Reverse Painting On Glass In 5 Easy Steps

A collage showing the reverse and finished side of glass painting - Image by Kayla Bame

A collage showing the reverse and finished side of glass painting - Image by Kayla Bame

Reverse painting on glass is a great art form used to create a stimulating effect. Some may have discovered it recently, but it's been with us for a long time now. 

To create a fantastic reverse glass painting, clean your tools and glass surface with glass cleaner or rubbing alcohol. Choose your reference image and trace it on the glass. Outline your reference image, then fill in with details before adding the background. Lastly, frame your painting and display it.

In this blog post, we will walk you through the ways of how to paint on glass in reverse. We will also discuss the materials you will need, the process of reverse painting on glass, how to layer colors and seal them when finished.

How to Reverse Paint on Glass

Finished artwork after framing - Image by SoJo

Finished artwork after framing - Image by SoJo

What You'll Need

Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Clean all tools and supplies

Before starting your reverse glass painting, choose a good glass canvas at least 3mm thick. The thicker it is, the better. Choose one with a smooth surface on both sides.

Once you've chosen the right glass, first clean your glass canvas. If left unwashed, it may result in visible imperfections like bumps, dents, and tiny spots. Cleansing your glass also helps the paint last longer.

Wash the glass with soapy water to clear off dirt, dust, and oil or grease. Then rinse it after and let it dry. 

Cover the paint palette with absorbent paper towels to avoid getting any oil or grease onto your painting and help you make sure that no soap residue is left. If using paint pots, wash them well with water and soap, then dry thoroughly. 

Once it dried out, you can now start painting in reverse. Sanding the glass edges before washing is also sometimes necessary, so it's safer while you're handling it.

2. Choose an image and trace your pattern

The next step is referencing and applying the patterns to your painting. You may want to use a reference photo or find inspiration in another artwork for it.

Once done choosing the desired image or design for your glass paintings, you can now proceed to make your pattern. Set your design in the same size as your glass, then mirror it before printing. Then, trace the image onto a tracing paper. However, if you wish to paint freehand, then you can skip this part.

After tracing, place the traced image and glass on top of light-colored cardboard or something hard. You can use cardboard as a base for your painting to avoid tearing it while you paint. Secure it in place under the glass with clear tape. Slipping a blank tracing paper between your glass and traced image also aids in preventing line doubling.

3. Make the outline for the painting

Start on your reverse glass painting once you've completed the first two steps. It is imperative to note that the painting techniques and methods used in these artworks on glass are different from traditional paintings. 

Artists make reverse glass paintings by painting on the reverse side, unlike your regular painting. In the same way, you draw the details first before the background, thus the name of this technique.

Lines are most important in glass paintings as they guide you to fill up the whole canvas, so you should always prioritize painting them first. Ensure that you only paint the solid lines and avoid painting over ones that only indicate a color break. After drawing all the lines, set them aside for as long as needed to dry and prevent smudging when you paint new layers.

Things to remember when painting on glass:  

  • Use a fine tip brush to make the lines for a more detailed effect. 
  • DO NOT use a wet brush. Always use a paper towel to remove any hint of wetness on your paintbrush. If unsure, use a different brush. 
  • Don't skimp on your brush. Get a high-quality one with minimal shedding. 

4. Fill in the details and the background

As the lines have dried up, you can continue with your reverse painting on glass. After the lines, paint the little details first, the medium ones next, and the background. This method will ensure that the minor details of your painting do not get covered. Let the paint dry after applying another layer.

5. Frame the finished painting

Protect your finished painting by framing it. To get the best results, follow these steps:

  • Dry paint overnight to get it ready for framing. Clean the glass using lint-free rags and be careful not to rub the painted areas on the glass.
  • Make 4 small squares from black tape to help protect air space between layers. 
  • Fold a towel on the table, then place the frame flat over it. Set the first sheet of glass as you would normally do for a picture frame. Place one puffy tape square on each corner of the glass.
  • Put the reverse glass painting, viewing side down, into the frame and add 4 puffy tape squares around its corners, placing it approximately over the first pieces of tape. 
  • Lay the third sheet carefully to cover the painted side of the second glass sheet. 

Here is the video showcasing the reverse glass painting process in detail:

Reverse Glass Painting Tips for Beginners

1. Don't skimp on paint

In reverse glass painting, coverage and opacity are critical. Don't be tempted to buy pricey acrylic paint, hoping to improve the quality. It won't, so buy a cheaper brand so you can add as much acrylic paint. Go over everything at least twice. 

2. Use the right brushes

Use a fine-point brush for the outline and fine details - a medium rounded brush for the medium details and a big brush for the background. Invest in quality brushes to improve your artwork. 

3. Make a color swatch for each reference

Make a swatch for each color for your reference. This step helps you make a consistent color combination. Swipe small amounts of paint on the paper to serve as your reference colors. After you have your colors mixed, store them in paint pots to have a consistent color on your painting. 

4. Outline your reference 

Outline your reference using markers to thicken them, making them easier to trace. Use paint pens to outline your glass to smudge or get erased when you paint over it. 

5. Use a precision knife to fix mistakes

Other reverse painting artists recommend a toothpick and even a Q-tip to fix mistakes, but we recommend a precision knife. Using the precision knife makes a cleaner result. 

6. Remove imperfections with acetone or rubbing alcohol

For larger paint stains, dip a Q-tip in some acetone or rubbing alcohol to clean those. Be careful, though, or you may cause damage to the painting. 

7. Use a craft gun to dry the paint

Paint takes hours to dry, and because you have to add more layers, use a craft gun to cut the drying time. Turn it to a low setting if using a dual-temperature heat gun, then sweep the heat gun over the painting to dry it evenly. 

8. Check your progress as you go

Turn your painting over or place it over a light to see its opacity. 

Reverse Glass Painting FAQ

  • When was reverse painting on glass became popular?

Though it started as an art in the Middle Ages in Venice, reverse painting on glass became most popular in the 16th and 17th centuries. Over time, it spread widely to other countries, and each has developed its techniques to distinguish one country's art from another. 

In the Byzantine empire, the art form became a popular technique to create art inspired by religion, mainly Catholicism and Islamism. But in other countries, artists focused on decorative arts, landscape art, costumes, and other artwork displaying their craftsmanship and creativity. 

  • How much are reverse paintings worth?

In some auctions, a reverse glass painting may reach up to $4,800, starting from $500 and averaging at $1,160 per piece. Estimate prices may change based on first-hand inspection and further research. Auction values refer to what one might expect to pay for an object of similar age, size, color, and condition at the auction.

  • What kind of paint will stick to glass?

Though you may think this art form is complicated, it only needs enamels and acrylics. Artists prefer acrylics, though, because it's easier to control. 

  • Do you have to flip the image for glass painting?

Yes, especially if it has texts in it since you'll work on the reverse side of the glass. You’ll want to flip this image before printing it because you're going to be painting inside out with a mirror effect so that when finished, they'll appear as if they were standing right in front of you. 

  • What is a reverse painted mirror?

Unique to the Asian interior design experience is the meticulous production of reverse-painted mirrors. These mirrors show images on their backside with silver and mercury applied over an intricately painted background. 

The result appears as a floating image when one looks through the mirror glass, thus creating an exquisite sight for your eyes that will reward you each time it catches your eye in its reflections!


Reverse glass painting may take time and patience, but it is a very rewarding art form. Also, remember the materials you need and the steps to take to create your masterpiece. 

We hope you enjoyed reading this guide! Share this article with fellow budding reverse glass painting artists so they can learn more about this beautiful technique.

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