Saturday, April 30, 2011

Painting on Glass

Last month, at my office, we had a Pi Day celebration.  You know, pi, the endless irrational number?  Apparently geeky types celebrate Pi Day every year, but even though I had not heard of it before, I found myself in charge of organizing our office Pi Day festivities.  Oh, in case you're wondering, Pi Day is March 14.  Get it?  The first numbers of pi are 3.14, so Pi Day is 3/14 or March 14.  Ok, back to business.

We had three different contests as part of our celebration, and my boss generously provided a gift certificate to a local restaurant as a prize for the winner of each contest.  That was great, but I also wanted the winners to have a little something to actually commemorate the fact that it was Pi Day.  So, the idea of awarding "pi plates" was born.  I know, I know, super clever play on words, right?  Well, I wanted something that could easily be "marked" with the pi symbol, so glass came to mind, and then the "pi plate" idea was hatched from there.

Because the finished plates came out so well, I decided to feature the idea here on my blog.  Obviously, the idea and technique are adaptable to just about any flat or curved glass item, and you can paint any letter, graphic image or artwork that you want to.  A pie plate or casserole dish with flowers or hearts painted on the bottom would make a cute wedding shower gift, or you could paint the bride's new initials.  If you have ever taken a "generic" casserole dish to a big pot-luck get-together, you know that it isn't always easy to be sure that you get your dish back afterward.  Well, a dish with your initials on it, or with some unique graphic image on it, is sure to be returned!

For the "pi plates," all I did was find an image of the pi symbol online that I liked.  I copied it to my computer and then sized it using a photo-editing tool.  I had to experiment a bit to find the size that would work for the glass dishes that I was using, because I wanted the image to be very prominent and large.  Now, here is an important tip -- you want to print the image in reverse.  My printing program just had a box that I checked for reverse printing, but your program might access this feature in a different way.  If you're doing a simple graphic image, you might not care which way it faces, but if you're doing letters or numbers, like my pi symbol, it's important that it reads correctly when the item is finished.

Once I had my image printed out in reverse, I simply cut around it and then taped the sheet, printed side DOWN, onto the INSIDE of the pie plate.  I then flipped the pie plate over, so that I was actually painting on the BOTTOM OUTSIDE part of the dish, following my template, which was attached to the INSIDE.  If your dish is going to be used for food, you'll want to paint on the outside, as I did, because you don't want food coming into direct contact with the painted image.

I used a gloss enamel paint that I found at Michael's in the craft paint section.  I simply looked for one that indicated that it could be used on glass.  Different paints have different methods of curing, so be sure to check the directions.  I found one or two that could simply be air-cured, but you had to let the item sit for something like 2 weeks or a month for it to fully cure.  Since I was painting my pie plates over the weekend for an event on Wednesday, I didn't have that kind of time to wait.  Be aware, though, that even the heat-cured paint that I chose required an initial air cure of a couple of days.  So this isn't a project you can start on Saturday morning for a Saturday evening party.

For the actual painting, I just used a good quality flat brush that I had laying around the house.  We paints lots of Pinewood Derby cars in my house, so I had plenty of paintbrushes to choose from!  I painted the first coat and then let it dry for a bit.  In retrospect, it would have been easier for me to do the tight corners on my pi symbol if I'd also had a tiny round brush, but frankly, these particular items didn't warrant that kind of attention and I just did the best I could with the brush I had.  If I was making a super special shower gift, I'd probably spring for a couple of new brushes to meet my exact needs.

After painting the first coat, I removed my template from inside the dish.  The photo above shows what the image looked like after one coat of paint.  Since I now had the image painted, it was easy enough to just go over it with additional coats.  I put three coats on my pie dishes, allowing each coat to dry for half an hour or so before I put another coat on.  Here is one of the plates after all of the coats of paint have been applied:

It's nice and dark and looks pretty good.  Of course, you'll want to look at your image from the INSIDE to make sure it's going to look okay as a finished piece.  When in doubt, add an extra coat of paint!  The paint goes really far and you want your image to stand out and look great.  After letting the pie dishes air cure for the recommended two days, I cured the paint in the oven.  The complete instructions were on the back of the paint bottle, and the items didn't even have to be left in the oven that long.  So the heat curing was easily done in an evening.

And that's it!  Once the pie dishes had been heat cured, the paint was on there to stay, and the dishes can now be used for food preparation and cooking just like any other glass vessel.  I recommend washing painted items by hand, as I don't know if the dishwasher would affect the image over time.  Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of one of my finished "pi plates" shown from the inside, as the recipient saw it.  For some reason, I completely forgot about taking a final photo!  But, here are my three "pi plates" after heat curing, and ready to be awarded to the contest winners:

This was a super fun project, and it was soooooo easy to do!  If you are artistic, you could freehand a design, and of course, you can use whatever colors your heart desires.  Now that I know how easy painting on glass is, I am planning on making some other items as gifts.  I have a wedding shower coming up in a few weeks, and while I'll get the bride something from her registry, I'm also going to put her new initials and some spring flowers on a 9x13 casserole dish, as a little "extra" gift.  The possibilities are endless!


  1. Wow! Those came out really good! TFS.

  2. What a fun project. That is a neat idea for a new bride.

  3. Has anyone ever used a painted pie plate to bake with? I am planning to paint a pie plate and I was worried it might not hold up when used.

  4. Lauren, yes, I've baked with painted pie plates like these. The paint I used for this project is made for glass and similar surfaces, and it's made to be heated. The pie plates should hold up fine. And, you're painting on the side of the glass that doesn't touch the food, so no danger there. Would love to see what you paint!!