Make a Black Mirror




Introduction: Make a Black Mirror

About: I'm a dual International Studies/Japanese student at the University of Iowa, and I am a bit of a neo-victorian.

Black mirrors are a fabulously dramatic statement in any room of the house, but for some reason are very difficult to find. As it turns out, however, they are quite easy to make.

For your black mirror, you will need:

1) A relatively dry and warm day
2) A pane of glass (I myself have only ever done this with glass; perspex/plexiglass might work as well, as it has a very similar reflectivity, but is much more easily scratched); I got mine from a cheap Wal-Mart picture frame.
3) A piece of backing (felt, cardboard, etc) the exact size of the glass
4) The glossiest black paint you can find (semi-gloss is right out).  I have had success using spray-on lacquer but glossy automotive paint is supposed to be ideal.
5) Window cleaner and either paper towels or newspaper
6) A sheet of white paper at least as large as your piece of glass.

Step 1: Prepare Your Materials

You'll want to find a well-lit ventilated area; I simply went outside.

Before getting started, you'll want to clean the mirror on both sides extremely well. I find a glass clear and newspaper works the best, but microfibre cloths also work.

Once the glass is clean, set it on top of the white piece of paper (without smudging it); I used two 11x17 (ledger) sized pieces of paper to make sure I didn't accidentally spray my sidewalk. If you only have a piece of white paper about the size of the mirror, use newspaper or a dropcloth.

You'll also want to shake the spray can according to the manufacturer's instructions; for my lacquer, this took about a minute.

Step 2: Paint

You'll want to consult your can of paint for the manufacturer's instructions, but in general you'll want to spray the piece of glass from about 10" away as smoothly as possible, overlapping rows. If the first coat isn't perfect, don't worry too much: You'll need to do about 4 coats anyway.

Once the first coat is down, let it set for a few minutes before spraying another layer. You should be able to see the white paper through the glass if it isn't totally covered, as in the picture (from my first coat). In the case of my lacquer, subsequent coats covered the glass fully but seemed quite rough: this didn't make any difference to the final mirror, as far as I can tell, but your mileage may vary.

When all the coats are down, follow your manufacturer's instructions for letting it dry; mine said that it would be dry enough to handle an hour later.

Step 3: Backing

I used the glass from a cheap picture frame I got at Wal-Mart; since it already had a perfectly cut cardboard backing, I didn't feel the need to back it further.

If you use a plain sheet of glass, you'll want to glue some cardboard or felt to the back to make sure the reflective backing doesn't flake off (as you sometimes see in old mirrors). Normal PVA (Elmer's glue) should be fine for this: It's flexible, long-lasting, and dries slowly enough that you can rearrange the backing piece before it dries if need be.

Step 4: All Done!

Once the paint and backing is dry, you're all done. If you used a picture frame like I did, schlep the glass into the frame and hang it up; if it's a general piece of glass, you can have a frame cut or attack mounting rings yourself.

Enjoy your new mirror!

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    2 Discussions


    9 months ago

    Black mirrors work well for photographing colorful LED projects. LEDs saturate camera sensors preventing the true color from showing up in the picture. Photographing the reflection in a black mirror captures the true color from bright illuminating light sources without saturating the camera. I like the idea of using a simple frame and hanging it on the wall when I am not using it to photograph my lighting projects.
    One comment I would like to make is that the paint should be applied to the backside of the glass, not to the front. This creates a perfect, well protected black coating when viewed from the front even if you get a little sloppy with the paint. It also makes no difference what kind of paint texture you use because texture will only seen from the back surface. I imagine you could even use latex wall paint applied with a brush and the results will still be perfect!

    Thanks for the project. I'm off to buy a picture frame...


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Interesting, I didn't know this. For cleaning glass, white vinegar is a very good option.