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what kind of paint sticks to mirrors

What Kind Of Paint Sticks To Mirrors?

If your planning on painting a mirror with some custom artwork, you need to use the right paint. Because most types of paint will peel off a mirrors slick surface. The best kind of paint that sticks to mirrors is acrylic or water based enamel craft paints. Paint pens also work great on a mirror and so do many types of spray paints. Mirrors are a type of glass that’s reflective. So any type of paint that works on glass will also stick to mirrors. A combination of paints actually works best. Try painting large areas with water-based craft paint and make tight outlines with an acrylic craft pen. Use some masking sheets and tape with acrylic spray paint to create all sorts of cool designs.

The key to successfully painting a mirror is not only using the right type of paint but also the preparation. Make sure the mirror is super clean or even the best glass paint won’t stick.

Did you know that over 100 years ago in Victorian times, mirrors were painted with a variety of floral designs as a type of artwork. So painting mirrors isn’t anything new. You can buy mirrors with painted designs brand new, but it’s a lot more fun to do it yourself.

In this article we’ll discuss the best types of paint that sticks to mirrors and how to paint a mirror.

  Sticks To Mirrors Permanent Easy To Clean Applicator
Acrylic Yes Yes No Brush, sprayer, can, markers
Enamel Yes Yes No Brush, sprayer, can, markers
Water-Based
Yes No Yes Markers
Oil-Based Yes Yes No Markers
Latex No No Yes Brush, sprayer, can

Can I Paint Over Mirrors?

It’s easy to paint over a mirror as long as you use the right paint.

Most types of paint won’t stick to a mirror because glass is too slick. There’s nothing for the paint to stick to when the surface is super smooth. So you need to use special paints.

The two types of paint that can stick to mirrors are acrylic and enamel based paints.

Both enamel and acrylic paints come in different forms.

  • You can buy them as raw paint in a container which is applied using a brush or sprayer.
  • As a paint pen. These are great for drawing on glass or making outlines.
  • In a spray can.

It’s always a good idea to mask off areas you don’t want paint with some tape. I always use Frog tape. It’s expensive but has a special design that cuts down on bleeding.

If you get some bleeding under the tape or want to redo an area, use a utility knife blade to carefully scrape the paint off the mirror. Alcohol can also help loosen paint’s grip on a mirror.

Victorian painted mirror what kind of paint sticks to mirrors
Victorian mirror painted with a beautiful floral design.

How To Paint A Mirror Step By Step

In this section we’ll detail how to permanently paint a mirror step by step.

1. Clean The Mirror’s Surface

Clean the mirror with a dampened microfiber cloth. Mirror is a type of glass so you should only clean it with a very soft cloth. Microfiber is great at picking up small dust and pollen and it’s gentle enough to use on the most delicate surfaces like a laptop screen.

  • Dampen a microfiber cloth with water and wipe the surface to remove any dust. Then use a separate microfiber cloth to thoroughly dry the surface.
  • Just dampen the cloth, don’t soak it. Use just enough moisture to help the cloth collect dust.
  • Don’t use mirror cleaners. Many of them can leave behind residue which can interfere with the paint.
  • Mirrors must be completely clean before you start painting, otherwise the paint may not stick to the surface.

No matter what type of paint you use on the mirror, the glass must be completely clean. If there is dust or other substances on the mirror, the paint may not stick.

If the mirror needs more than just some dust removal, dip the cloth in mildly soapy water. Use a gentle liquid dish soap and not a harsher cleanser. I stay away from glass and mirror cleaners because they contain chemicals and may leave a residue.

Squeeze out excess moisture before wiping the mirror to prevent water from dripping down the glass.

Wipe the mirror dry with another microfiber cloth. Make sure there is no soap residue on the glass before you start painting.

  • If your mirror is dirty, use a mild soap solution to wipe it down.
  • After you wash the mirror, wipe it down with water alone. Then dry it.
  • If you see fingerprints or a greasy residue, dip the cloth in a small amount of rubbing alcohol and wipe down the surface. Then dry it.

2. Masking

Before you start painting, mask off areas you don’t want paint. This isn’t an essential step but it can help prevent mistakes.

If you’re painting a mirror with an expensive frame, it’s a good idea to mask it before you paint. Masking prevents paint from getting onto the frame or other areas you don’t want paint

I always use Frog tape whenever I paint a mirror. It has a specially designed edge that prevents bleeding.

Paint that sticks to mirrors like acrylic and enamel are hard to remove from non-mirrored or glass surfaces. So you want to make sure they don’t get on anything but the glass. Alcohol can help remove them, but they also remove the finish and/or color of the surface you’re cleaning. This can ruin the frame of your mirror.

Applying tape is easy. Just stick it wherever you don’t want paint.

Masking is a great way to paint a mirror with designs, graphics or stencils. Create shapes by using using tape to create positive and negative areas on the mirror. You can also use multiple layers of masking to create intricate designs with a variety of colors.

Try using masking to make shapes in combination with brushed art and pen outlines. You can create some really beautiful paintings on mirrors by using multiple techniques stacked on top of each other.

3. Painting The Mirror

Once the mirror is clean and masked, it’s time to start painting.

There are only two types of paint that sticks to mirrors. Acrylic and enamel. But they come in a few different forms.

  • Raw Paint: Comes in a container and is applied with a brush or sprayer.
  • Pen: paint pens are great for drawing on a mirror or creating outlines.
  • Can: Enamel spray paint is great for painting on mirrors. Although it’s hard to control and better for stencil work.

Glass paint is designed specifically for glass surfaces which includes mirrors. If a paint says it’ll work on glass, that means it sticks to mirrors too.

Some brush-on glass paints look translucent when first brushed on in one coat. They require a second and sometimes a third coat to be opaque.

Keep in mind that translucent glass paints don’t look the same on a mirror as they do on glass. This is because light doesn’t shine through the mirror like it does a window. Many glass paints designed to create a stained glass look will work on a mirror, but the effect will be different.

Opaque glass paints provide a richer color similar to painting on canvas.

Glass paint is available in a smooth or chalkboard finish so you can create textured paintings.

Choose a glass paint that cures without heat.

Painting a mirror is different than paper or canvas because the surface is super smooth. If it’s your first time painting glass, practice on a cheaper piece of glass or mirror to perfect the technique.

Acrylic and Enamel Paints Work On Mirrors

Acrylic and water-based enamel paints stick to mirrors. They go on smooth and look the same when dry as when wet. They’re very easy to work with and come in a wide variety of colors.

All the base colors are available and lots of custom colors. But with just base colors you can create any other color on the color wheel. I would buy at least red, blue, yellow, white and black. With just those 5 colors you can create any other color you want.

  • Enamel Paint dries hard and is washable once cured. However it requires a long time to dry by air. In some cases as long as 2-3 weeks. Don’t wash or touch the paint until it’s fully dry or you’ll damage the painting.
  • Acrylic Paint dries faster than enamel but doesn’t dry as hard. However it’s still a great paint for mirrors and most can be gently washed.

Apply raw paint with either a natural or synthetic soft-bristled paintbrush. Or you could use other soft applicators like a foam brush or cotton swabs.

Paint can also be sprayed on using a sprayer or a paint in a can.

I like to use paint pens for drawing designs on mirrors or painting outlines.

Painting on a mirror is best done in layers built atop each other. Once one layer dries, paint the next right on top. This works great when painting cartoon designs or graphics.

Either paint type works with stencils or with painter’s tape to create designs, shapes or stencils.

Acrylic and enamel paint is easy to scrape off a mirror with a utility knife blade. If you make a mistake don’t worry, Just scrape the paint off and start again.

Spray Paint Mirrors

Spray paint can be used to paint a mirror either out of a can or with your own sprayer.

Spray painting out of a can is great for large areas like masked stencil work. But it lacks the control you need for fine work. For that I’d use a small air brush sprayer like what’s used on cars.

With a small air brush sprayer, you can paint intricate detail work right on the mirror.

Make sure to mask off areas you don’t want paint prior to spraying. This is an important step if your mirror has a nice frame because both acrylic and enamel paint is hard to remove.

Use spray paint in a well ventilated area. The fumes can be bad to inhale.

Make sure not to over-spray an area. This could result in runs that are hard to undo.

Use thin, overlapping bursts of paint. Build up color slowly. Hold the can or sprayer nozzle about 12 to 18 inches from the mirror for best results. Don’t get too close or you could apply too much paint to one area which results in a run.

Make sure you shake the can to mix the paint prior to spraying.

Just like other forms of paint, make sure to thoroughly clean the mirror prior to painting or the paint may not stick.

Writing On The Mirror

Sketch designs directly onto the mirror with a water-soluble marker. Use a water-soluble marker to draw designs right on the mirror’s surface. The sketch will act as a guide when you start painting. Or use the marker to create an outline around a painting you made with a brush.

  • Water-soluble markers are sold at any art store.
  • Water-soluble markers are easy to remove if you’re not happy with the artwork.

A great way to paint or draw on a mirror is by using markers.

Oil-based paint markers and markers designed for glass allow you to draw or paint right on the mirror. These are great all by themselves or in combination with other paint techniques like spray paints or brushes.

Make sure you use a marker that doesn’t require heat to cure. Many of these types of markers are designed for ceramics which require heat.

I always sketch my designs on paper first and then copy the sketch onto the mirror.

Another great tip is to sketch a rough outline with a thin marker. If you have corrections, use a utility knife blade to remove lines and redraw. Once the sketch is perfect, go over it with bolder permanent lines.

Use markers first and then paint inside the lines. or paint first and then use markers to create a bold outline.

I always start by using brushes. Then I use paint markers to create the outline. Finally, I add nice effects and highlights using my sprayer. A combination of techniques and paints always works best for me.

Oil-based markers are harder to remove than water-soluble markers. If you want something more permanent, use oil-based. But if you want something more temporary or easier to clean off, use water-based. 

Summary: What Kind Of paint Sticks To Mirrors?

If your planning on painting a mirror with some custom artwork, you need to use the right paint. Because most types of paint will peel off a mirrors slick surface. The best kind of paint that sticks to mirrors is acrylic or water based enamel craft paints. Paint pens also work great on a mirror and so do many types of spray paints. Mirrors are a type of glass that’s reflective. So any type of paint that works on glass will also stick to mirrors. A combination of paints actually works best. Try painting large areas with water-based craft paint and make tight outlines with an acrylic craft pen. Use some masking sheets and tape with acrylic spray paint to create all sorts of cool designs.

The key to successfully painting a mirror is not only using the right type of paint but also the preparation. Make sure the mirror is super clean or even the best glass paint won’t stick.

Did you know that over 100 years ago in Victorian times, mirrors were painted with a variety of floral designs as a type of artwork. So painting mirrors isn’t anything new. You can buy mirrors with painted designs brand new, but it’s a lot more fun to do it yourself.

If you have any questions about painting glass or mirrors, email any time.

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