Reverse Painting on Glass

Here’s a quick step by step of one of my latest decorative projects-

Beach Window Painting step 1 An old (possibly 100 year old) window salvaged from a neighbors renovation project.

Step 1- Start with a clean piece of glass. Any glass will work for reverse painting as long as it is THOROUGHLY clean- if there is any grime or grease on it the paint will eventually peel off (if it sticks at all). I used an antique window and spent almost an hour scrubbing all the peeling paint and crud off of it. As a final “rinse” I wiped each pane with rubbing alcohol. If your using old windows you may want to wear gloves and a mask to prevent exposure to lead paint (which I am sure was what this window was plastered with). You may want to wear gloves while you are painting to avoid getting fingerprints on the glass- since the oils on your skin will interfere with the paints adhesion to the glass.

Beach Window Painting step 2 A cartoon has been placed face up on the side of the glass that will be painted on.

Step 2- Do a little planning. Since you will painting front to back (in reverse) on the underside of the glass you may want to do a quick mock-up. I drew up a cartoon on tracing paper, cut that up and placed a section in each pane on the back side of the glass. Then I traced the cartoon onto the front side with a marker. Note that each pane of glass has a different hue (the top center piece is almost rose tinted) and probably came from a different source.

Beach Window Painting step 3 The outlines have been painted in on the underside of the glass.

Step 3- Paint in your foreground. In reverse painting you are working from front to back as opposed to the usual back to front. In my work there isn’t necessarily a foreground as much as heavy, cartoonish outlines- so I started with that. I then scrubbed off the marker I used to trace the cartoon onto the front side of the glass to avoid confusion later on.

Beach Window Painting step 4 The highlights have been painted in.

Beach Window Painting step 5 The “mid-ground” is complete.

Step 4- Paint in the mid-ground. With this piece the mid-ground ended up being the highlights, sand and vegetation. Notice how the tint of the glass influences the color of the paint underneath especially in the top center pane. If you use even lightly tinted stained glass it can have a dramatic effect on your painting.

Beach Window Painting step 6 With the sea and sky painted in this piece is essentially complete.

Step 5- Apply the finishing touches. Finish with the background- in this case the flat, bright, cerulean blue of the sky. It is possible to do blending in reverse painting-like I did with the turquoise and dark blue of the sea. I used acrylics so I just had to work very quickly. If you use oils (or Open acrylics) it’s easier to blend but the paint takes a lot longer to dry. Once painting is complete I would let it cure for at least a week (with acrylics) before sealing it up with varnish or top coats. If you are using oils you will need to let it cure for a long time. For this piece I am going to coat the back with a white enamel to block light from coming through and make it completely opaque. Then it will be varnished and waxed to protect the painting.