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Feeling Crafty? Make Your Own Marbleized Ornaments

A step-by-step guide on how to make your own elegant additions to the Christmas tree, and avoid expensive manufactured ornaments.

This past holiday season, I set out to look for new decorations for my Christmas tree.

My living room was newly decorated with items from Thailand, accented with warm blues, greens, and browns. I hoped to find ornaments that would compliment the color additions to my home.

Unfortunately, most of the holiday decorations were bright green, red, and white, and none of them matched my decor. I eventually discovered a glass ornament stand on the upper-level of the mall filled with a spectrum of swirling tones in warm rich colors. I selected a few that I loved the most and checked the price tags - $35 each! Disappointed but not defeated, I sought out a less expensive way to decorate my tree and still keep a sophisticated look.

Using a little bit of research and experimentation, I learned to create beautiful marbleized ornaments similar to what I saw in the store, but for substantially less money.

What You Will Need:

  • Acrylic Paint
  • Glass Craft Ornaments
  • Vinegar
  • Plastic Cups
  • Nail Polish Remover

Optional Items:
Glue, glitter, ribbons, and other items to accent your ornaments.

Go Shopping

Choose your acrylic paint colors. The inexpensive tubes work wonderfully. Choose two to three contrasting colors. For extra sparkle, get the metallic colors. I have had success with red/white, green/red/gold, and teal/blue/bronze. This year, I chose metallic teal, pink and white paints and made a set of ornaments as a gift for a friend.

Purchase large or medium sized glass (clear) craft ornaments sold in packs of four to six. Avoid the tiny ones; they do not mix as well. Pick out ribbons for hanging your ornaments and other accent pieces as desired.

In addition, buy vinegar, plastic cups, and nail polish remover.

Prepare Your Bulb

First, cutting ventilation holes into the sides of a plastic cop. The holes should be just large enough to let air through and positioned so that paint will not drip out. You will use this cup later to drain and dry your ornament.  You may also use it to steady your ornament as you add paint.

Second, prepare your ornament. Carefully remove the metal top. Handle the top of the bulb with care, in case the glass near the lip may be sharp or chipped (this is not typical). Remove any manufacturing residue from the bulb by rinsing the inside with one part vinegar and three parts water.  Do a second rinse with water alone to remove any vinegar odor. Dry the bulb using your plastic cup. Make sure the lip faces down allowing the water to drip out.

Adding Color

After your ornament has thoroughly dried, shake each paint tube well before opening. Acrylic paint that has sat too long will be watery if not mixed.

Allow the paint to slowly stream down the side of the bulb. Add just enough so that the paint easily reaches the bottom. Continue to add streams of color around the ornament until you have traveled around the bulb. Usually four to six streams of paint will do.  For a more abstract effect, drop all your color straight down into the center of the bulb. I prefer the former technique, but either way, you will get a dazzling effect.

After you have added the paint to your ornament, you will still have areas of the bulb that have not been painted. Some paint will also have pooled at the bottom of the bulb. Coat the inside of the ornament by turning the bulb around.

After the bulb is coated, place the ornament face down so that the excess paint can drip down into the cup below. Make sure that bulb is positioned so that the paint does not drip out of the ventilation holes. This process will take anywhere from twenty to forty minutes depending on the amount of paint in the bulb.

Blending Your Colors and Drying

After you have removed the extra paint from the bulb, the drying process begins. Most of the blending and swirling of colors happens during the drying process. For bold vertical streaks, let the bulb continue to dry upside-down. This method is the fastest and requires the least amount of maintenance.

If you prefer a more blended or swirling effect, turn the bulb on its side and allow it to sit for several hours at a time before rotating it anywhere from 45 to 180 degrees.  Use the tray the bulb came in to hold it place. Each time you turn the bulb, the colors will mix and swirl more. To achieve a more drastic blend of colors, you can continue rotating the bulb every few hours over the next two days.

Once you have finished swirling your paint, turn the bulb back upside down in the drying cup and let it dry the rest of the way. The paint will continue to blend a bit as it dries. Drying takes between 48 and 72 hours. Wait for your ornament to dry fully before storing it upright. If used when wet, paint will pool at the bottom of the bulb and leave a spot.

Assembly

Once your ornament is dry, clean dripped paint from the outside of the ornament using nail-polish remover.  Restore the top of the ornament, and add a ribbon through the top to use as a hanger.

Optional Additions

Now that you have finished painting your ornament, you may embellish it as desired. I have had success hot gluing ribbon around the outside of metal cap on the ornament. (I would not do this while it is still on the ornament. The heat may break the glass.)

You can also swirl paint or glitter around the outside of the bulb to create another dimension to your ornament.

Even on a budget, everyone should have a little bit of style in their holiday décor.

Written by Lisa Tiess

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