or less permanently, but can be removed easily enough - often without damaging the "sticker," which can theoretically be re-used.

One commenter asked "How long will these stickers last?  Can I make them now and apply them in 6 months?"  The answer is "Pretty much indefinitely" and "Yes."  I have had these last through moves - taken them off mirrors, stuck them onto clear plastic, and re-applied to a new mirror.  No problem.
If they've been in a hot window, your chances are not as good.  But a climate-controlled indoor location?  Should last forever.
The only other thing I'd change is my blithe guarantee that sticking them to non-glass or tile surfaces is perfectly safe.  I actually did have trouble removing one from a painted door where it had been for several years.  I gave up because I didn't have a razor blade on me and it looked fine.  During that same move I had a Little trouble removing them from a mirror as well.  Nothing that couldn't be dealt with, but I couldn't have salvaged the stickers if I'd wanted to.

* "Leading" paint for outlines (See tips below)
* Several colors of transparent paint
* Large piece of slick plastic, like a Ziplock bag
* Images to paint, printed out or drawn on ordinary paper
* paper towels or rags for cleanup
* Large pin for clearing blockages, popping bubbles, etc.

The most popular brand of window paint is "Gallery Glass," by Plaid.
DecorArt also makes a type called "Liquid Rainbow," and Sandylion has a variety as well, although I think I got all mine from a kit: haven't seen it for sale individually. Gallery Glass costs about $3 or a little less per tube. You can get a Lot of mileage out of one tube. Liquid Rainbow is a little cheaper.

Materials and Money Tips
First Tip: Stick with the Gallery Glass, especially if you plan to paint directly on a window instead of making "stickers" to apply later. Liquid Rainbow looks fine when it dries, but is much runnier as a rule. Sandylion's looks fine too, but the tube tips are badly designed and its hard to get it to come out even after carefully clearing "clots."
If you end up with a variety of brands, they can be mixed and matched in the same "sticker": there's no serious difference once dry.

Tip Two: Skip the "leading." It is hard to use, tends to come out in a thicker line than I want for anything vaguely intricate, and costs too much. Instead, use "Scribbler" brand fabric paint in black, gold, or pewter - or your choice! The tubes are easy to work with, they go a long ways, and usually cost around $1. It dries pretty quickly: you only need to let it rest about 15 minutes before filling in with color.

Tip Three: Skip the expensive and unnecessary "Styrene Blank." Instead, use a clear plastic food storage bag, preferably the heavier freezer style. I used a gallon Ziplock myself. Cut it open to give yourself more surface area. It is actually much easier to remove stickers from this surface than the official Styrene sheet Plaid wants to sell you.

Tip Four: The color you see in the tube and when applying the wet paint and the color you see when dry are two different colors. Take the time to make a reference chart: get a piece of wax paper or other plastic and apply pea-sized blobs of each color, labeled with the color name and/or number.

Technique Tips
Tip Five: Take your time with the outlining step, and do some practice first. Eventually you'll learn to keep all your lines going in the same direction so you don't smear when turning a tight curve, and you'll learn the sweet spot between hovering the tip of the tube too far above the plastic (causes blots) and actually having it in contact (smears.)

On that note, you will want to be careful not to bite off more than you can chew in terms of image complexity. When selecting an image, imagine you're using a full sized Sharpie. Could it get around all those little lines?

Tip Six: When filling in with color, as long as you've waited for the outline to be mostly dry it doesn't matter, much, if you overflow a line. The colored paint dries transparent and won't obscure the leading.

Tip Seven: Be sure to fill clear to the edges with the colored paint. It's easy to leave little gaps near the corners. Not only do these look bad, but they also make the "stickers" harder to remove from the plastic: they tend to rip apart.

Tip Eight: Clear clots of dried paint in the applicator tubes with a long quilting straight pin. Sometimes you've got to simply pull them out - be careful of the mess! Other times you can at least temporarily push them back into the tube.

Tip Nine: Both major brands can get a bit runny and come out of the tube faster than you want, leaving too much paint on the surface. This evening I used the ball end of the same quilting pin I was using to clear clots as essentially a ballpoint pen. I put the tube down and used the pin to spread the excess paint around into all the corners. Worked perfectly. (You can also use the pin to pop any bubbles that come out when you ignore the precaution to not shake the tube!)

Here are some 1/2 done images of rubber ducks. The paint is still quite wet. Note I overran one of the lines in the center duck's bill pretty badly. This will look just fine when dry.

Cautionary Tips
Tip Ten: Cover your work area, and wear short sleeves.
Tip Eleven: Don't let paper or fabric come in long contact with a finished piece: it will eventually stick and mess things up. Even more importantly, don't let two stickers come in contact with each other: you probably won't get them apart again without damage.
For storage of painted pieces (i.e. Christmas candles!), wrap in a layer of waxed paper first, then add the padding. For storage or transportation of new pieces, cover with another layer of zip-lock or similar plastic.
Tip Twelve: Do not allow your cats to walk through a half-dried sheet of stickers and track the paint onto the kitchen table. Do not ask me how I know this. :)

One last warning: I jauntily stuck one of my pieces to a painted door in my old house. Years later it was time to move, but that sticker wasn't moving! When I realized it wasn't coming off intact, I left it there, but our renters obviously tried to get it off and it wasn't pretty. An Exacto might help, but I'm thinking the paint will need to be touched up, period.
So yeah, Don't stick these things to painted surfaces. Glass is best. Even if it doesn't come off intact - and it may not if it's been there a while - at least you can go after it with a knife or razor blade without damaging the surface!

Ideas for what to paint

  • Your bathroom. Make a matched set of tumblers, toothbrush holders, soap dishes, etc. Add similar designs to the mirror. The stickers also adhere nicely to tile or plastic in the shower.
  • Candle holders. My favorite technique is to draw random shapes with the "leading" and then fill them in with color for a true stained glass look. My second favorite technique is to turn a cheap tea light holder upside down and drizzle several colors of paint over it. Simple and surprisingly pretty. So called "Catholic candles" (tall, low priced, in glass jars) are great canvases too.
  • Large pillar candles. The paint will stick to the wax just fine
  • Sun catchers
  • Windows, of course. Even car windows - just keep it small and subtle, for safety's sake! :)
  • Glass table tops. I have a very nice Backgammon board painted onto a circular table top.
  • Lamp shades. I have decorated multiple cheap torchiere-style lamps from Target. I usually paint directly on the shade to avoid trouble with curves, and seal with spray sealer to make it more permanent. Ikea's frosted glass block lamps would also decorate beautifully!
  • Night Lights. Use a small plain plastic picture frame as the base, and glue on a Christmas light clip to attach it around the neck of a standard night light.
  • Alternately, use a thinner plastic (try upcycling packaging materials or even 2 liter bottles), cut your shape out entirely, and glue directly to a nightlight base.
  • Picture frames. Start with a plain, free-standing plastic frame and add an interesting border or small elements.

6 comments: said...

Wow, this is way cool! I love the car idea. It would be fun for so many different events. Thanks so much for sharing all your tips, I'll be linking to this post!

jkmzl said...

I have done something like this but using fabric paint. I print the picture I want to create and put it in a zip top bag. I then paint over the picture with the fabric paint and let dry then peel off. The "cling" is more opaque then with the window paint but it will stick to just about anything

Chelsea said...

How long do the stickers last for? If I make them now will they still work to apply them in January?

debbie y said...

I LOVE you post !
lot's of great tips!

if i want to give it to someone and want to keep it safe what is the best way to transfer them??
i put it on a paper but i discover that it was bad !

TarkheenaCrafts said...

Obviously, I don't track my comments very well, so I apologize that these questions were not answered in anything resembling a timely manner!
Just in case anyone is still interested, these stickers last pretty much forever. If kept at room temp and out of the sunlight, I am pretty confident you could make them whenever you want and apply then when ready.
The reader who discovered that trying to transfer them via ordinary paper is a bad idea is very right. I have lost a few Christmas pieces when I wrapped them in paper or - even worse - a linty towel. I've learned to use Waxed paper as my first layer, as the paint doesn't stick to it. I'd try this, or even just another zip-lock bag, if I wanted to transport unused stickers.

Vivapdx said...

You've got some great tips here! I've been using Gallery Glass for years, but they are getting to be harder to find unless I go online. I may have to try the other brands soon. You can see some of my clings here