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topic 26616

How to make a glass mirror?

A discussion started in 2004 but continuing through 2020


Q. Hi, if you are given a piece of glass, how do you make it into a Mirror? What kind of paint do they use? Everybody tells me they use Mercury. Is there an Alternative. All I want is to make a Mirror, that's all. How and What. Can any body help?

Mr. Chris Toh
Hobbyist - Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia


A. Go to shops for some adhesive tape e.g 3M which can apply to glass surface like a surface, sometime we call it one way see through mirror.

Daryl Yeung
- Hong Kong


A. Dear sir,

Silver has to be powder coated to get a mirror.


- Chennai, Tamilnadu, India


A. See letter 9550 for more info, please, Chris. The time proven method is the Brashear process: simultaneously spraying silver nitrate and a reducing agent. After applying the silver, a black paint is put on the mirror to exclude air from reacting with it. Good luck.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

Finding equivalent to mirror effect paint (as this is not available where I am at)

August 17, 2019

Q. Hi everybody,
I'm an artist working on reverse glass painting. I am currently living in Brazil where I cannot find any mirror effect paint for glass (like a paint-on version of mirror effect Krylon or Rustoleum). Importing these (buying on amazon) is probably forbidden because it is a spray can (and calculated added costs for customs are prohibitive).

In fact there is a company from Turkey (Cadence) that makes it but will not ship internationally because freight companies do not allow. I asked what it was made of and I only learned that it has ethanol in it.

Because this doesn't seem to be a very expensive or elaborate product I am hoping to find an equivalent locally (that would be sold for other uses).

I tried a regular chrome spray but it didn't work and I didn't dare trying automotive reflective chrome paint as it is sprayed on professionally, etc. I couldn't find anyone to confirm if it would work to give a mirror effect behind glass (not on the front as it obviously does).

And because that paint is much more expensive than the one for crafts I also doubted it would be the same one.

I even tried looking for the composition of the spray aforementioned but couldn't find anything other than having acetone in them! I read as much as I could in this wonderful website+forum about mirrors but the real silvering process is not what I can do at home. I wonder if it is made with mercury flakes or similar as I imagine that real silver would be more expensive. Maybe it is just a special kind of reflective glitter? The commercial one comes in a small bottle with a nozzle (like a perfume one) that is sprayed on and seemingly dries in less than a minute.

I appreciate your help and inventiveness to help me solve this!

Irene Goldberg
Artist-also studying restoration - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

August 2019

A. Hi Irene. If you want a mirror effect behind glass, I think you want the actual silvering actual process that has been used for that for a couple of centuries, and modified by John Brashear as the Brashear process, rather than trying to formulate a paint to do a poor imitation of it.

Angel Gilding [a supporting advertiser] can give you the instructions and probably sell & send the chemicals. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

August 24, 2019

Q. Dear Mr Mooney,

I appreciate the posting of my question and your informative answer directing me to Angel Gilding. It is a great solution but because I first paint with enamel or acrylics and even do some paper collage before applying the mirror part, the "wet" part of Angel Gilding will not work for it.

I apologize for pasting links but this video gives a clear view of the product I want to use but does not exist in my country. You can see how it seems to be like a chrome-like reflective paint. If someone in the forum knew what product (used for chroming or similar) could work as this one, I may be able to recreate this.

I truly believe this is just an automotive chrome paint sprayed on. Maybe my question is simply if anyone knows if a highly-mirrored automotive chrome-colored paint could create this effect in the back of glass?

Thanks again!

The original commercial product is described as:

Mirror Effect is a unique coating that is applied to the reverse side of glass to create a fascinating reflective mirror finish only 1 one minute.

Irene Goldberg [returning]
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

October 22, 2019

A. Hello Irene,
I am sorry I did not see your question before. At Angel Gilding we sell the chemicals you need to make a mirror but the import duties in Brazil are so high that we do not often ship there.
One alternative is to buy a commercial mirror, remove the backing paint with paint stripper, and buff off the silver you do not want with extra fine pumice. You would have to plan your art work so you know just where you want the mirrored section to be first.
A final thought is to look for metallic fingernail polish and perhaps thin it with acetone. It would not be as reflective as a real mirror but it might give you the result you want.

Sarah King
angel gilding banner
supporting advertiser
Broadview Illinois USA

January 23, 2020

A. Hello Irene Goldberg!

This is sort of long because, as a glass (and other media!) artist/"maker" myself, I have several ideas that might be helpful.

For the answer kindly given by Sarah King, rather than stripping all of the paint off of a mirror, you could get some small mirrors or even broken pieces and try some blocking/stencil/"batik"-type techniques:
[1] it's my impression that dried Acrylic paints and resins are resistant to most paint thinners - so it might be an idea to try coating just the areas of mirror you want to retain, and removing the mirror from the rest;
[2] experiment using frisket/liquid rubber, masking tape, or "painter's tape" (that tape that's used to block off areas of walls/baseboards during painting, and yet low-adhesion so it doesn't strip the areas not to be painted).

If you work the paint-thinner/remover gently, in small amounts using a cotton ball or gauze pad or similar (with ALL precautions against fumes of course!), you can see whether any of those methods works for you.

Also, though, you did mention applying the mirror-effect as the last step, so here are some ideas to try on small pieces of glass to see whether they work:

[1] Try paint used on plastic airplane models and the like - I mention that because one particular brand has SUPER-shiny metallic paints. Two potential problems: it only comes in *tiny* little jars, maybe about 10 ml or so if I recall correctly; and I have no idea whether it "sticks" to glass. On the other hand, if I recall correctly (it's been many years...), it does make a good tough film, and you can most likely coat it with clear acrylic to "tie it into" the rest of the acrylic paints.
[2] Application of metallic sheet/film.

I have several things to try regarding [2].

- If you don't mind iridescence, the metal film can be peeled off of a CD, placed onto a surface, and painted over with acrylic paint or resin to give it a firm backing, and another coat to, again, tie it into the neighboring acrylic colors. Something I know works (because I just tried it out of curiosity!) is:
Score around the rim of a CD; very firmly stick a piece of tape to remove a strip from the center to the scored edge; use a thick layer of ultra-hardening Clear Nail Polish to coat the area you want to remove; when it's dry to the touch, run a rounded hobby-knife blade or rounded sharp small pocket knife slowly and smoothly across the entire edge to *gently* tease the desired section away from the plastic disk. This did stick electrostatically to the inside of a flat-sided test-jar I rubbed on the carpet to hopefully increase the charge, so I assume it also will stick to window glass. Start from one edge and gently press onto the desired section of the glass. It can then be stabilized as desired.

Even better:
Actual metal leaf should be electrostaticaly attracted to glass with enough "hold" to allow you to pour acrylic medium or resin over it "in place"/"in situ". I did get this to work on the inside of the above-mentioned test jar using 24Karat Edible Gold Leaf that I coated with a drop of that Ultra-Hard Nail Polish I mentioned above. I assume it should also work with Silver leaf sheets and Copper leaf sheets.

The reason I say to ask about "electrostatic adhesion" is that, although acrylic "size" (I don't know why they call leafing glue "size" or "sizing") can be applied to just about any surface, I don't know whether it would dry with enough clarity to suit your needs. BUT, if it will "stick" enough to stay while being coated with some liquid acrylic, you will just have the glass and the metal leaf with nothing in-between.

LASTLY (yes, there really is an end to this tome, LOL!), if you have a good Artist's Supplies shop you can get to, consider looking into whether they sell powdered metals and other gilding-related supplies. If so, they should be able to recommend an appropriate range of materials and techniques. The reason I thought of powdered metals is that they're compatible with various techniques - I've used thin suspensions of them in clear-coat applied in many thin layers to make a "3-D" type of coating. ALSO, if I remember correctly, the recommended binder for making your own "metal leafing paint" is a form of acrylic. It might even be the same thing that's used to "stick" the tiny glass reflective balls to movie screens and artwork.

OK, that's all that I could come up with.

I hope you find something that works for you! :)

Kris Krieger
just a hobbyist ;) - Houston, Texas, USA

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