Glass Gems with Alcohol Ink and Enamel Paint

I was at Walmart the other day picking up some essentials and noticed that they started selling giant clear flat glass gems in the floral section. This was exciting for me since Dollar Tree had changed their one inch clear gems so they were iridescent (which sounds cool, but ends up obscuring the ink). Also, these gems were bigger, some near an inch and a half in size, which make for excellent pendants.

So I bought 3 bags of them (at 97 cents each). These flat marbles are made to be used in vases or jars as decorations, they are not designed to be crystal clear and many of them have fuzzy caterpillar like flaws in them. Some are chipped. And nearly all of them were dusty/cloudy.

So my first step was to clean them and sort them based on their clarity/flaws. I used a paper towel wetted with rubbing alcohol to clean them and sorted them into clear, barely flawed, and very flawed (left to right) piles. I put the very flawed ones aside to use for something else.

Another new and exciting development is that I finally saw a Tim Holtz applicator (the official applicator sold by the folks who make the Ranger alcohol inks) on sale on Amazon for a good price and broke down and bought one. I usually use my homemade applicator. It is well loved and well inked at this point, so I was really interested to see if there was much of a difference between the two.

So I started out with my old trusty stamper and a few shades of green ink. I put four or 5 drops of ink on the applicator, which was enough to get a good base color on four gems. I stamped each one several times until I started to see the ink separate just a bit and create little ring patterns.

I then proceeded to add colors. I ended up with three different sets of base colors: green, green-blue, and blue. Then I used the new stamper to add accent colors--two drops of ink at a time--to each gem. The store bought applicator itself was pretty much the same as my homemade version (aside from the handle). The felt was a little better quality then the kind I buy in the kids crafting section and cut up. It left fewer strands of acrylic on the ink in the stamping process, so I might shell out for the pre-cut felt the next time I see it on sale as it should fit on both applicators. But overall, I saw no significant difference between my little homemade stamper and the store bought one.

After I was satisfied with my color combinations (which took about 4 pieces of felt each with 3 different colors of ink on them each stamped several times), I set the gems aside to dry for a bit.

And then I decided to try out another new supply in my craft cabinet: enamel craft paint. Folk Art and Americana both sell versions of this special craft paint designed for painting on glass. It's supposed to be dishwasher safe after baked in the oven or allowed to cure for a month. I didn't need the paint to be washable, just to stay on the gems and provide contrast, so I didn't bake it.

This isn't the first time I had tried backing alcohol ink decorated glass gems with white paint. The first time, I used white spray paint. The gems had great contrast, but the process was fussy. It required that I tape all of the edges with painters tape and spray several coats and then the glue on bails didn't stay on as well as usual. So I was looking for a simpler process.

The paint was particularly thick (I bought the wicker white Folk Art variety from Walmart), and it spread on kind of sticky until I thinned it a bit by wetting my paint brush, but by that point I had already put a gloppy coat on. And the ink had already bled into the paint. I applied a couple more coats to get a more finished product, but the result ended up a bit muddled. Even after a few coats, the ink still seemed to bleed through the layers (as seen above).

The colors didn't come out any where near as crisp as they did with the spray paint version. I'll probably give it another whirl where I let the ink dry for a day or two before painting. Or maybe I can try a coat of mod podge or spray sealer to seal it before painting on the white paint, but at any rate, it's a bit of a work in progress. 

I did find that the gems from Walmart are nice and clear after cleaned and that my old trusty homemade stamper works just as well as the store bought version. I also determined that painting the backs by hand with a brush is an easier process--even if it takes a few coats--but as is, the finished product doesn't come out as clearly as spray paint.


  1. Maybe try spraying with Kamar Varnish before painting? Kamar Varnish is a non alcohol based varnish, so it's supposed to seal the ink really well.

    1. Yes! I've been meaning to try Kamar Varnish! Thanks for stopping by the blog!


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