How to Make Paint for Glass from Reusche Pigments

I love Reusche pigments...Although the palette is not extensive, the colors are rich and vibrant and fuse directly onto glass. As pigments, the Reusche powders can be mixed with any medium--water, oils, and any material that would burn off cleanly in the kiln.

One really easy medium to use is Propylene Glycol, a type of alcohol that dissolves both in oil and in water. It's non-toxic, and spreads with a consistency of maple syrup. Here's a really simple method of creating your own glass paint using Reusche pigments and Propylene Glycol:

Set up your mixing area first. You'll need:

  1. A sheet of clean plastic, rubber, or coated paper to cover your workspace
  2. Your protective mask: These pigments are in the form of really, really fine powder that becomes airborne with the slightest movement. You don't want to inhale this.
  3. A measuring spoon, size dependent on the quantity of paint you want to make.
  4. A palette knife to even off the top of the measuring spoon and later for stirring.
  5. A small container that preferably has a pour spout.
  6. Your choice of airtight container in which to store your mixed paint (If you don't have one, check out our Storganizer jars).
  7. A clean, dry eyedropper (optional)
  8. Your partially-opened container of ONE COLOR of Reusche pigment.
  9. Propylene Glycol

The basic recipe that I've developed is simple:
Mix one part Reusche pigment to one part (by volume) Propylene Glycol.
I suggest starting out with a smallish quantity, like a teaspoon of each. That way, you can test this mixture to see if it works for you, and adjust as you see fit. Then you can mix larger amounts.Just make sure you run the knife across the top of the measuring spoon so that you get an exact measure. Put the measured pigment into your container and add the same measure of Propylene Glycol.

Stir very thoroughly, like for 2-3 minutes. Wipe off the knife on the inside edge of the container to save every drop.

The next step is: Screw on the cap, put the container aside, and wait a couple of days. What will happen during this time is that the useable paint will settle out and the excess propylene glycol will rise to the top. (While you're waiting, you can try rescuing any spilled pigment). Wipe down your tools and work area with a damp cloth so that it's completely clean, and you can move on to mixing another color if you want.

After a couple of days, carefully open the container and remove the excess Propylene Glycol, which will look once again like a clear liquid floating atop the colored paint. You can pour it off, but I've found that using an eyedropper allows you to more accurately remove the clear liquid without losing any of the colored liquid.

Now that you have your paint, make sure that you have a nice matte surface to your glass that will receive the colors you paint on. Here is a little sample piece that I did that allows you to see how bright the colors are before fusing. They will retain this brightness and develop a polished surface if fused exposed to the air of the kiln. They also spread nicely on the 36-grit matte surface that I made with our Matte-Making Kit.

Before you run off to play, here are several things to keep in mind:

  1. The manufacturer recommends that the ideal fusing range for these pigments is 1140 to 1400 degrees F, which is below a full fuse, with 1200 to 1250 degrees being a good target to start with. Once pushed higher, or heated longer, than the recommended range, the colors might not turn out as you wish. So experiment first! One strategy might be to do the full fusing of your glass first and then paint the surface and fuse again at the target temps for the paints. Remember that these are cadmium and lead-free.
  2. When you're planning your painting and kiln schedule, keep in mind that the Propylene Glycol takes longer to dry than water, so allow about 24 hours drying time (more or less depending on ambient humidity) if you want your piece to be dry before it goes into the kiln. I fused the above piece wet and it turned out well, so you might want to experiment with that and see if it works for you.
  3. These colors might interact with one another to produce reactions that you hadn't planned. This is due to their chemical composition, and if you're familiar with the reactions involved in combining various colors of Bullseye glass, you'll understand. Again, do test pieces first before you commit to investing lots of pigment in a large piece.
  4. You don't have to work with paints that are this thick. Feel free to experiment with not removing the excess Proplyene Glycol, or even thinning your mixture more to "stretch" these pigments, some of which are pretty expensive. Be sure to work on a test piece first to ensure that you have adequate coverage and color saturation.

I will be addressing some of these temperature and reaction considerations in a future blog. Meanwhile, have fun!

And if you have any suggestions for ways to mix, apply, and fuse Reusche pigments, please let me know and I'll add them to a future blog post!