D-I-Y Mercury Glass - the real story!

Pin Buster!! Mercury Glass is extremely popular right now. You see it everywhere - and most places, it's not cheap. And if it is cheap - it doesn't look that great. I found a couple of great little votive holders at an after-Christmas clearance for less than $1 - now I wish I had bought more than 2!

So after reading a gazillion Pinterest and blog posts about D-I-Y Mercury Glass, I decided to give it a try. (You knew I wouldn't be able to resist, right?) As I said, there are a gazillion "how-to's" out there. Some of them look nothing like any mercury glass I've ever seen - they have a dull finish. What's up with that? Mercury glass is like a mirror, not like paint primer. And some say to spray the paint on the outside of the glass. Really? Because the can says to spray the OPPOSITE side of the surface you want to be reflective. I think that's why some of them are dull - they're painted on the wrong side.

I'm here to tell you that it's not nearly as easy as some people make it sound. Or maybe I'm just too picky. It's not easy to work with something like a vase - where you have to reach down inside it. It's easy to scratch off the paint in spots you don't want to scratch - even when you use a soft cloth. And if you let the paint dry too long, it's harder to remove. My first effort was pretty disappointing...

And while trying to do photos, I dropped it - and my favorite "real" mercury glass votive holder - on the hearth...now I really wish I had bought more than 2!!

So I started over...

The looking glass paint is very, very thin & runny. You have to be very careful not to apply too much at a time or it runs - a lot. If you don't let it dry enough, the paint rubs off too easily. If you let it dry too long, the paint is really difficult to remove. There is definitely a learning curve.

To review the pictures:
  1. I started with a clean, recycled candle jar;
  2. and applied two thin coats of looking glass paint.
  3. Once it dried, it looked like a mirror from the outside
  4. but when I held it up to light, it looked splotchy & I could see through it.
  5. Next, I spritzed it with a 1:1 vinegar/water solution & let it sit for 20-30 seconds;
  6. then rubbed it with a soft cloth, removing patches of the paint.
  7. Then I applied another coat of looking glass paint, waited 1-2 minutes;
  8. then spritzed it with the vinegar/water solution, waited 20-30 seconds, then rubbed again.

This time I was pretty pleased with the results!

I recommend practicing with some inexpensive glass from the dollar store - or an empty candle jar you've recycled. If you have something flat, like a plate or serving dish, it's much easier to learn the technique - so start with that until you get the hang of it. I worked on this decorative dish that I bought years ago but never use...

This was 100 times easier to do than the jar. The results are pretty subtle, but it made the dish much prettier.

The verdict: Pin-worthy! This is a really fun project - it just takes a little practice!

My notes:
  1. You really just have to play around with this. Following the typical instructions didn't work well for me at all with the jar - but it did work with the flat dish. 
  2. Don't spray the outside of the container unless you want a duller finish.
  3. Make sure you worked in a well-ventilated area - there are a lot of fumes.
  4. Cover your work area well - there is a lot of overspray.
  5. Using a soft cloth (I use a piece of t-shirt) works better than a paper towel to rub off the paint. 
  6. Don't be afraid of rubbing off too much paint - you can always spray on another coat & try again!


  1. Thank you for all the great tips! I've been wanting to do this forever and I finally bought the spray paint the other day at Wal-mart. So you are having to spray INSIDE the jar? I wonder how a lamp would work? And what about something that is NOT glass?

    1. Hi, Chessa! Thanks for stopping by! Yes, you do have to spray inside the container because the "mirror" effect shows up on side opposite the one that you spray. The paint can says it's to be used on clear glass. I think a glass lamp base would work as long as you can get your hand inside it to rub the paint off!


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