Create your own whimsical garden art

Want to create a whimsical look for your garden or yard? Paint the panes of an old window and create the magic of a secret garden. Read on for my instructions and tips for this fun and (pretty) easy project. 

  • a window with a wooden frame
  • sand paper, if needed
  • exterior primer
  • exterior paint
  • window cleaner (like Windex)
  • 1.5" paint brush to paint the window frame (and mineral spirits to clean the brush and your hands)
  • paint brushes for artwork (at least one should be a flat brush with a minimum width of 0.5")
  • acrylic paints (avoid white)
  • painter's tape
  • clear, acrylic varnish spray (like Krylon)
  • a cup of water and a couple paper towels for cleaning and dabbing brushes between colors 

1. Start with an old window with a wood frame. We recently renovated our bathroom and were lucky enough to have lovely, old windows to save for this exact purpose. 

2. Sand as needed. I didn't do very much sanding on mine. The nice thing is that these are supposed to look "vintage." Once the window frame is prepped, apply a coat of exterior primer to the wood frame. 

3. After the primer dries, apply at least 2 coats of exterior paint. I chose a satin finish paint but anything goes. As long as you are using exterior paint, your window frame should hold up fine outdoors.

4. Wait about 48 hours for the exterior paint to dry. Once dry, you can move the window to a flat position on your craft table. 

5. Before you get to the fun part of painting on glass (nearly there!), you must clean the glass with a glass cleaner like Windex. This will save you a lot of pain while you are in the middle of the painting process. No unexpected smudges in the way of your lovely colors! 

6. As for your painting, that's totally up to you. You can use a guide if you would like. The guide method I like best is one that doesn't require any markings on the glass itself. Simply sketch your design on a large piece of paper (I used a large, flattened cardboard box). Place the window on top of your sketch and paint according to the lines you see through the glass.

7. After your painting is done, apply at least 2 coats of a clear acrylic varnish (like Krylon brand) to the painted surface. Use painter's tape to cover the wood frame and avoid a gloss coat over the wood surface. Make sure to spray outdoors or in a very well-ventilated area. Cover your mouth with either a mask or some sort of bandana or cloth to avoid breathing the fumes. This coating will ensure that the acrylic paints will hold up outdoors. I would still recommend bringing your window indoors during the winter. 

8. Once the acrylic varnish dries, you are ready to display your artwork!


Acrylic paint: Acrylic paint dries very fast. Do not try to go back and repaint something that has already dried. Things will get very frustrating very fast! If you do encounter this situation, as I did when I first started, you can just use water on a cloth to wipe away the entire section of paint and start over. 

Opaque colors: White or black paint is going to be nearly opaque. If you want the light to shine through your entire window, do not use white or black. When I wanted a little more definition, as seen in the edges of the leaves, I just waited for the initial leaf painting to dry and then went back with the same color of green and applied another layer on the border of the artwork. 

Brushes: When you are covering a larger area, use a flat brush that is at least 0.5" wide. Detailed spots will benefit from smaller brushes.

Water: Do not use water to thin the paint. Just apply the paint as it is and then add more color when you want the color to darker/thicker on the glass. 

Artwork: Keep it simple. This is not a detailed process. Due to the quick drying time of the acrylics and the issues with using water, you shouldn't try to get too detailed. Though, if you do want more detail, you can always add to the colors after they dry. Just remember that you can always add color. Taking it away is more problematic.