Crafts: Faux Tortiseshell Painting

Natural tortiseshell is a beautiful unique look that anyone can learn to paint.

Natural Tortoiseshell is a beautiful unique look that anyone can learn to paint using a few easy steps and techniques.

First you will need to determine what you wish to embellish. There is a wide variety of glassware you can choose from. You can also easily paint on plastic or wooden boxes also to create a special jewelry box or vanity display. Inexpensive recycled glass and plastic can be purchased at thrift stores and yard sales as well.

When looking for a piece to buy, focus on the shape of the glass overlooking the existing color of the item. If the shape is pleasing to your purposes check it carefully for chips, deep nicks or scratches.

Consider using old decanter bottles, cocktail glasses interesting jars, vases or even Christmas ornaments. Picture frames and candle stick holders (or the candles themselves) also make fabulous gifts. Clear glass plates look especially nice and can be displayed to pick up the natural light of the room or spotlighted with uplights to create a interesting focal point.

When thinking of how you will use your decoration after it is made, keep in mind that most painted surfaces should not come into contact with food unless the paint is non-toxic. If you plan on eating on your creation it is a good idea to paint on the back side of the piece and avoid the lip of plates or drinking glasses.

Faux painting on glass or other objects require minimal tools or preparations. You will need:

Mineral Spirits (to clean your tools)

Glass Paints

#2 Brush

Foundation piece

Polyurethane varnish spray (to seal)

For demonstration purposes we will give steps in creating a faux finished tortoiseshell plate. For this project you will also need: Glass paint in brown yellow and burnt umber, 2 eye droppers and a bowl the same circumference as your plate.


Start with a very clean, clear, glass plate. Paint the back of the plate with the yellow paint and allow it to dry thoroughly.


Fill a small bowl with water and fill each eye dropper, one with brown paint and one with burnt umber. Using both eye droppers, drop paint in the water in a marbled pattern. The drops can merge slightly.


Put your plate over the water at an angle and gently roll the plate away from you. The paint will adhere to the back to your plate picking up a unique pattern that can never be duplicated exactly. If you want a more splattered effect you can squirt the paints over the water into smaller drops. Let the plate dry and follow this step once more.


You can highlight the painting technique using a fine brush and the yellow paint to create the final look that you want. Let dry 24 hours. To prevent scratches lightly coat with a polyurethane spray sealer. Avoid spraying a heavy coat of sealer, using two lighter coats is better.

Experiment with other colors of tortoiseshell too. Keep the base color a lighter tone than the other two and choose complimenting paints.

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