How to Paint Ornaments

paint your own ornaments with Melissa

 The Spruce

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 hr
  • Total Time: 3 hrs
  • Yield: 1
  • Skill Level: Kid-friendly
  • Estimated Cost: $25

For the holiday season, painting holiday ornaments can be a fun activity with children, and it is easier than you think. Use whatever shades of paint you like to customize your ornaments to match your style or give as gifts during the holidays. While the green and red color palette is classic, this tutorial instead features colors that you typically won't find in store-bought decorations. You can add a medium brushstroke pattern perfect for people who adore vibrant colors, abstract prints, and vivid details. Or you can try your hand at making wooden ornaments—either is fun for the family.

Preparations

Before you begin, wrap your workspace in kraft paper, contractor's paper, or a drop cloth to protect it from any paint drips or spills. Set out all of your supplies and take the tops off of your glass or plastic ornaments. For wooden ornaments, you might need to use a hot glue gun. Make sure your gun works and that it has a glue stick.

For glass or plastic ornaments, you need to create a drying rack. Push your cake pop sticks into the craft foam. Test out the distance between each post by placing unpainted ornaments on the sticks. Make sure the ornaments do not touch. You don't want your freshly painted ornaments to bump or get ruined.

For wooden ornaments, hang some string to create a drying line. Use the line to suspend and dry your ornaments. Make sure you have kraft paper or plastic beneath the drying line to catch any drips.

Safety Considerations

When making the wooden ornaments, you will need to use a glue gun if you don't have access to a drill or don't want to use eye hooks. Wear leather or heat-resistant gloves and safety glasses or goggles when using a hot glue gun. Keep the hot glue gun away from flammable materials.

Glass or Plastic Ornaments

Glass or plastic ornaments are the most common types of ornaments you see on a Christmas tree. At Christmastime, these ornaments flood holiday-themed stores and are likely the most affordable. If children are working on this project with you, the plastic option is your best bet if you want to avoid the combination of little slippery or clumsy hands and shattering glass. However, if this is an adult project, the paint seems to adhere a little easier on glass.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Glass or Plastic Ornaments

  • Paintbrushes
  • Bowls for paint

Wooden Ornaments

  • Paintbrushes in various sizes
  • Bowls for paint
  • Electric drill (optional)
  • Hot glue gun (optional)
  • Heat-resistant gloves (optional)
  • Eye protection (optional)

Materials

Glass or Plastic Ornaments

  • Ornaments (glass or plastic)
  • Chalky-finish paint (We used The Spruce Best Home in Heartwarming, White Bead Board, Casual Sophistication, and Skydive Blue)
  • Kraft paper, contractor's paper, or canvas or plastic dropcloth
  • Cake pop sticks (for drying rack)
  • Craft foam (for drying rack)
  • String or hooks

Wooden Ornaments

  • The Spruce Best Home paint in White Bead Board
  • Kraft paper, contractor's paper, or canvas or plastic dropcloth
  • Masking tape
  • Wooden craft balls
  • String or twine
  • Screw eye hooks (optional)
  • Glue sticks for glue gun (optional)

Instructions

4:32

The DIY Ornaments Your Tree Deserves

  1. Gather Materials

    Collect your materials and work on a protected surface.

    Supplies for painting ornaments
    The Spruce / Candace Madonna
  2. Apply Your Base Coat

    Hold your ornament by its opening and begin painting your first coat. Chalky finish paint has great coverage after a single coat. Once your ornaments are painted, allow them to dry for 30 minutes to an hour. Once dry, go back and do any touchups if needed.

    What Is Chalk Paint?

    Chalky-finish paint resembles a surface covered in chalk, giving items a flat, matte-looking appearance. It is different from chalkboard paint; you can't write on it as you can with chalkboard paint. This latex-based paint cleans up with water instead of mineral spirits.

    Hands painting an ornament
    The Spruce / Candace Madonna
  3. Paint the Accent Color

    There are two parts to the pattern. The first is the underlying shade. Select one of your paint colors and begin painting dashes all around the ornament. Once finished, let it dry for about 30 minutes.

    Hands painting pattern on an ornament
    The Spruce / Candace Madonna
  4. Make a Pattern

    On top of the painted silhouette or accent dashes, go back and paint a dash in a different color on top of each one. Allow it to overlap slightly but allow the underlying color to show through.

    Painting accent pattern on ornament
    The Spruce / Candace Madonna
  5. Let the Ornaments Dry

    Insert cake pop sticks pointy side down into your craft foam to create a makeshift drying rack. Place your ornaments upside down onto the cake pop sticks. Wait a full hour to allow the ornaments to dry.

    Letting the ornaments dry on styrofoam

    The Spruce

  6. Assemble and Display

    After the ornaments have finished drying, replace the ornament caps, add some string or a hook, and display.

    Hand replacing an ornament cap
    The Spruce / Candace Madonna
    placing a painted ornament on the tree
     The Spruce

Wooden Ornaments

For fans of Scandinavian-influenced decor and minimalist aesthetics, wooden ornaments will skew closer to your taste. They're simple yet chic and look naturally stunning against the boughs of evergreen trees.

Wooden ornaments in a bowl
The Spruce / Candace Madonna 
  1. Gather Materials

    Gather all the items you'll need for creating these wooden ornaments and set them out on your workspace.

    Supplies for painting wooden ornaments
    The Spruce / Candace Madonna
  2. Select Your Pattern and Apply the Masking Tape

    Here we used a simple striped pattern, but the options are endless with masking tape. You can make stripes, scallop the edges, or cut out shapes; the list goes on. Once you've decided on a pattern, apply the tape to your wooden sphere.

    Hands applying tape to wooden sphere
    The Spruce / Candace Madonna

    Tip

    Remember that the paint will go everywhere that the tape is not. So if you want a stripe around the center, do the reverse with tape and put two strips of tape on both the top and bottom of the ornament to mark out the middle stripe.

  3. Start Painting

    Take a medium-size brush and begin painting your ornament. Start with the exposed wood and gently work your way around the tape. Be careful around the edges to avoid the paint from seeping underneath the tape.

    Hands painting a wooden ornament
    The Spruce / Candace Madonna
  4. Finish Pattern and Let Dry

    If you'd like to add a second pattern, this is a great time to do so while your other side is drying. Then, allow your ornaments to dry for an hour. If needed, go back and do a second coat or any touch-ups.

    Hands painting polkadots on wooden ornament
    The Spruce / Candace Madonna
  5. Remove the Tape

    Carefully peel off the masking tape once your ornaments are completely dry. Pulling off the tape too early can smear the paint, so check to ensure the paint isn't still tacky.

    Peeling tape off wooden ornament
    The Spruce / Candace Madonna
  6. Glue String or Drill Hooks

    A drill bit makes this part quick and easy. Drill a small hole and insert a screw eye hook. If you don't have an electric drill, you can hot glue a piece of string or twine to the top of your ornament. Tie a knot on one end, then glue the knotted end down to the top. Allow it to set and dry before lifting it by the string.

    using a drill to make a hole in the ornament
     The Spruce
  7. Decorate the Tree

    Hang your completed ornaments on the tree.

    Hands tying twine through ornament hook
    The Spruce / Candace Madonna

Other Types of Paints You Can Use

For this project, we used chalky-finish paint. It adheres well to most surfaces and has a unique, matte look. However, if you want a glossier look, most people use acrylic paint with glass or plastic balls. This painting technique is much different, requiring you to unscrew the ornament top and drizzling the paint inside the ornament using a squirt bottle. You are essentially coating the inside of the ornament with the paint color you select. This method allows your ornaments to have a shinier appearance from the outside.

Another method people like to personalize ornaments or recolor old glass or plastic ornaments is to use spray paint. It's less precise, but you can lay out an ornament on a piece of plywood or cardboard and spray a few coats (even mix different colors) for colorful effects.