Transparent paintings are a beautiful way to show off your artwork. By making your paintings transparent, you allow the viewer to see the layers and colors that make up your work.
What are transparent paintings? These are paintings that you can literally see through! Transparent paintings are created by using translucent paint over a clear medium like glass, acrylic sheets, or plastic, showcasing all the details and layers of paint.
In this article, we will show you how to create your own transparent paintings. We’ll also share some tips on how to make your artwork look even more amazing!
What Are Transparent Paintings?
In the world of art, there are few things as enigmatic as a transparent painting. Viewers can see through these works of art or almost see through them, which creates an ethereal and otherworldly effect.
To achieve transparency, artists often use glass, resin, or plastic in their work. These materials allow light to pass through them, giving the paintings an almost magical quality.
The use of transparent materials also allows for a sense of depth and dimensionality, as different layers of color appear to float on top of one another.
Thanks to the transparent quality, transparent paintings are great as window displays and dreamcatchers, which allow natural light to pass through the painting to highlight its depth and color qualities.
How To Make Transparent Paintings?
There’s more than one way to create a transparent painting. As long as the light can shine through the painting, then it’s considered a transparent painting.
This effect is not difficult to create – you only need to use a translucent type of paint over a clear medium, such as glass, acrylic (plastic), or even over a polymer medium.
As you layer the paint over the clear surface, all the different layers of paint will be able to show, and the negative space will allow the light to shine through, adding a translucent quality to the painting.
The key to success is to first create a sketch of your composition on a separate piece of paper. This will help you to plan the placement of your opaque and transparent areas. Once you have your sketch, you can begin painting on your chosen medium.
Since each medium will demand different materials and techniques, let’s take a look at how to make transparent paintings on glass, acrylic sheets, and using a polymer medium below.
How To Make Transparent Paintings On Glass
Glass has been used for hundreds of years to create beautiful works of art. Painting glass to create a transparent effect has been an art for hundreds of years, as indicated by the stained-glass decor in ancient cathedrals!
Let’s take a look at how to create a transparent painting using glass. Here’s what you’ll need:
The Right Paint
When painting glass, the best type of paint to use is enamel paint. Enamel paint is specifically designed for use on glass and other non-porous surfaces. It is made with a durable resin that helps it adhere well to glass and resist chipping and peeling.
Enamel paint also dries to a hard, glossy finish that is easy to clean and maintain. You also have a wide range of options in terms of finishes, as enamel paint comes with a glossy finish and even a frosted glass finish to add a bit more interest to your transparent painting.
Fluid acrylic paint is another option that can help you create a stained glass look on glass surfaces. The paint can be applied directly to the glass, and the colors will flow and blend together to create a beautiful, cohesive design.
Fluid acrylic offers the same color quality and durability as regular acrylic paint, but it has a much thinner consistency, which makes the paint more translucent compared to regular high-viscosity acrylic paint.
To add an extra level of interest, you can use multiple colors of fluid acrylic paint and apply them in layers. The finished product will have the look of stained glass without the need for expensive materials or complicated techniques.
If you don’t have fluid acrylic, you can also use regular acrylic paint with a flow medium to thin the paint and make it easier to apply over a clear surface.
Water-based glass paint can also be used in place of fluid acrylics to create a similar stained glass effect.
The most challenging aspect of glass painting is achieving consistent, even coverage. Synthetic paint brushes tend to leave behind streaked brushstrokes, which can work well for designs that have a rustic feel.
However, if you want to create a smooth coverage over the glass, it’s better to use brushes with natural bristles. If you want to create large, even washes across a surface, you can also use applicator sponges to apply the paint.
Whatever tools you use, make sure you have a wide variety of shapes and sizes that will work with your designs. Large, flat brushes are great for applying large washes of paint, while fine brushes work great for smaller details.
Other Tools And Materials
Other tools and materials you will need to create a transparent painting over glass:
- A glass sheet in the size that you want the final painting will be
- Washi tape to seal areas that you don’t want to paint
- A microfiber cloth and rubbing alcohol
- Optional: A sketch of your painting
Step 1: Clean your glass
Wear latex gloves while cleaning the glass to prevent your fingerprints and oil from transferring to the glass.
Wash the glass thoroughly with soap and water and dry it with a microfiber cloth. Use rubbing alcohol to remove any dirt and oil residue on the glass surface.
This step will allow the glass to be pristine, which allows the paint to adhere well to the surface without creating any unwanted textures.
Step 2: Tape
If you want to create a ‘frame’ around the glass, you can use tape to seal off any areas that you don’t want to paint.
Step 3: Paint
If you have a sketch of your painting, you can lay the sketch underneath the clear glass to follow the outline while painting.
Then, you can start using your paint of choice to build up the layers of paint, starting from the base coat and large washes and ending with the finest details. Whatever areas you don’t paint, the light will be able to shine through to enhance the translucent effects.
Since the colors are very translucent, we suggest starting with lighter colors first and then adding the darker colors on top because lighter colors won’t be able to stand out on top of a dark background.
If you want to build up several layers of paint, make sure to wait for the first layer to dry before moving on. Depending on the type of paint, the drying process can take up to 24 hours.
We want the paint to have a translucent quality, so using just two or three layers of paint is enough to create a beautiful artwork with depth and layers while still letting the light go through the glass.
Step 4: Cure
Let the paint cure completely, which may take a few days.
For acrylic paint, you can also cure the paint by baking the glass. Allow the paint to dry for about a day, then bake the glass in the oven at 350°F for about 30 minutes. Let it cool inside the oven for another hour to prevent any drastic temperature change, and your artwork will be ready!
Step 5: Display
You can now display your translucent artwork! We suggest putting it against a source of light, like a window or a light, to showcase the depth of the colors and the quality of the paint.
How To Make Transparent Paintings Using Acrylic Sheets
Painting on acrylic sheets is a great way to create transparent artwork. Acrylic sheets are more affordable and more available than glass, and they are more durable and easier to cut and shape as well.
You will need:
- Acrylic glass paint or flow acrylic paint
- Paint brushes (natural or synthetic bristles, depending on your preference)
- Applicator sponge
- An acrylic sheet, cut to size
- Washi tape
- A microfiber cloth
- Rubbing alcohol
- Optional: A sketch of your painting.
Step 1: Clean the acrylic sheet
Wash the acrylic sheet with soap and water to remove any dirt or grimes on the surface. Dry the acrylic sheet with a microfiber cloth.
Step 2: Tape
Use washi tape to cover all of the areas that you don’t want to paint.
If you have a sketch of your artwork, you can also tape it to the back of the clear glass to secure it in place. You will still be able to see the design underneath the acrylic sheet, making it easy to follow.
Step 3: Clean
After the last step, your acrylic sheets will probably have some fingerprints on the surface. Use rubbing alcohol and a cotton ball to wipe the surface clean.
After cleaning the surface for painting, make sure not to touch the surface again, or you will leave fingerprints on it. You can wear latex gloves when painting to avoid this issue.
Step 4: Paint
Similar to painting glass, start applying your paint to the acrylic surface. You can begin with large background colors and apply lighter colors first.
If you are applying more than one layer of paint, make sure to allow the first layer to dry before applying the next layer of paint.
Step 5: Dry
Leave the paint to dry and cure completely, which can take a few days. You should not attempt to cure the paint in the oven because the high heat can melt the acrylic sheets.
Step 6: Remove tape and frame
After the paint is fully dry, you can remove all of the tapes from the acrylic sheet and display it against a light source to showcase its transparent qualities!
How To Make Transparent Paintings Using Polymer Medium
The last way to make a transparent painting is by using a polymer medium, where you create a polymer film base for your colors to hang on to using a polymer gloss medium. This way, your painting won’t really have a base medium, only a thin film that allows the light to shine through.
With this method, you will have a very thin, clear base, which will really highlight the paint quality. However, it will take a few tries to be able to create a sturdy base for the paint because the polymer medium can only form a very light and thin layer.
You will need:
- Polymer medium, which is often used to create glazes, can work quite effectively as a film base for paint.
- A plastic sheet to work as a base to create your polymer film
- Fluid acrylic paints
- Paint brushes
- A sketch of your painting
- Rubbing alcohol
- A microfiber cloth
Step 1: Clean
Wash the plastic sheet using soap and water to remove any dirt and grimes on the surface. Then, dry the plastic using a microfiber towel.
Step 2: Secure the frame to the plastic sheet
Tape the frame to the plastic sheet to secure it. Make sure to tape all the way around the frame to prevent it from slipping. The size of the frame will be the final size of the transparent painting.
Make sure not to use tape inside the frame itself because that’s where we will create the polymer film.
Step 3: Wipe the plastic sheet
Wipe the inside of the frame using rubbing alcohol to remove any fingerprints and oil from the surface to get it ready for painting.
Step 4: Apply the polymer medium to the plastic sheet
Apply a liberal amount of polymer medium to the plastic sheet, covering the entire area inside the frame. Make sure to tough the polymer medium to the frame so that the clear film will be secure to the frame, making it easy to remove.
You should also use a thick coat, which will also make it easier to peel off the plastic sheet later on.
Allow the polymer medium to cure completely for 24 hours.
Step 5: Remove the film from the plastic sheet
After the polymer medium is completely cured, you will see a plastic film forming inside the frame. This is the translucent base that you can use for your translucent painting!
Carefully peel off the tape and remove the frame and film from the plastic sheet, making sure that the film doesn’t break in this process. If you have ever peeled a paint strip from a smooth surface, you will find this step super satisfying!
Step 6: Paint
Lay the frame on top of your sketch to guide the painting process. Now that you have a clear base, you can use fluid acrylic to paint over the polymer film, similar to painting glass and acrylic sheets!
Fluid acrylic is the most suitable type of paint for this method because it works well over a polymer medium. Fluid acrylic is a very thin, flowy type of paint that can have a translucent quality, so it’s perfect for letting light shine through.
Step 7: Dry
Allow the paint to dry completely, which can take a few days. After the paint is dry, you can display the frame over a window to see its translucent quality!