Paint Swirl Vases

By Kate Riley April 24, 2012

Hello all, thanks for all the nice compliments on the courtyard project!  I’m going a little crazy this week coordinating all the details for our big weekend over at our Alma House charity project which starts on Friday.  There are three rooms to tackle and so much to do!  It may get a little bit slow around here this week, but I’ll have a lot of exciting things to reveal next week.

I was going through some pics yesterday and completely forgot to post this super simple DIY project.  I got asked by a few about those blue vases on the mantel so I’ll show you just how easy it was to make them.

paint swirl vases on mantel


It involves two things:  a glass vessel and some craft paint.  I ended up with a few very cool decorative vases for the mantel or placing around the house for a dose of color.

diy paint swirl vases


The vases were inspired by a kid craft project- my daughter’s Girl Scout troop made some paint swirl ornaments before the Christmas break and the idea stuck with me.  It was so unbelievably easy, it simply requires the combination of several craft paints swirled around inside of a glass vessel.



I started with some simple vases found at a craft store – look for the more sculptural ones, then stop over in the paint aisle and choose a few colors of acrylic craft paint.

craft paint


Start by adding a few drops of one color and then adding one more on top.  Begin slowly swirling it around the glass vase, adding a few drops more at a time.  You want it to go slow, that’s what ensures it will cling to the sides.  You’ll be tempted but don’t add any water at first or the paint will be too thin and won’t stick to the glass.

get paint moving


However, if you find your particular craft paint is way too thick and simply won’t move no matter what, add 1 or 2 drops of water to the bottle of craft paint and shake well.  Then try again.  Twist and turn the vessel to coax the paint towards the top.

swirl paint


Completely drain the vase of all the leftover paint, using a paper towel.

drain paint on paper towel


Make sure you fully drain them and then lay them down on their side to dry for 24 to 48 hours so the paint doesn’t drip back down with gravity.

lay on side to dry


If you don’t mind the random nature of the paint, you’re left with some inexpensive colorful accents to place around the home.  You can’t use them for fresh flowers, but branches work (be careful not to scratch the paint!) or use them to add a pop of color to your bookcase or vignette.

blue paint swirl vases on mantel


The stripes on the littlest one come from starting the paint at the top instead of the bottom.  I can see them in all sorts of fun colors or even pure white with gold metallic paint swirled all around.  Crazy easy right?

Regarding the Alma House charity project, we’re running very low on funds to pull it all together, so if you can manage it, any donation through PayPal regardless of amount will help, it’s for such a worthy cause! You can submit a donation here (or click on the button in the sidebar!)




    • Wow Erin, your version is so so beautiful! I love the colors you chose!

  1. I love this idea. I have a $1 right next to me too, this would be lots of fun to try out :)


  2. I’ve made a lot of the ornaments but never thought about vases or other clear glass accessories. Good idea! May I make a suggestion? Wash and dry the vases before using the paint, especially if they are new, to get any dust, finish products or whatever off of them first. I know it’s recommended with the glass ornaments and probably wouldn’t hurt with the vases.

  3. I love this idea! i am looking for a pain color similar to yours on the wall…if you don’t mind me asking.. What is it? Thank you!

  4. These are SO fantastic! I have got to try this! I love making things your own, with your own colour schemes! Awesome idea!

  5. Never mind about my last comment regarding paypal. It went through. Good luck!

  6. Very cool idea Kate, I love the way they turn out and that you can control the paint!

    Have I asked you where you got your fab mirror?

    ….I wanted you to know…I am featuring Anita Rivera, our Friend, Designer and Paper Artist with Castles Crowns & Cottages, & her Giveaway on my site!

    Art by Karena

    • Hi Karena, that mirror is the Casbah, found at Lamps Plus as a floor sample, so I patched it and spray painted it white and turned it on its side. Love it!

  7. I did ornaments this past Christmas and it was a blast! I definitely want to try out a larger piece next time! So beautiful

  8. Love the whole look, simple yet stylish. Can you tell me more about those chairs? Thanks! Love your site, so inspiring.

    • Hi Danielle, the chairs are the Safavieh Club chairs, found at several retailers online, shop around for the best price!

  9. Hi Kate,

    The vases look so pretty – a great way to control the color accents in your room and match them to complement what you already have. I have also found that if the vase has a large enough top, you can slip a smaller vase or bottle (old pickle bottles work well) right inside the painted vase and fill THAT with water. No one needs to know! :)

  10. We wil be moving house in a few weeks time. Cant wait to put some of these great ideas into action! Love the vases, infact I adore your site! You are an inspiration!

  11. i love how you can custom color to match your room! i forgot about this… i need to do this. i did this almost 10 years ago for our wedding .. we had a christmas tree with ornaments with gold and white swirled paint… so pretty! then everyone got to take one home :)

  12. Fabulous idea, your vases look very high end. Could they be sprayed with a sealant on the inside. If not I love what Nan’s idea was. Gotta keep this in mind…my daughter has just bought a home, after all the demo it’s all coming together and this is a great idea to do for her new home! Thanks!

  13. This might be comment 2, because I don’t see the 1st one…I love this high end look to something which appears so simple! My daughter finalized on her 1st home about 6 weeks ago. This will make a great gift for her from Mom’s heart when all the remodeling is complete and she can finally moves in!

  14. I love using this technique for holiday ornaments, but question laying the vases on their sides during the drying process. Wouldn’t the paint puddle on the bottom side? It would with the ornaments.

    • Hi Teddee, great question, I didn’t have that problem since I let all the paint drip out from the top, but that’s a good thing to watch for, yes!

  15. Fantastic tutorial and idea! Do you mind if I provide a link to it and use one of your images on my blog with a link to your post and give credit in the description? They turned out so beautifully!

  16. I love this idea. I’ve made the ornaments with my kids ages ago, I just never thought to scale them up to this size. I’ve put your photo and a link to your blog on my blog. I hope that’s OK. You have wonderful ideas thanks for sharing with all of us.

  17. These are great! I have tons of acrylic paint and have wanted some “pops” of spring color around my house. Thank you!

  18. I made one of these just today. I used some blue craft paint that I already had and added an antique gold craft paint. It is so pretty. Thank you so much for the wonderful idea.

  19. If you had used all enamels (one of yours was plain acrylic) then you could cure them in the oven, and they become dishwasher safe and safe for fresh flowers.

    • Hi Eva, it really depends on the paint. Most craft paint has some fluidity to it, but it does need to be thicker in order for it to cling.

  20. This is beautiful and simple! There are so many cheap vases to be had at Goodwill – they are now calling my name! :) Thanks for sharing.

  21. These colors are GORGEOUS!!! I have not had the best look with the drip/pour luck–so far. I know you said you can’t put water in the vases. Would you be able to if you baked the glass? I am learning about this technique. I definitely want to get better because I see how gorgeous something can be!

  22. I bought some $2 vases at Ikea and some Pebeo Vitrea paint to make this. After the vases dry they get baked in the oven. They can then be used for fresh flowers – perfect for a hostess gift. Thanks for the great idea!

  23. Hi,
    I just tried this project with acrylic paint, used black,red and beige and for some reason the black color wouldnt flow, the beige had great fluidity, the red not so bad but the black one would come in globs so i added a bit of varnish to give some fluidity without losing color or shine, it took almost an hour to cover the whole vase about 7″ tall, i might try it again as the results arent to my liking but I wanted to thank you for this blog and great ideas. Just recently found out about your blog and I’m loving it.

  24. First I have to say that I love you website I was reading the one with the vases
    you did with the paint inside. I was wondering what colors you used. They would work wonderful
    with the colors in my bedroom.

    Thank you


    • Hi Beth, I wish I still had the bottles, but I just grabbed the colors that appealed to me at the craft store, you can do the same, they have a ton and they cost about a buck each!

  25. Just a note: If you put a few drops of rubbing alcohol in it, empty, then let dry before you add the paint it sticks better :)

  26. Wondering if anyone has tried the baking method to set the paint. I have read online that baking it at 350* for a half an hour and allowing it to cool inside the oven before opening the door set the paint and made them usable for water and fresh flowers. Going to try this today, just wondering. My 9 year old daughter and I each made one last night following your instructions. They turned out amazingly. We are both excited to start hunting glass items to make more for gifts and such. Thank you.

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