DIY Colored Mercury Glass Candle Holders

So it seems everyone has posted DIY mercury glass projects. What could be different about mine? Well, I wanted colored mercury glass. These votive candle holders I photographed in the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe were the inspiration:

Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe Votive Candles

This is the famous church with a spiral staircase built by a mysterious man who disappeared, after building a spiral staircase that has no known means of support. It’s a popular tourist spot in Santa Fe. This photo of the chapel’s votives reminds me how much I love the rich repetition of the red and copper colors – this picture has stuck in my mind all year since March!

So, I made similar mercury glass votive holders. And I’m so excited to share this DIY with you! Because it’s super easy to make colored mercury glass, easier than I thought it would be.

How to Make Colored Mercury Glass

Here’s how you can make it yourself …

Supplies to Make Colored Mercury Glass

  • Clear glass. I used nine chunky square glass votive holders. You can use any glass as long as it has a big enough opening so you can paint the inside.
  • Krylon Looking Glass Mirror-Like spray paint. People say it’s not easy to find, and indeed I did not find it at most of my local craft and Home Depot type stores. I found it at Hobby Lobby and Ace Hardware (yeah, I forgot I bought it, and bought it twice). You can always Google it and buy it online. It’s not a bargain, but there is no substitute to get the mirrored look. Unless you do silver leafing which is also not a bargain.
  • A translucent paint made for glass painting. I used Martha Stewart Glass Paint, available at craft stores like Michaels and Joann, and Plaid Online. There are several finishes – I think the translucent and transparent finishes might work better than frosted or opaque. You want to see the Looking Glass mirror paint through this colored paint. I chose the Transparent Liquid Fill in Thai Hibiscus color. Michaels had finished samples of the paints, and the transparent liquid fill had the even, sheer look I wanted.  This is not the only translucent paint for glass. There is also Pebeo Vitrea 160 sold at Dick Blick. There are likely other paints too. Any translucent paint used for making stained glass might work.
  • Water in a spray bottle. Some people use vinegar and water. I used only water. I didn’t want the risk of vinegar eating away at the first layer of colored paint. Plus you don’t need the vinegar to get the mottled effect in the Looking Glass paint. When people are using vinegar, they’re usually spraying the water/vinegar after the Looking Glass paint has dried and then they remove paint. If you spray only water before spraying the Looking Glass paint, the two don’t mix, sort of like “oil and water,” and you get a similar effect. You can use either technique. Here I use the “water only” way.
  • Tape and paper to protect the outside of your glass.

Supplies to Make Colored Mercury Glass

Tutorial for DIY Colored Mercury Glass

Because this is the first time I’ve done this project and used glass paint, I did one glass candleholder first to make sure it worked. Like a test sample. I got the look I wanted, so then I did all the rest at once in a little assembly line:

Making Mercury Glass with Krylon Looking Glass Paint

STEP 1: Paint a layer of the translucent Martha Stewart Glass Paint (or Pebeo Vitrea 160, whatever you use) all over the inside of the glass. The Martha Stewart paint can be squeezed directly from the bottle so I did not use a brush. Let the glass paint dry completely before Step 2.

Martha Stewart Paint for Glass in Thai Hibiscus

My paint’s directions say it should dry in an hour. But it took about 18 hours! I think I put it on a bit heavy. My paint was definitely thicker and darker than the sample at Michaels. See here a heavier and lighter application – I got better at this over time:

Glass Paint Applied Too Heavy

I squeezed the paint along the rim of the glass and then tapped the glass on the counter every which way, to get the paint to run down evenly. It’s thick paint so it runs slowly and it tended to stop before getting to the bottom. I don’t want to bang the glass too hard on a granite countertop! I tried brushing the paint on but that looked smeared. Obviously I’m not an expert at this step. If you’ve used this paint and got a good even thin result, please leave comments for readers here! All I know is, this paint did work to make colored mercury glass, but I struggled with it a bit.

Doesn’t it look like Vampire Craft Night on True Blood?

Fill Paint for Glass by Martha Stewart

You betcha! It looked more like a Halloween DIY than Christmas!

STEP 2: It’s really important to wait until your paint is dry before this step. Some people have reported that their wet paint melted and slid down the sides of the glass. It can also smoke and stink if it’s wet.

To permanently set the glass paint, you need to bake it. Follow the instructions for your paint. The Martha Stewart paint calls for baking the glass in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Let the glass cool before the next steps.

Martha Stewart Glass Paint After Baking to Cure It

STEP 3: Cover the outside of your glass with tape and paper. You can use blue or green painter’s tape. I used Scotch gift wrap tape because it was already nearby.

STEP 4: Do whatever you like to do to protect your surroundings from paint spray. I usually put small objects in a cardboard box, and I spray paint in our sunroom which can be closed off from the rest of our house and has a bazillion windows for ventilation. You will need ventilation because the Looking Glass spray paint is stinky!

Assembly Line for Krylon Looking Glass Paint

STEP 5: Shake the Krylon Looking Glass paint can. Shake it real good! Then spritz a light sprinkling of water on the inside of your glass. Then spray a light layer of Looking Glass paint inside your glass. It’s okay to spray light – the rich layered look comes from multiple light layers of paint. Let the paint dry. It dries quickly, in a few minutes. (Okay that’s four steps but if they were all listed separate you’d see so many steps you’d never do this project!)

Antique Mercury Glass with Krylon Looking Glass Paint

One Coat of Krylon Looking Glass Paint

STEP 6: Same as Step 5 – shake your spray paint can, spritz a light spray of water, then spray a light layer of Looking Glass paint. Let it dry.

Two Coats of Looking Glass Paint

This is what my glass looks like lit after two coats of Looking Glass:

Colored Mercury Glass DIY

OPTIONAL STEP 7: Take a peek at the outside of your glass. If you like how it looks, you are done! Or you can spray a third layer of the Looking Glass paint. You know the drill now – shake your spray paint can. Shake it real good. Spritz a light spray of water. Spray a light layer of Looking Glass paint. Let it dry.

And now, you are done! Enjoy your color mercury glass!

Here’s a few shots of my first finished “test sample” glass – I love how it turned out:

All Lit Up: Colored Mercury Glass Candle Holder

It’s really hard to capture in a photo, but the glass has a luminescent sheen, almost like a bottle of nail polish:

Luminescent Sheen on DIY Colored Mercury Glass

A Few Tips

  • The Looking Glass paint is thin and runny. Some will likely puddle on the inside bottom of your glass. This is fine, doesn’t hurt anything.
  • Some DIYers dab paper towel or sponge to “pop bubbles” where the Looking Glass paint met the water drops. I didn’t do this. I guess you could. As far as I could tell, I didn’t get bubbles or anything to pop. And, from peeking at the outside, I could see the look I wanted happening so I figured, why mess with it. The water droplets dried when the paint dried.
  • Votive candles turn into a puddle of liquid when they burn, and this could ruin candleholders that are painted on the inside. So even though I painted votive holders, I use only tealight candles or the fake battery-powered candles in these. If you’re painting a big candleholder like a hurricane and you’re using big pillar candles, pillar candles do not liquify so they’re okay. But they can drip and you can protect the inside of your hurricane by setting a small candle dish in the bottom of your hurricane. If your pillar candle drips, the dish should capture the dripping wax.

Extra Credit

For something a little extra, I added a “bauble” on the votive holders, to add the dark metallic look from the Loretto Chapel inspiration photo:

Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe Votive Candles

What I really like about these Loretto Chapel votives is the combo of the red with the dark metal. So I added filigree pendants found in Michaels jewelry supply area, by gluing them on one side of the votive holders:

Jewelry Pendant Added to Votive Holder

Here’s a row of red mercury glass votive holders on our fireplace mantle:

Row of Mercury Glass Votive Holders on Fireplace Mantel

Color Mercury Glass: How to Make It

Love them!! Perfect for Christmas decorating!

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14 Replies to “DIY Colored Mercury Glass Candle Holders”

  1. Hopped over from the Sunday Showcase party… what a great tutorial you’ve written! Very thorough. And the glass is so cool! I see lots of tutorials for mercury glass but never colored mercury glass. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi, thank you so much! I know, I decided to figure this out because there isn’t much out there about how to make color mercury glass. You have some great tips and DIYs on your site too! Deb

  2. can we use real candles? i am wanting to do this for wedding decorations and want to use real candles

    1. Hi Chanell, yes you can use real candles. Just don’t let the candles evaporate completely and burn all the way down to the bottom of the glass, because if flame comes in direct contact with paint, that’s not a good thing. Just blow the flame out before the candles disappear. Votive candles liquify so they can disappear a little faster. Thank you!

  3. Absolutely beautiful, I love the addition of the bauble! I intend to make these
    part of my holiday table this year! A thought about the paint, you might try
    Pebeo vitro 160 paint thinned with Pebeo Vitrea 160 gloss medium on your
    next project. Thinning it makes easier to work with and the colors are
    vibrantly translucent for a really rich finish. Also I’ve seen this done using
    the outside of the glass with the same results making finished items a bit
    more user friendly. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Ronda, so much for this suggestion! I got some Pebeo Vitro 160 paint and gloss medium yesterday, and will try this and post about the effect it makes. I also like the idea of putting the paints on the outside of the glass. Having worked in a burn unit many years ago, I’m big on fire prevention. Thank you! Deb

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