How to Color Light Bulbs

17 03 2010

How to Color Light BulbsColored light bulbs add a warm glow to any room. While tinted light bulbs in primary colors are available at certain hardware or discount stores, why not experiment with your own creativity and color light bulbs yourself? You can select unique colors and coat a set of bulbs, or you can add beautiful and interesting designs. Light bulbs with hand-painted patterns or scenes make perfect, one-of-a-kind gifts for friends and family.

You Will Need:

  • Clear glass light bulbs.
  • Glass paint.
  • Paint brushes in various sizes (synthetic or natural brushes can be used).
  • A palette or small cups for holding the paints while you work.
  • Protective gloves.


  1. Select clear, unused bulbs for your project. While you may use white or tinted bulbs, transparent glass will permit the colors of the paint to show through to their best effect.
  2. Purchase specialized glass paint, such as the dishwasher and oven safe paints used for coloring ceramics, from a craft supply store. Oil and acrylic paints should not be used for light bulb painting, as they will not stand up to the heat of a lighted lamp.
  3. Glass paint must be applied to a clean, dust-free surface. Clean each light bulb using rubbing alcohol or glass cleaner; allow the bulbs to dry before painting.
  4. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for preparing and applying glass paint. This type of paint does not take long to dry once it is applied to a glass surface, so make sure you have everything you need close at hand. If possible, use a table clamp to hold the base of your light bulb for ease of handling as you paint.
  5. Spread newspaper to protect the surface of your work area.
  6. Once you have all your supplies assembled, you can begin painting. Use small dollops of paint to prevent it from drying out. Working in small sections, create swirls, blocks of color, or floral patterns – anything you can imagine. You can mix glass paints to make new colors, if you like. If you choose to paint a scene, color the background first and allow it to dry, then add the elements of your scene in layers.
  7. Allow the painted bulbs to air-dry for 30 minutes to an hour.
  8. Clean your brushes right away using soap and water.
  9. Place the colored bulbs into an unheated oven. Follow the instructions included with the paints for preheating the oven and baking the painted bulbs. Baking permits the colors to set before using the bulbs in your lighting fixtures.

Note: Clear holiday lights can also be painted using glass paint. Remove each bulb on a string of lights from its socket, taking care not to damage the fine wire contacts, before you begin painting. Because holiday lights do not get as hot as incandescent bulbs, you can use an air-drying glass paint rather than baking the bulbs in the oven. Use very small amounts of paint for each bulb, and do not paint the base of the bulbs where they fit into the sockets. Once the bulbs are dry, replace them on the wires and test the string of lights to be sure all bulbs are working before use.

Safety Precautions

  1. Always wear gloves while handling light bulbs to prevent injury in case of breakage.
  2. Use a light touch with your paint brushes to avoid breaking the bulbs as you work.
  3. Handle heated glass with caution. It is best to allow the bulbs to cool inside the oven before removing them.
  4. Inspect bulbs for damage before placing them in an oven. Do not use bulbs that are cracked or discolored, as they may break when heated.
  5. Never place light bulbs into a preheated oven; put the bulbs into a cold oven, then preheat to allow the bulbs to come to temperature.
  6. Only glass paint should be used for painting light bulbs. Other paints may cause a fire hazard or release harmful fumes if they are heated.
  7. Always use the correct bulbs for your lighting fixtures. Using a wattage that is too strong for a particular lamp can cause a fire.

Decorating Tips

  • Use stencils to create colorful patterns on clear light bulbs.
  • Replace ordinary light bulbs with colored bulbs in soft hues to set the mood for a romantic evening.
  • Use soft, soothing pastel tones to color bulbs for your baby’s nursery.
  • Decorate your child’s room with bold, bright, colorful bulbs.
  • Make your next barbecue or outdoor party even more festive with colored lighting. Replace your regular outdoor bulbs with multi-colored bulbs (be sure to use the correct bulbs for your outdoor lighting fixtures).
  • Create custom holiday decorations by coloring indoor or outdoor mini-lights with hand-mixed hues. Conventional light bulbs painted with holiday scenes or festive designs make unique and colorful ornaments to decorate your home.

Designing your own hand-painted light bulbs is a fun and easy way to express your creative side. Dress up any room in your house with the warmth of colored lighting. For the best results, be sure to follow all instructions included with your glass paints, and always exercise caution while handling light bulbs.

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