Picture of How to Colour Glass Ornaments with Sharpies
glass ornament3.jpg
glass ornament.jpg
I originally saw this trick used in making tie dyed t-shirts with Sharpies and rubbing alcohol. I'm not really into tie dye shirts so I tried it out on a different medium, glass; specifically, I wanted to use this technique to paint a glass ornament for Christmas.  In this instructable I will show you how I did just that.

This instructable if my contribution to the Instructable Advent Calendar 2011

While making my ornament it occurred to me that this project demonstrates some simple principles of solution chemistry so I included a learning objective and a discussion of the science behind it so I can enter it into the Teacher Contest.
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Step 1: What you will need:

Picture of What you will need:
  • Clear glass ornament -you can get these at craft stores (or any other glass object you want to decorate)
  • Sharpies or other permanent markers
  • Rubbing alcohol (use in a well ventilated area and away from open flame)
  • A dropper/pipette and a small spray bottle
  • Newspaper or drop cloth to protect your work surface
  • (Optional) disposable gloves

Step 2: The Science

Picture of The Science
Learning objective:  By decorating a glass ornament with sharpies students will observe the properties of solutions, solubility, the precipitation of solids when a solution becomes supersaturated and at the same time they will be creating art.

Permanent markers are designed to be waterproof, which means that the ink (solute) does not dissolve in water. However it does dissolve in alcohol. The solubility of the solute in a solvent is generally due to polarity. If the polarity of the solute and solvent is the same then it will likely be soluble, so in this case the ink has the same polarity as alcohol but not water (compare image 3 and 6 above).  

When you drop or spray alcohol on ink drawn onto the glass surface the ink dissolves into the alcohol forming a solution (see image 3 above).  The solution spreads out over the surface of the glass (see image 4).  As the alcohol evaporates the concentration of solute increases and the ink begins to precipitate depositing the ink onto the glass creating interesting patterns of colour  (see image 5 above).
emahon152 months ago

Great idea! Will definitely try this out and let you know.

SparkySolar9 months ago


ChrysN (author)  SparkySolar8 months ago


donnaknight2 years ago
Nice! Much cheaper than using alcohol ink, but you get the same effect. Thanks for the great idea!
VERY pretty and so simple
MaryT8M3 years ago
This is REALLY cool.....Have you tried it on other glass items? Would love to see them IF you have. I think I may try this on a small piece of glass then fram and hang in a window
ChrysN (author)  MaryT8M3 years ago
That sounds like a great idea. I was hoping to try other things but I haven't had the time
bajablue3 years ago
So pretty!!!
ChrysN (author)  bajablue3 years ago
sunshiine3 years ago
I love this! It is so pretty. I like the colors and it looks easy to make.
ChrysN (author)  sunshiine3 years ago
Thanks, it is fairly easy to make, and fun playing with different colour combinations.
Yes, that is what makes this worthwhile. I love the water color look. I am not an artist so this is something I can accomplish. Thanks again.
lukefreddy3 years ago
thats sweet
fjordcarver3 years ago
Beautiful effect, have you tried swirling colour on the inside?
ChrysN (author)  fjordcarver3 years ago
No, the opening is a bit too small to get anything on the inside.
Curlie_4213 years ago
does it wipe off after it dries? I figure not since it's sharpie...just askin :)
ChrysN (author)  Curlie_4213 years ago
No, it won't come off unless you wipe it with alcohol.
canucksgirl3 years ago
Gorgeous. Great Job ChrysN!
ChrysN (author)  canucksgirl3 years ago
mikeasaurus3 years ago
great effect, this would look great with light shining through on your tree!
ChrysN (author)  mikeasaurus3 years ago
Yes, that would be cool. Maybe it is about time to get my Christmas tree set up and try it out.
Ninzerbean3 years ago
ChrysN (author)  Ninzerbean3 years ago
iceng3 years ago
Very Marble :-)
Robot Lover3 years ago
This is very unique! I love it!
I love the effect! Awesome!