Painted Wooden Christmas Ornaments




Introduction: Painted Wooden Christmas Ornaments

About: I'm C.nick

Since 2015 I've been making these painted ornaments. First for a local gallery during their Christmas season and then for my Etsy shop. They're fun, they're simple, and people really seem to enjoy them.

These little ornaments make great gifts and are low cost to make. I create portraits and in this I'll be showing you how I do it, but I believe in creative expression so I won't be breaking it down in a paint by numbers kind of way. You can paint designs, names, literally anything you can come up with on your ornament. I've also carved Celtic knots into them, so really create what you want.

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Step 1: Materials: the Wood Blank, Paint, & Ribbon

All these ornaments really consist of is a wooden shape, acrylic paint & a ribbon.

Wooden Shape:

Blank wooden shapes can be gotten from any craft store but I get mine from Michaels:

They cost ¢29 to $1 USD depending on thickness. They range from approximately 2 inches to 3 inches wide and long depending on which shape chosen.


There are shapes that are called tags and they already have a hole.

These are the most convenient but if your design needs a space other than an upright rectangle, say a circle, you can drill a hole into the wooden shape. I've used my Dremel rotary on quite a few in the past


The ribbon I too got at Michaels but once again any craft store should have it, as should Walmart (in their sewing section), and sometimes Target will have holiday themed ribbon. It's from the brand Offray and I have it in several colours.

What you need to consider with the ribbon is how wide & thick it is. What I use is thin at only 1/8 inch wide. Remember it has to fit through the little bitty hole.


I use Grumbacher Academy Acrylics, since I'm a certified Grumbacher Art Instructor who works at Michaels. They're a good quality acrylic paint that is not priced through the roof. I've found they don't dry as plasticy (that's a word... now) as other paints do and they don't dry as fast as other brands. But use what you like and you're comfortable with.

If you are using paint I suggest a varnish for protection. They come in spray cans and have different finishes available like, matte, gloss, or satin. I prefer matte for my portraits but I have used satin on other designs.

You should be able to find them at any art supply store like Blick or Michaels.


For my ornaments I use craft brushes, the brand is Craft Smart. The bristles are made of Taklon and the packs contain a variety of sizes from small to teeny tiny, very useful for detail work. I once again got them at Michaels. They cost about $8 USD and for the price they get the job done. I have no complaints with them.

This is the set I have:


Lastly, you'll need to put your paint some where and water to mix it with. The water is the easiest obtained.

Step 1. get cup you don't want to drink from ever again.

Step 2. go to tap and turn it on.

Step 3. fill cup little less than half way.

And there you go! You'll want your brushes soaked so they don't get ruined by dry acrylic paint. So keep them in water! That said, don't keep them in water for days on end because then the bristles will fall out. So wash and dry your brushes after each sitting.

As for a palette, there's a thing called palette paper:
It's a slick paper that allows you to mix paint without the paint being absorbed into the paper. It's very useful and transportable.

I use Blick's brand because you get 50 sheets to everyone else's 40 and you can get sizes up to 18 X 24!!


Other things that can be used for a cheap palette include aluminium foil, wax baking paper or plastic plates.

Materials List:

  • Wooden Shape
  • Paint
  • Ribbon
  • Palette of Some Kind
  • Brushes
  • Cup w/ Water
  • Paper Towel
  • Varnish Spray(Optional)
  • Sandpaper/Paper Towel
  • Gelly Roller Pen (Optional) – I get to this in Step 8
  • Rotary Tool/Drill (Optional)

Let's get started!

Step 2: Sanding

First things first, sand that thing so no one gets a splinter. No one being either yourself or worse the recipient.

I used damp paper towel for this, on that basis I'd say a rough cloth would work as well. And there's always sandpaper.

Step 3: Base Coat

Since wood is a porous substance we can't just get straight to painting on it. It'll just drink our paint so we have to prep it first. Sad I know, but that's life. One fourth preparing, one fourth doing, two fourths kvetching about your doing or not doing.

We rectify this absorbent quality by doing a base coat of paint. Pick a colour that's going to be the majority of the background. One layer is probably not going to cut it so we'll let the first layer dry and then add another. Paint as many layers as needed. The ornament should have a nice even solid paint film that doesn't have any soft porous spots to it.

Make sure to paint the back and sides as well.

Step 4: Snow Layer

First lighten the background by scumbling thinned down Titanium White onto the background colour. Scumbling is broken up colour over a layer of another colour. This lightens or changes the under colour but doesn't completely mask it since it can still be seen through the top layer. You can achieve this by literally scrubbing the not too wet paint over the completely dry first layer.

Once this is done add snow by finding where the background ends and the snow begins. The key to snow is to lay dabs of white over the blue leaving some blue showing. Think lumpy. And if you've covered too much blue, like I did, grab your blue paint and mix it back into the white. You'll want a shadow under your subject so concentrate your blue around the middle. Remember think form, curves, half circles and lumpy!

Step 5: Silhouette

Next I create a silhouette of the subject using black. This is done so that none of the background blue will seep into the subject. It also gives me a shadow so I can mold the light around the form and not get stuck trying to draw the shadow in. It's easier this way, trust me.

Step 6: Paint

The title of this step is self explanatory. Paint your design. Mine is a portrait of a dog named Phoebe. Names of paints used are in the image notes. Years as an oil painter dictates I paint in layers. Like nachos, yum!

  • Layer 1: Silhouette (already did that)
  • Layer 2: Shadow Colour
  • Layer 3: Local Colour* (think of this layer like sculpting, you're not drawing, you're creating form)
  • Layer 4: Highlights & Markings
  • Layer 5: Facial Features (eye, ears, nose, & mouth, anything other than that is up to you)
  • Layer 6: Detail (will get to that)

*Local colour is the colour the subject or object actually is when it's not altered by artificial lights, shadows or reflective lights in anyway. For example, a Red Delicious Apple's local colour is mid tone to dark cool red depending on the particular apple. Bright light can wash the apple's red out and low light can mute its colour. Also the apple's colour will look different when it's under cool light from when it's under warm light. Because the apple is shiny reflective light is especially apparent and can make the apple look a completely different colour, blue even for example. This has been a mini course on the influences of light & colour in painting. If you'd like to purchase this program on DVD...

Step 7: Details

I'm getting to it. Now's the time to add things like a hat, freckles & snow falling.

Making snow is fairly simple*, select a tiiiiny brush and then dot white paint all over the ornament to make snow. You can make the dots more directional for a windblown effect or have them floating neutrally in the air by making them round and staggering them.

The hat you paint by starting with red first. Shape it into a fez looking thing with a black or brown diagonal line in the centre (this is the fold of the hat). Next you paint a white trim at the base of the hat, making it appear fluffy by dabbing at it with the tip of your brush. Then you take your white again and make a fluffy ball at the bottom of the diagonal line on the outer edge of the hat. Now you have a floppy Santa hat.

Freckles or individual hair strokes should be done with the smallest brush you have. Mine is the 10/0 in the Craft Smart angular set. Freckles are dots and hair is a small stroke. For hair it's best to get the movement of the stroke going before the brush actually hits the painting surface.

*Not as simple as making yellow snow but who would want to do that.

Step 8: Name (Optional)

You can add a name to the ornament if you choose. This can be done with paint, if you're worried about spacing and legibility then you can use a white Gelly Roll pen to write on the ornament and then trace over it with paint. You could even just use the Gelly Roll pen to write out the name.

Step 9: Varnish (Optional)

This too is optional but I highly recommend it. Make sure paint is completely dry. We're using acrylic so that's usually 3 to 5 days. It all depends on humidity and how thick the paint is though.

Always use in a well ventilated area so you don't end up seeing a talking cat with a killer smile*. Spray at distance of 12” to 18”. I've sometimes seen cans that say 10” but better safe than sorry.

Ornament should be vertical. Shake the can for a few minutes first. You spray it with a slow left to right motion. One coat should do it but more can be applied. Wait at least 5 minutes but sometimes as long as 15 before applying another coat. Turn 90 degrees for next coat. Always consult and follow the directions on the can. This right here is highly flammable stuff.

Remember when in doubt, use a test surface.

*the smile's so bright the cat's practically invisible... or is he?

Step 10: Ribbon

I cut the ribbon to 10 inches or 25.4 centimetres. Then I slide it through the hole and knot it by putting both ends together, making a loop, then passing the ends through the loop and tightening. I do this twice to make one big knot that won't go through the hole.

Step 11: Hang It All

There! Now your masterpiece is ready to hang. Display it with pride in your own home or tap into your generous side and give it to a friend, co-worker, or family member (unless you want to make your family pay you, there's always that option).

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    3 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Those are adorable! That's a really nice gift idea :)


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks! I love your glowing Steampunk Vial instructable, perfect for Halloween and my general everyday decor. :)


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you :) I can't wait for Halloween, it's our favorite holiday. It's taking all my self control to not start decorating until October 1st. XD