Plexiglass is strong, inexpensive, and widely available which makes it perfect for many home and garden projects.
For suncatchers, plexiglass is the perfect substance that lets the light through so your garden can grow while being protected from other threats.
Or, you can use them as decorative panels that are in front of a bare light bulb.
Believe me – when combined with an acrylic sheet or stained-glass paint, they can be quite beautiful.
You can even use standard plastic, such as a soda pop bottle to paint red, hang upside down, and use it as a hummingbird feeder.
Why Paint Translucent?
The term “translucent” in painting refers to its ability to allow light to pass through when applied to the surface.
While opaque paints are more reflective, transparent or translucent paints are not.
Rather they allow more light to pass through them making it a bit easier to see through the surface (maybe not very clearly).
There are good reasons to paint your plexiglass translucent, but the most important is to allow the light to shine through.
By painting and making the plexiglass translucent you can also add a little bit of opacity for “privacy”.
Most of the time when you paint on the surface by using opaque paints it makes the surface reflective.
Painting plexiglass translucent will, however, mean that you are allowing more light to pass through them.
While you are not making them completely ‘see-through’ you will be making them a bit transparent (rather translucent) so that you can add some light to the room.
Painting Plexiglass Translucent
The fact is, when you use the right type of paint, you can decorate the plexiglass while still allowing light to shine through and illuminate what is underneath.
With that said, if you are looking to paint plexiglass translucent, you will need a plexiglass panel and the following items.
- Glass cleaner, rubbing alcohol, and a clean, soft rag
- Design template, cotton gloves, and liquid leading
- Glass paint pens, glass paints, artistic brushes, and stained-glass paints
Now you are ready to get started.
Be sure to have a good idea of what you want first before you begin.
This means preparing the design template that you want to trace to the panel.
The goal is to have a design that is illuminated by the light as it shines through.
So, let’s start with the steps you will need to follow:
Step 1 – Clean
Before you begin to paint your plexiglass be sure to prepare by properly cleaning both sides of the panel with a good glass cleaner.
Also, you will need to sand the surface a bit as the paint will be difficult to stick if the surface is extremely smooth.
For sanding, you will need to use fine-grained sandpaper slightly.
Inspect before you proceed to the next step.
Step 2 – Template
Place the panel on top of the design template.
You will need to clean the panel that is facing up with rubbing alcohol so that no fingerprints are remaining.
Be sure to wear cotton gloves so that any oils or dirt from your hands is not transferred to the panel.
Again, be sure that you are wearing cotton gloves during this process.
Step 3 – Trace
You will need to trace the design to the panel at this point. Use glass paint pens to do the job.
The paint pens contain translucent paint just like the paint that you will use, so it can be part of your design.
If you want the panel to look like stained glass which has non-translucent borders, then use liquid leading to trace the design.
Step 4 – Fill
Once the liquid leading and glass pen paints dry, you are ready to paint in the image.
Apply the glass paints using the brushes you have purchased. The painting should be quite similar to applying acrylic paints.
For a stained-glass appearance, you will need to squirt the paints between the leading lines that have fully dried.
There is no need for brushes if you are going for stained glass.
Step 5 – Dry
Let the paint fully dry to the panel.
You may bake the glass paints on the panel, but letting it dry under direct sunlight works quite well.
The heat from the sun will do the baking for you.
Once finished, you can prop up the panel and let sunlight or candlelight shine through.
You can also tint to paint several of the panels and place a single light bulb in the middle once they are set.
Can you paint plexiglass to look like stained glass?
Obviously, you can do that.
Tinted plexiglass available in the market is usually expensive and is available in a limited amount of colors.
Painting or staining the plexiglass at home is, therefore, an affordable choice.
Not only you can stain (with the color of your choice like black, blue or red) but can also dye the plexiglass for making your surface look more vibrant and beautiful.
What Kind of Paint Will Stick to Plexiglass?
You can use a variety of different paints (like frosted glass spray, fabric dye, chalkboard paint, etc) to decorate plexiglass.
However, due to its smoother surface, not all may stick very well.
Acrylic paints like spray acrylic enamels (and also that are designed for art and crafts) adhere to plexiglass very well as compared to other types of paints.
Also, most acrylic paints fall somewhere between completely opaque and completely transparent.
This means they can be a good option for making the glass or plastic surface semi-transparent.
For getting a perfect finish you can sand gently and primer the surface before applying the paint.
To paint plexiglass with acrylic paint you can use a brush or spray paint for painting plexiglass translucent.
However, for a nice smoother look (without any brush marks on the surface) I recommend using acrylic spray paint.
Shake the spray paint and start spraying acrylic paint on plexiglass from 20 to 24 inches away.
Try to spray at a 45-degree angle and make sure that you complete the section without stopping for getting good results.
After you have done painting the entire plexiglass surface let it dry for about 48 hours.
The Bottom Line
Unlike Lexan or polycarbonate, plexiglass is less costly and more scratch-resistant.
That’s the reason it’s a favorite option for windows around the world.
Although painting on frosted plexiglass or acrylic sheets may seem to be daunting, the process may become simple if you have the right preparation and steps you need to follow.
Once you are prepared with the right tools and paints, the sheets of plexiglass can turn most versatile and there’s no limit to showing your creativity while painting them.
Not only you can paint them pellucid to make your windows look semi-transparent, but also you can use them for creating amazing jewelry pieces or some high-end wedding decorations.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.