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How to

Easy Stained Glass Lanterns

Update Thrift Shop Lanterns with Stained Glass Paint and Gilding

© Stephie McCarthy

See the video here on our channel --

Thirf Flip Lanterns video

Upcycle Thrif Shop Lanterns


Fairy tale fabulous! Our upcycled lanterns are great for holiday decorating and for complimenting to country house décor.

DIY Lanterns

You can customize the colors for friends.

Customize a Lantern

You can paint the glass on the outside, let it cure, mask it and spray paint the housing.

Make fairy lanterns for your garden

Or, if your lanterns come apart, you can follow our ideas below.

Here are our thrift shop lanterns before:

Refurbish Thirft Shop Lanterns

These were inexpensive lanterns from a thrift shop for $3.00 each.

The housing is rigid plastic (we thought they were metal!), the panes are glass, and the candles are a waxy material like authentic candles. A little forgettable, but look at them now.

How to Make Fairy Garden lanterns

On our way to Rivendale ...

We chose copper leaf and citrus colors to match our home, but ...

Hand Paint a Lantern

... why not match lanterns to your glass or other tableware and add warmth to every holiday.

Holiday Lantern Crafts

Painting Glass Lamp Parts, Easy Start

Painting a chimney or other glass parts is an easy way to upstyle a lantern. We purchased the lantern below for the design which we loved in every way, except one. The bulb had a cold, blue glow.

Reproduction Kerosene lantern

Check the price of this lantern here:

check the price of kerosene style lantern

We missed the warmth on incandescent bulb. So ...

How to paint glass

... we painted the chimney with orange and yellow glass paint. An easy fix that was well worth the effort.

We used a small pounce sponge, Pébéo glass paint, and tiny swabs to get under the metal housing.

Check the current price of supplies here:

Check the price of glass paint

Pébéo is a high-end glass paint (not waterbased). This will NOT scratch off and is beautifully transparent.

check the price of sponge brush pouncers

We get a stipple effect by applying it with sponges.

Check the current price of mini swabs here.

check the price of mini swabs here

You need not paint the entire chimney. A few layers of glass paint on the bottom edge will make a big difference. Fade the paint as you work toward the top.

How to decorate with LED lamps

Now the lantern has a glow that is warm and inviting.

Painting and LED lamp light

This update gave us the idea to update the two thrift shop lanterns shown at the top of this post.

We began by gilding our lanterns with copper leaf.

Tips and Tricks for Beginner Gold Leafing or Gilding

We copper-leafed our lanterns before painting the glass (the same techniques apply to gold and silver leafing).

Prepping the Lanterns

Before gold or copper leafing, we take the lanterns apart.

Upcycle a thrif shop lantern

We used a small screwdriver from our sewing machine.

You need not take your lantern apart. You can paint and gild a lantern if you work carefully and wipe off mistakes as you go.

Check the price of small screwdrivers here

Check the price of screwdrivers

If you take your lantern apart, the screws can be really tiny. Be sure to store them carefully for reassembling. We placed ours in a sealable plastic bag.

How to Copper Leaf

Next, we filed and sanded the sharper edges of the plastic so that the lanterns would look worn.

How to gold leaf the first time

The base color of your project can influence the final look of a thin layer of gold or copper leaf. We chose to spray paint the lantern housings cranberry red. A base color is optional, however, rich reds are the classic choice for gold leafing.

How to update a lantern

We painted the grilles, the handle, and the bottom of the lanterns with a copper-gold acrylic. These parts will not be gilded.

Step-by-Step Gold Leaf and Gilding Tricks for Beginners

1) Paint your project with gilding adhesive

Beginners guide to gold and copper leaf

We painted parts of our lanterns with a gilding adhesive. The purple will dry clear and become lightly sticky in about 30 minutes. The adhesive is self-leveling, but we also smooth it with our brush while applying. The adhesive shown here was a bit stinky, but also water-based for easy clean up.

Check the price of gilding adhesive here:

check the price of gilding adhesive

Gold and copper leaf are so terribly fragile, it's like trying to handle soap bubbles. Blowing on gold leaf will cause it to float. Handling it can cause it to break and crumble into small flakes.

Tips and Tricks for gold leafing

However, the sheets are an economical and beautiful way to beautify so many things. We'll show you a few tricks we discovered for a beautiful finish, without specialty tools.

Check the prices of copper leaf sheets here --

check the price of copper leaf hear

2) Keep your leaves on the tissue backing paper until needed.

Beginner gold leafing tricks

3) Tear small pieces of leaf and apply to the adhesive.

Torn edges blend. Straight edges tend to show. It's okay to overlap.

3) Adhesive will accumulate on your fingers. Wipe your hands regularly on a damp cloth or baby wipe between pieces.
See the video here:

Thirf Flip Lanterns video

4) Brush away excess leaf. You can also press and clean the metal with a damp baby wipe.
5) Small pieces of leaf can be used to fill gaps.

Here's our first layer complete. There are lots of tiny gaps.

Beginners guide to gold leaf

We recommend TWO layers of metal leaf. It's not terribly expensive, and well worth the time.

We've not seen this idea elsewhere, but it worked beautifully for our project.

6) Do a second coat of adhesive, let set, and apply a second layer of metal.

Gold leaf tips: make a double layer of metal

With two sheets of metal on these lanterns, 99% of the gaps are filled and we can touch up minute holes with our metallic paint.

Because we applied the leaf by hand, the foil tends to look mottled and crackled.

7) Optional: Lightly sand with the gentlest touch and fine sandpaper.

With two sheets of metal on these lanterns, we can lightly sand the finish to lessen the crackle effect and even-out the matt coloring if areas are mottled.

Tips for beginning gold leaf

Here's the finished copper-leaf surface lightly distressed by gentle sanding.

Beautiful! Now the lanterns look heavier and will pass for aged copper. We can seal the finish now, or allow it to tarnish over time to a deeper color before sealing. Test sealers on a small area before applying to the entire lantern.

Painting a Stained Glass Lantern

1) Optional, make a template

Having removed the glass earlier, we trace the outline onto card stock, cut it to size, insert it into the lantern, and use a pencil to mark the grille lines.

We'll darken the design with ink and use this as a template as we paint the glass.

Update Lantern Decor with Glass Paint

2) Tape the template to the work surface and place clean glass pane on top.

How to paint an LED lantern

3) Apply glass paint and allow to dry.

We painted our glass three times over in the space of about 15 minutes to make sure the color would show clearly.

Stained glass paint project

We like citrus colors, however, lanterns would look lovely in any number of color combinations. The template helped us create the look of individually tinted panes on one sheet of glass

Once again, we used Pébéo glass paint, and sponge pounce tools. See the finished photos for our color patterns.

Check the current price of supplies here:

Check the price of glass paint

check the price of sponge brush pouncers

Our paint dried quickly and was ready for the next step.

Painting glass with glass paint

4) Apply two or three coats of clear Gallery Glass liquid in a pebble or swirl pattern.

Check the price of Gallery Glass here:

check the price of gallery glass here

We used flat sponge brushes to apply the pebble pattern. Pouncing up and down creates the pebble effect. We allowed our clear pebble effect to dry for 30 minutes or so between layers.

Gallery Glass crafting a lantern

When the panes are dry, reassemble the lanterns.

DIY glass paint project

A real thrift flip, these lanterns are ready for styling for the holiday season ...

DIY Lantern craft

... or for magical walks with friends.

Easy Stained Glass Lanterns

Make your own stained glass lanterns

You can also use glass paint to color foil, as in this project:

Make Foil Bunnies with Aluminum Foil and Glass Paint

Pebeo Glass Paint projects

Pebeo Vitrail glass paint on foil

Read how to make this craft here.

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