How to Paint Personalized Ornaments

Lead Image
What You'll Need
Clear glass or plastic Christmas bulbs
Acrylic paints in several colors
Container lids (optional)
Small paint brushes (optional)
A small bit of ribbon

Looking for a unique Christmas gift this season or a tasteful decoration for your tree? Consider creating your own hand-painted ornaments. They’re great for Christmas décor, and people will appreciate the fact that you spent time making something just for them. Even if you have never painted anything before, it is easy to paint these—the first ones don’t even require a paint brush!

Glass bulbs come in many sizes, shapes, and colors. I like the round, clear bulbs because the paint is easier to spread smoothly and the color is predictable. If you prefer colored bulbs, be sure to experiment with how the paint color changes—or use sparkly gold or silver to complement the color. If your gift needs to be a little more durable, consider using plastic instead of glass.


First, decide whether you are marbleizing the inside of the bulb, or painting the outside. For either type of decoration, you will need to prep the surface by cleaning it with a diluted vinegar solution. This removes any oils or film still present from the factory. For outside painting, simply wash it; for the inside, remove the hanger at the top of the bulb, rinse the inside with the vinegar solution, and turn it upside down to dry (over the carton it came in, or over an empty egg carton) overnight.

Acrylic paints dry quickly and will stain your clothes or furniture, so be sure to wear old clothing and cover your work surface with newspaper. You will also need to plan how you are going to clean the paint brushes and where you will put the paint while you are using it—empty plastic disposable containers or even clean lids from butter, sour cream, and cottage cheese containers work great as paint palettes.

Marbleized Bulbs

For these easy decorations, select three colors. Try bright primary colors for traditional bulbs, or deep/rich colors if you are going for a more Victorian era feel. Using about one teaspoon of each acrylic paint, drop the paint inside the bulb, and then cover the opening with your finger. Swirl the paint inside the ball by shaking or slowing rolling it to completely coat the inside of the bulb.

Turn the glass upside down over the carton again and let it dry overnight. When dry, put the hanger back on the bulb and tie a bow on it. Now it’s ready to hang on the tree.

Painted Designs

If you want to paint designs on the outside of the bulb, consider practicing your design first on a paper bag or other surface. Ribbons, stars, and the recipient’s name are all good, simple choices; if you are more artistic, try a Santa, reindeer, or snowflake. To add some interest, use the “wrong” end of the paintbrush. Dip it in the paint and put a few dots around your bulb. This is also a good way to make perfectly round holly berries.

Once you are comfortable with your design, paint it again onto the glass bulb. Allow each color to dry for a few minutes before adding the next color. If you make a mistake, simply wipe the wet paint off and repaint it. Allow the last paint color to dry before you replace the hanger if it was removed. Add ribbon around to top for a nice finishing touch. Now your ornament is ready for a basket display, hanging on the tree, giving as a gift, or tying onto the outside of a package.