Every year I browse through the amazing array of discounted holiday and Christmas crafts and am inspired, and every year I forget what ideas I have stored away for easy craft gifts. That is, until this year when cleaning out my crafting space I came across a bunch of unopened paints and miniature glass bulbs- and thought, what if I had larger bulbs to work with? And thus was born this simple idea.
A quick trip to the craft store is all you need to make these budget-friendly ornaments that are perfect for gift-giving to family, friends, and teachers. My young sons and I sat down and made a dozen personalized ornaments for about $12 and 1 hour’s worth of work. If you need some last-minute inspiration for a meaningful gift, this is the tutorial for you.
What You Need:
You truly don’t need much for this project. Of course, you can get even more creative and add to it, or do even less than we did. You can also use various shaped bulbs or other glass pieces to apply the same technique. My objective was to get a quick project in place that my children could do with me with very simple instructions.
Watch for these at craft stores towards the end of the holiday season to stock up while they are on clearance. You can also buy them very cheaply online in bulk and store them for when you need them. Personally, I feel the glassworks better than plastic, but if you are concerned about little fingers or accidental breakage, stick to plastic.
Colors and color choices are completely up to you, but we found that if we stuck to about 3 colors per bulb we got the best results. Use simple craft acrylic paints and mix and match matte with metallics for a fun, unique look.
- Paper Towels
Although this is not that messy of a craft, you do need to keep paper towels handy to help cover the bulb opening and to swipe up accidental drips.
- Glitter Glue/Paint
If you want to add glitter, do so with glitter glue or paint and know you may need to use a thin paintbrush to help spread it around since it will be thick. You also want to make sure it dries for a few hours before you add any other colors or the glitter may just get mixed up with the paint (we learned this by accident).
Paint pens are a great way to personalize your creations even further. They work great on glass and do not scratch free easily. Plus they dry incredibly fast.
Step 1: Remove Top
The tops of these ornaments come off easily, but be sure to do it gently and the wire is very secure and if you just squeeze and pull you may end up bending the top as it comes loose. Instead, pinch the wire and it lifts to you can pop the top off easily. Place these in a secure spot so you can find them again when you need them.
Step 2: Choose a Base Color and Add
Each ornament we made had between 3 and 5 colors, and it truly does become a bit of a trial and error to determine how well they work with one another. Thicker paints leave a bolder look that doesn’t marbleize or mix well with other paints. Metallic paints have a tendency to be thinner and will spread more easily and mix with other paints to leave behind cool effects.
What we did learn was, you can’t really screw this up. Each bulb is going to be wholly unique and even if you don’t quite like the final effect, there are a few ways to fix that with the tips I’ll provide below.
Step 3: Begin Apply Other Colors
We added paints (about a teaspoon at a time) and then twisted and turned the bulb to help spread it around. The edges of the paint will begin to combine and blend to create neat effects. If you like the clean paint edge look, only apply one color at a time and wait about 10 minutes before adding another color.
Step 4: Cover Hole and Shake
If you like the idea of blended paint edges and a marbleized look, then cover the opening of the bulb with a paper towel and shake! This helps create a full coverage and also make some neat, unexpected swirls and designs.
Step 5: Allow to Drain
You will have some excess paint inside that you will need to drain out. Leaving a bit behind is a good thing (as I’ll explain below) but you want to get the majority of paint out of the bulb to allow it to dry more quickly.
We took advantage of the plastic tray it the bulbs came in to rest them upside down to help let the paint drain. Just be aware that if the neck of the opening is up against the bottom the paint will accumulate and not drain until you lift the bulb free. If you don’t expect this you might lift too fast and create a mess (luckily we avoided this, but I had foreseen the mess!).
Step 6: Allow to Dry
Tuck some paper towel over the drained paint and secure your bulbs face up to allow them to dry. This literally may take overnight. If you are in a rush you can most definitely still personalize your bulbs while they are drying. The tops have holes in them as well to allow them to continue drying even if you are ready to package them up for gifts- just be sure to keep them upright.
Step 7: Personalize
Paint markers are awesome creations and truly are great for personalizing even smooth glass surfaces. They literally will not wipe clear unless you use a cleaning solvent and they also do not scratch easily. We were gifting these to teachers and after I personalized them with names and dates, my children wrote their own names on the back.
Step 8: Attach Top
Once you are happy with your creations, attach the tops! Simply pinch the wires back together slightly and slip them back into the neck of the ornament. The tops will snap back into place easily. Just be sure not to squeeze the top too hard as they do bend and you will have to reshape the metal.
Step 9: Enjoy!
If you used glass, be sure to secure them in a manner that will protect them. Glass bulbs are generally pretty strong, but they will break if they hit a hard surface or have too much pressure applied to them.
Don’t Like What You Did? Tips to Fix Your Creation
Occasionally your technique may not have been as pretty as you may have liked. As mentioned, different thicknesses of paints may mix in an unexpected manner. Adding glitter can also change how the paint adheres to the glass. If you don’t like what you did, you most definitely have some options to help make your bulb look pretty again. Consider these tips as you create!
- If you use glitter glue, use a paintbrush to help spread it where you want it and then allow it to dry for about 20 minutes before using acrylics over it.
- Don’t use loose glitter on its own as it will make the paint clump up. If you have loose glitter and want to use it, first paint some areas inside the bulb with glue and then add glitter and shake. Remove access and allow it to dry before adding acrylics.
- If it looks like the paint is adhering thinly to the glass due to glue, glitter, or it being a thin paint, don’t be afraid to add a little more paint to layer over those areas. If you have left a little excess paint inside you can also cover the neck and shake it up again as well. We created some neat effects by going back and doing this in a few bulbs.
- If your paint ended up blending together and creating a uniform look, and you want a more marbleized effect, have no fear! We have a solution for that as well! While the bulb is drying, simply choose which colors you want and add a few drops through the neck of the bulb and allow it to run down the inside of the bulb.
- It will mix with the drying paint and ‘bleed’ into it to add color. You can turn the bulb to help spread it out as well if you don’t just want it to run vertically. This is how we created some of the colorful ‘streaky’ effects on our bulbs.
Although this was definitely a learning experience for us, it was a project my sons enjoyed, it was fast and cheap, AND it was not messy and easy to clean up despite the amount of paint we used. Not only will your loved ones and teachers receive a homemade creation, they also will get a one of a kind ornament that will last forever.
Hopefully, this was an inspiring article that you can most definitely do even if you don’t have one creative bone in your body. As a teacher myself, I can definitely say a homemade gift is one that is always cherished.
If you enjoyed this DIY, you may want to read our article on crafts to make and sell here. If you have any questions or comments (or want to share your own creations!), please do so below!
And, as always, please share!