How to Paint Mixed Media Mason Jars

how to paint mixed media mason jars

When you look for tutorials on how to paint mason jars, you will find many simple techniques that produce lovely results. This technique, however, takes it to the next level by turning the mason jar into your own personal canvas where you create a unique work of art. I like to use a combination of paint and collage to create an abstract canvas look. The supplies are simple and the project can be completed in an afternoon. Let’s get started!

Gather Your Supplies

  • Mason jars
  • A few of your favorite paint colors plus black and white (I’ve used: DecoArt paints in Ultramarine Blue, Fiery Red, Sizzling Pink, Sea Aqua, Royal Fuchsia, Sour Apple, Purple Pizzazz, Lamp Black and Snow White)
  • Paint markers (I’ve used Decocolor markers in Peppermint, Light Green, White and Lamp Black)
  • Colorful tissue paper
  • Foam brushes (variety of sizes, preferably one for each color of paint)
  • Mod Podge (matte)
  • Plastic container or palette for paint
  • Small container (for Mod Podge)
  • Newspaper or craft paper (to cover work surface)

Optional:

mason jars project supplies

Step One: Paint a Base Coat on Your Mason Jar

Paint a simple base coat of gesso or white paint on all your jars before you apply your paint. This will allow your colors to really pop and look more vibrant. Using a medium foam brush, paint a light layer of white paint onto the surface of your jar. You might notice streaks and some separation of the paint on this layer--that’s ok. Let this layer dry (about 10-15 minutes) and apply a second coat. The second layer will look much better with a smoother consistency and allow you to have a nice primed surface to build up layers later on.

white ball jar

If you’d like to use the lid, I would recommend not painting the grooves at the top of the jar--just paint up to the lower lip of the jar before the grooves (see example below, the jar on the right).

painted white jars To avoid getting paint on the grooves, you can apply masking or painters tape just above the bottom lip of the jar (example on the right). This is helpful if you want to use the lid again.

Step Two: Paint Your First Layer of Color

There is no wrong or right way to choose your colors for this layer. As this is just the first layer, most of it will be covered up by the end, so it’s ok if it doesn’t look perfect. There are a lot of variations on how to paint mason jars, and one way is to begin by painting splotches or patches of color around the jar.

painted similar colors idea Painting with similar colors allows you to blend them together and avoid getting brown or muddy colors.

You can start with just the “cool” colors in your palette (blues, greens, purples) then when that is dry, you can fill in the rest of the spaces with the ‘warm” colors (reds, oranges, yellows, pinks). This way, you avoid muddying your colors by mixing the opposites like red and green, for example.

finger painting collage technique

Some colors such as Ultramarine blue or the neon colors are a little transparent and may require a second layer to get a brighter look. I like to use my fingers at this point, too, to help spread the paint around, as the brush can sometime cause streaks. Using your finger can help smooth out the paint for a more even look.

Step Three: Build Up a Second Layer with Marks and Patterns

You can practice beforehand on a piece of paper to get a feel for how much paint you need as well as discovering how many different marks can be made with just one simple foam brush! Use too little paint and you will get lighter marks, too much and you will get heavy splotches--but these marks can also be used in your design, as it adds variation and interest so that all the marks don’t look the same!

foam brushes supplies Experiment with your brush to get an array of marks! Try turning it on it’s side, or even dipping the wood handle point into the paint to make dots.

When the first layer dries, add marks and patterns with your smallest foam brush (it is helpful to have a different brush for each color, so that you don’t have to wash it between colors and so that colors don’t mix).

painted contrasting color idea
Once the first layer is dry, go in with a contrasting color to make your design stand out.

layered paint technique

Try overlapping various marks--dashes, dots, lines, criss-crosses, X’s, etc., to get a nice layered look.

painted extra layers tips

Several layers in...Make sure to let each layer dry before going in with the next color. I use the darkest color, black, sparingly.

Try to choose opposite colors (dark vs light, warm vs cool, etc) when making your marks over already painted areas. For example, try neon pink dots over an aqua or blue area, or bright green dashes over red). You can also use found textures such as bubble wrap or scrunched up plastic wrap to get interesting textures.

painted texture ideas Found or recycled objects make great texture tools! This crumpled up plastic wrap dipped in white paint makes a nice, mottled texture.

Step Four: Add More Interest with Drips and/or Detailed Designs

You can use the paint markers to add drips, finer details and other designs.

mixed media mason jar designs

IMPORTANT: Before you begin, you’ll want to make sure you are in a well-ventilated area (by an open window with a fan or outdoors, if possible, as the Decocolor paint pens contain Xylene and have a strong odor). Start by shaking your pen and pressing down on a scrap sheet of paper to get the paint to flow to the tip. With your jar laying down, press the pen to the surface so that the tip goes back into the pen--this will allow a small pool of paint to gather on the surface of the jar.

paint pens supplies

When you have a small pool of paint, you can lift up the jar so that the paint drips down the side. You can repeat this a few times in various areas with the different colors. You can also draw designs or other marks with the pens. Just be sure to wait until the paint pen layer is dry before going over it with another color.

DIY paint dots

Adding little dots with the green marker.

paint designs

A variety of smaller marks and designs can be added on top of previously painted layers.

paint design ideas Continue playing with contrast--light marks over dark areas, opposite colors over each other, etc.

Step Five: Create Colorful Tissue Collage Paper

This can be done in between waiting for paint layers to dry or as a way to use up any leftover paint at the end of a painting session. Take a few strips of tissue paper (tear or cut into about 4” to 6” pieces.

collage painted tissue paper

Start by making a few simple marks with different colors on each paper. Opposite colors work best to create more contrast--red on blue, light colors on dark, etc.

painted tissue paper ideas Allow colors to dry in between to build up a variety of colorful marks.

Try using opposite colors of paint on the different colors of tissue paper to create more contrast. Some colors will show up better on others (darker paints show up better on lighter colored paper, etc)--this part takes a little experimentation. But I found that the neon colors showed up best on white tissue. Also, be careful not to use too much paint, as the tissue is very thin and the paint can leak through causing the tissue to stick to your surface! You can also quickly make a few marks with the paint pens as well.

painted tissue paper designs

Step Six: Add a Collage Paper Layer to Your Jar

When the tissue paper has dried, rip pieces off to add to your jar. I like to use long, rectangular strips and square-ish shapes.

collage paper

Be sure to rip the straight edges off so that there isn’t a harsh edge when you glue your paper onto the jar. This will allow the paper layer to blend with the background a little better. You can use a foam brush for this step, but I find it best to use your fingertips for better control. Once you’ve selected the collage paper, you’ll want to rub a good amount of Mod Podge onto the surface of the mason jar where you want the paper to go.

mod podge collage Add the Mod Podge then a small collage piece--be sure that the area of glue is larger than the collage piece.

Make sure this area is a little larger than your piece of tissue paper--it’s ok if it isn’t all covered by the paper, the Mod Podge will dry clear. Place your paper on top of the glue and then smooth another layer of glue over the top to press out any air bubbles or extra glue underneath the paper.

mod podge tips Rubbing another layer of Mod Podge over the top helps to seal in the paper and press out any air bubbles underneath as well as smooth out any wrinkles or bumps.

You may notice that a little bit of the color of the tissue paper will bleed into the color of the glue--this is ok, as it doesn’t tend to discolor the surrounding area much after it is dry. You want to be careful not to add too much glue, as the tissue paper will rip (too little glue will also have this problem! It might take a little getting used to the right amount). Again, it’s ok if it does, as you can always add more layers when dry. You’ll want to move around the mason jar and add little bits of collage here and there to add contrast or brighten up the overall design. You can even use collage to cover up any “mistakes” or areas that you aren’t too happy with. I like to think of this step as painting with paper. It’s a great way to move colors around so they feel more balanced or to add any colors that might be needed. Let any previous layers of tissue paper dry before adding any more on top.

Step Seven: Finishing Touches

Once the layers have dried, you can always go around and add more paint marks to blend in some of the collaged areas or even add marks and drips with the paint pen again. When you are satisfied with your design, you can give the mason jar one last coat of Mod Podge with the foam brush over the entire surface of the mason jar (except the grooves if you plan to use the lid). You can also use a spray varnish to seal it all in.

ribbon embellishment

Wrapping ribbon or twine or other material around the lid of the jar.

You can wrap twine, ribbon, or fabric around the top of the jar (or bottom of lid) to add an extra decorative touch. (Each ribbon I used was about 1 ¼ yard or about 45 inches long which was enough to wrap around several times with room to tie a double knot and trim the edges) Add a bit of hot glue with a glue gun onto the jar and wrap ribbon around the edge. Or you can just wrap the ribbon tight and tie in a knot to secure.

art supplies storage

Wrapping ribbon around the rim of the jar--these jars make great storage for art supplies!

stamps storage

painted mason jars project

Variations: You can limit your paint colors and go with a more monochromatic look (using only shades of one color), or try mixing the paints with glazing medium to get a drippier consistency and translucent look, or try splatter painting! You can also use painters tape to create striped patterns, paint over the jar as usual and then remove the tape to reveal the glass underneath.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to how to paint mason jars! Whatever you can imagine, it can be done. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial and I hope it has inspired you to create some unique, fun, and colorful works of art!