How to Make Vinyl On Ceramic & Glass Very, Very Permanent!
Updated: Jun 23
I paint wine glasses, because it's fun and to make room in my house to keeping creating crafts I sell them on Etsy but have horrible handwriting, and I wanted a way to leverage my Cricut Vinyl with my Enamel painting. Now I have two choices, spend a lot of time designing for both, and do the Vinyl last, and how it really is truly permanent, or find a way to Vinyl first and paint second. So I did an experiment using Cricut Permanent Vinyl on a mug I already had thinking, I've got nothing to lose but time! I then posted my findings in a Facebook group and I got a lot of questions on how to do this so here are the answers, I hope you find it helpful!
Here was my problem: I needed a way to personalize gifts neatly and cleanly, that looks fabulous, and also would be very long lasting (ie: permanent) for resale on my Etsy shop so I would not risk bad reviews, or return merchandise. There are a number of Vinyls marked permanent, the one I used was Cricut Permanent Holographic Vinyl. I've read the reviews and most everyone raves about it, but a few have written that the thinner lines will eventually peel. Not surprising given how little glue is actually left once you cut it this thin. As a small shop owner I simply can't risk it.
Here was my test solution: I paint on Wine glasses all the time, I bake them to set the paint per the instructions and they really do seem to bond to the glass like glue. And three brands (will be listed below) that I use have a 'clear medium' version which I use to double coat all of my sellable items, just for that little bit of extra protection, and also a bit of shine too as the mediums are glossy. In researching what little I could find on the subject the information was a few years old, mentioned the vinyl cracking under the heat, shrinking, etc. Oh no, I can't have that. So I had to test it first, on something I had not spent hours on. I grabbed this already pretty red mug and decided to turn it into a Valentines gift, by adding a Vinyl design. This is a store bought mug, Ceramic, done with sublimation ink, like many mugs you can pick up at Walmart, the Dollar Store, Amazon, etc. And this is why I am so excited about this technique, I can start from scratch, paint and add vinyl, I can buy something with a nice pattern and simply add painting and vinyl to it. The possibilities are now far great for my love of mixing mediums and providing a beautiful product!
Steps: (Active time 30 minutes, Baking time 30 min
Find a mug or glass, (not sure about stainless, that is a another experiment I have NOT done yet)
Create a design & cut it out using Cricut, Sihlouette, Cameo, etc. I use Cricut, and here is this design ready for you to use if you have Access membership: click here.
Cut your design out on your Permanent Vinyl (if you need steps on how to do this check out Cricut's free tutorials here).
Wash your mug/glass, then dry it throughly, then wipe it again with Rubbing Alcohol and try not to touch the area you will be applying your design to.
Apply your design to the center of the mug/glass, never apply where someone would drink from it or the bottom of it (read below for more about safety), make sure it is completely adhered. Tip: to make sure your vinyl is level on a glass you can fill it with some water and set it on a level surface. To adhere vinyl on a rounded surface cut the transfer tape close to the design, in-between every 3rd letter cut 1/4 inch to allow some flexibility, I find pressing the middle first helps. You can google for various methods, there are a ton of video's on this topic!
Take your Clear Medium and a small paint brush (softest. bristles you can find!), paint over the vinyl thickly. (I almost goop it on, it will dry clear. & raised). and just past the vinyl to cover the vinyl and create a seal. You do not need to paint the entire mug, just cover the vinyl! Folk Art required one hour minimum drying time before baking.
Bake your mug/glass following the manufactuers instructions, I use Plaid Folk Art Enamels and Multi Use Paints (for glass), so for me I placed the mug on a tray (I covered mine with aluminum foil just incase the sublimation printing decided to melt, which was unlikely as Sublimation is a 400 degree process), Folkart states bake for 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and wait for it to cool before removing your mug/glass so that it does not crack from extreme temperature change. (I do cheat all the time by cracking open the oven for a few seconds, then waiting a few minutes and doing that again, then after a bit I'll even open/close the door to fan out the heat, because I'm impatient that way). Enjoy your totally dishwasher safe homemade craft!
Safety: Important information based on the Facebook questions
Anytime you a working with chemicals of any kind, research safety information first! Especially crafts used for food. Most enamel paints are not food rated (I do think Pebeo has a ceramic paint that is, I have not used it yet). For this reason you will find most crafters leave a 1/2 to 3/4 inch clean rim on their designs from the lip of mugs, glasses, etc. And when painting on a plate they will use clear glass and paint the underside, so you still see the design without having to worry about the paint coming into contact with food!
If you apply paint to the bottom of your mug or glass bake it upside down so you don't have to worry about it ever sticking to the tray you have it sitting on. If it is a mug that is already sublimated I would recommend using aluminum foil just incase. That said, sublimation printing is done at a much higher temperature, usually around 400 degrees where the ink is absorbed into the coating itself, and that's why it lasts a long time.
Another Clear Coat Option: Resin is one option you can use to clear coat your designs, it requires more equipment and time, but has an added benefit that you can find resin rated for food consumption, such as Stone Coat's Resin which is used to make countertops. Even here I would not personally use Resin on the entire mug or cup, I'd still leave the rim clean, that way, should in 10 years or so they realize they were wrong about it's safety I've got a clear conscious! With Resin you would want a cup turner as the cup must turn during the drying process which can take around an hour for quick coating to a day for regular. Given I'm only covering a small amount, I never create for children, only adults, so I don't have to worry about them licking the side of the cup, at least I'd hope not, I won't be needing to use it on these. Resin also has some health side effects you will want to check into, ventilation is really required and some individuals are more susceptible to the fumes than others. Auntie Kay has a blog about her use and illness as a result of not taking the precautions, and while I do use resin on paintings, lazy susan pours, etc. I do so using the right safety equipment.
What are some food safe clear coat options? Experts say Shellac spray, Polyurethane when fully curled for 30 days, some brands of Resin. I'm still not crazy about using paint on the inside of anything I'm eating from, shellac or not!
Always Paint on the outside even when you want it to look like you painted the inside! Here's an example where I paint flowers in reverse (paint the tips, then the yellow, then the petals, then the outer leaves - Folk Art paint). If this were a plate I'd paint the bottom side. You get the idea!
Materials list & some more tips that may help: (link to my Amazon shopping list, yes it is an affiliated link, please don't feel like you have to use it but it helps to see the products then google them for the best price! If that's Amazon great but not always!). Also on my shopping list are items you don't need for this project but would for others, it all depends on how much you love painting on glass!
Enamel Paints: There are a number of enamel paints on the market, I've used two that I really, really love, water based, easy clean up, able to mix colors, even mix together, and wear really well, click on the names for product links:
FolkArt by Plaid: used for the flower glass above, it gives the look of acrylic painting, there is a trick to painting on glass, it's not canvass or paper, nothing wants to stick to it, so you need to paint light, lay down the paint, OR you paint one coat and then a second. If you want I can do a tutorial in the future on it showing you some different methods, just comment below!
Pebeo Vitrail 160: see below for an example, these paints give a stained glass effect, have versions that are frosted and shimmering plus they have enamel writers that can create an edge making it easier to drop in and allow the Vitrail paint to level within the area.
Both brands off a 'clear medium' that you can use to coat.
DecoArt Glass Markers: clear or frost depending on which one's you purchase and are similar to Pebeo stained glass effect.
Household Rubbing Alcohol (some blogs mention 99% rubbing alcohol, I've used my household for a year and never had an issue, when it runs out I'll buy the other, I'm just not wasteful).
Paint brushes: honestly any small brush that is not losing bristles will do for coating purposes, for finer art you would want a soft bristly brush, I've read that Squirrel hair brush is the best for glass, but I have used everything from a $1 brush to a $25 brush, and gotten the same result on glass. Glass is not porous, it's not canvass, and I'm not trying to do a special technique. I would say a simple small inexpensive set is all you need, one is included in the amazon link below and works fine.
Vinyl (Permanent Vinyl) & Transfer Tape (you can use Cricuts, another brand, I've even used Contact paper, and a way to create & cut out your design.
Things you have around the house: Water, something to hold the water, paper towels or rags to clean your brush, a cookie tray, aluminum foil to cover the tray, your time and an oven (some use a large toaster oven that heats to 350 degrees not wanting to mix fumes from baking the enamel, I don't, I just use the oven self clean setting after as I bake mine in batches, I have not had much in the way of fumes either, far less than Resin really).
What if I can't find a Red Mug? Then paint one, two coats of Red, let dry for 15 minutes in-between coats, Cardinal is a very pretty shade, and a sponge cut into a shape (Amazon and Walmart have lot's of them) and stamp on yellow, let that dry, remember to not paint near the top edge. I would then add my Vinyl, and I would then coat in Clear medium the entire mug, wait one hour and bake it.
Enjoy making the World just a bit more Beautiful by adding your crafts to it!