So, You Want to Paint Holiday Windows?

If you have ever thought about painting beautiful art on windows, this is the how-to guide you've been looking for. Painting holiday windows has been a hobby of mine for many, many years.

These painting techniques are the trade secrets I have developed over 30 years as a successful holiday artist and window painter. Colorful window dressings are especially popular around Christmas and I have a lot of fun creating them. So can you.

Learn how to paint your own windows at home with this easy-to-follow art tutorial. Using Tempera, a washable watercolor paint, you can create traditional images or designs of your own.

These painting techniques can be applied to the inside or outside of window glass for any holiday or special occasion. Discover which art supplies and tools are used. With these tips and tricks, you will be painting your holiday windows and be the envy of your neighbors!

What You'll Need

My favorite paint medium is the Student Grade Tempera by Blick Art. Yes, it is poster paint, but it is a special mixture. I have used Tempera since 1978 and it works well for me in the dry, desert climate of Southern Nevada. I have found it to be the best paint for my holiday paintings. All of the designs on this page are painted with it.

Add to your primary color pallet with a set of fluorescent paints. These vivid colors pop off the window when used as fill or highlights. A little goes a long way with these beautiful neon colors, so use sparingly!

A singing snowman painted at the bottom of a door panel.
A singing snowman painted at the bottom of a door panel. | Source

How Durable Is Tempera?

Tempera is a watercolor paint and it is very durable for painting window art. It will last a long time if it is not exposed to direct rain or a water source and is not applied too thick.

This singing snowman is painted on the lower part of a door frame. If I don't remove it, the snowman will remain bright and colorful for many months or even years. The images do get scratched here and there by people bumping into them, but overall they last a very long time. Direct sunlight will fade colorful pigments over time but your image will stay bright for the season.

Load your initial holiday Tempera paint kit with Christmas decoration colors: white, green, and red. This will get you on your way to decorating for the holidays. Add black, blue, and yellow for outlines and highlighting. These are enough colors to get you started painting basic images.

Paint Tip: Tempera keeps for the long term. Store it just like a food product, at temperatures around 70 degrees, it will last for a couple of years. Unless, of course, you use it all!

Artist paint brush set for window painters.
Artist paint brush set for window painters. | Source
Candles and poinsettias painted with fluorescent Tempera.
Candles and poinsettias painted with fluorescent Tempera. | Source

Artist's Brushes

The brushes used for window painting are soft with bristles that leave fine strokes. Window painters use a variety of paint brushes in their set of tools. These are my personal set of brushes and you can see I have had some of them a long time. They have held up well because I take care not to leave them with paint in the bristles and clean them out when I am finished with a project.

Recommended Artists Brushes:

  • 1 large lettering quill
  • 1 medium lettering quill
  • 1 fine pin striping brush
  • 1 fan brush
  • 3 2" common paint brushes
  • 2 2" sable brushes for filling in color

Paintbrush Tip: Always wash out your artist's brushes as soon as you are done painting with them. This prevents the colors from bleeding together. Designate one brush only for white paint and you will always have the bright white you need for Santa's beard! Your brush sets are an investment so care for them wisely. With the right care you will use these paint brushes for years!

Holiday Greetings

The centerpiece of every holiday window scene is its greeting. The lettering in your design will be the focal point of your painting. Cursive and plain text fonts are fun to create, but a little challenging. Decorate the plain text with holiday-related images and sparkles! Cursive lettering is pretty all on its own.

What Is Your Favorite Holiday Greeting?

  • Happy Holidays!
  • Season's Greetings!
  • Merry Christmas!
  • Bah Humbug...
  • (Other)
See results without voting

Painting Windows

Happy holidays painted on a residential window set.
Happy holidays painted on a residential window set. | Source
Happy Holidays lettering in a window painting.
Happy Holidays lettering in a window painting. | Source

The best part of painting windows for the holiday is the cheer you can share with the folks that stop to talk to you or comment on your work. The kids will love to watch you paint and they will want to help!. People of all sorts will stop to chat.

You can be politically correct and generic in your window greetings with just Happy Holidays or Season's Greetings. There are some shop owners that will want you to blatantly paint, MERRY CHRISTMAS across the store front.

It's your art, test it out!


Before you paint, prime your surface! Washing windows is part of the routine. Your paint will adhere better if the window is free of dust, dirt, and oils.

Window washing can be fun if you approach it the way Tool Girl does when she demonstrates her professional window washing techniques.

Window Washing Tip: Use a couple of drops of dish washing soap in the wash bucket. Windows come out sparkling clean and ready for paint!

How to Wash Windows Like a Pro

How to Paint a Snowman

This snowy couple will warm up the coldest winter with their cuddly hug. The painted snow pair will make it to spring without washing away! Careful they don't melt your heart! Images like this can be created easily with just a few pointers.
This snowy couple will warm up the coldest winter with their cuddly hug. The painted snow pair will make it to spring without washing away! Careful they don't melt your heart! Images like this can be created easily with just a few pointers. | Source
Painting a snowman.
Painting a snowman. | Source

Now that you know which supplies you need, it will be easy to begin painting an image. We will start with a snowman. Before you paint you need to draw the image out so you have an outline to work in.

  1. Draw the design's basic shapes. A snowman needs three stacked circles for the body and head.
  2. Draw the hat with a rectangle for the body and a thick line for the brim. Don't forget to draw a line for the hat band.
  3. Draw lines for the scarf and arms. You can use black sticks like the image or snowy arms with mittens.
  4. From here you can get your paint ready for filling in the colors. You will need white (lots of it!), black, red, and green.
  5. Now you have the outlines completed for the image. This whimsical figure can be completed quickly if you follow the window painting instructions below.

Brush Tips:

  • The body and hat of the snowman was applied with a wide paint brush. The scarf was done with about a lettering quill. The details can be applied with a liner or a pin striping brush.
  • Practice painting with Tempera until you get the feel of the paint. It may take a couple of coats to get an image solid so expect it.

Snowman Painting Instructions:

  1. Start painting with a base coat then add layers of paint for the details. Fill in the largest area with the base color. A snowman needs white paint for the first layer.
  2. Fill in the secondary base color. Apply the scarf color (whatever color you want to use!) Paint the snowman's hat.
  3. Detail the snowman. Put in the eyes, nose, and so on.
  4. Outline the white areas in blue or black and the darker areas in white.

Painting Santa

Snowman are relatively easy images, but when you decide Santa is the theme, do note that these paintings will take you a few hours to complete.

I like to paint silhouettes or cartoon images of Santa Claus, as I have trouble with faces and humans. I like to do landscapes. A tree doesn't have any facial features to mess up!

Santa does more than deliver gifts at Christmas. He can be found almost anywhere. Paint him diving down the chimney, riding a motorcycle, or lounging at the beach. His activity is only limited by your imagination. I have even painted his sled team delivering pizza! He is a very versatile subject.

Santa gets his trim on for the Holiday season by his barber elf. My Santa's always come out a little goofy, but I do paint them occasionally. This design is one I will offer a beauty salon or a barber shop.
Santa gets his trim on for the Holiday season by his barber elf. My Santa's always come out a little goofy, but I do paint them occasionally. This design is one I will offer a beauty salon or a barber shop. | Source
A reindeer team.
A reindeer team. | Source

If we are going to paint Santa Claus, we must not forget his faithful team: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixen. How about Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blitzen?

Develop a good reindeer image and crown your scene with dear ol' Rudolph! Reindeer are the most featured animals in Christmas art themes. With decorations of sleigh bells and sled harnesses, they can be painted pulling Santa's sled or they can be a solo feature in a window design. Paint a reindeer portrait with holly leaves nestled in their horns. Their big, watery, laughing eyes and soft, fuzzy faces are a neat accent to a side window next to a greeting center piece.

Holiday Wreaths

Hand-painted window art on the interior of a restaurant.
Hand-painted window art on the interior of a restaurant. | Source

Wreaths are a staple Holiday decorating design. They can be painted in leaf form, with pine needle texture, or even a using stippling brush effect. They don't always have to be green either! They are ideal for trimming doors or awkwardly spaced windows, decorated with pretty bows, pine cones, toys, or candy. Wreaths are fun to paint!

Wreaths can accent large windows and be shaped in different ways. My wreath design this year was a heart-shaped image. Showcase your Christmas tree by painting a wreath frame on your picture window. Leave your drapes parted and enjoy the lights dancing on the wreath as well as the tree itself!

Thank You for Visiting!

I am so glad you stopped by. Happy Holidays, Season's Greetings, and Merry Christmas!

© 2012 Maria Burgess

Guestbook - Comments and Review 100 comments

MBurgess profile image

MBurgess 4 weeks ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

Caroline, there is a technique which uses acrylics to ward off moisture damage. Apply a coat of polyurethane or common flat house paint to the design base. You will have to draw out the design first and fill the entire area to be painted in with this base coat. Let it dry 24 hours. Draw the design again and fill in the colors and details with acrylics. If you can reverse your design and your window interior does not "weep" or collect moisture painting on the inside is possible with tempera. I wish you much luck and water-resistant art!

Caroline 4 weeks ago

I want to do this to our windows at the school I work for, but I noticed you said they are washable paints and we live in Clearwater, so it rains whenever. Is there a different paint you would suggest for humid/rainy climates?

MBurgess profile image

MBurgess 13 months ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

It is a lot of fun once you get the basics down, Jessy. Keep trying. It took me a long time to get the details straight that I depend on for my designs. Thank you for stopping by!

Jessy Shaw 14 months ago

My husband and I are small business owners and we just bought a new property with some broken storefront windows and doors. The overall building is in great shape but the front could use some work. I have always wanted to do something like this, not only during the holidays! I think that it is such a fun idea and can definitely attract the eye of customers. I will have to try these out this holiday season!

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MBurgess 19 months ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

I use only Blick brand Tempera paints. They hold up well here. If you want to branch out into a more durable medium, a base coat of latex house paint works well with acrylic for accents and details. This generally will not flake or peel.

Nicola Gore profile image

Nicola Gore 19 months ago

can anyone tell me the best paints and markers to use. I painyed windows christmas gone but the paint kept flaking

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MBurgess 20 months ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

I will have to check that out. I am currently picking up ideas for waterproof paint and the type you recommend sounds like a great addition to the paint box. I am very lucky it is quite dry most of the time where I live so I get away with using Tempera. I appreciate your comments and your visit. Thank you!

karey the sign lady 20 months ago

i have been painting christmas windows for over 20 yrs. and watched my mom my entire life. I use liquid cel vinyl by cartoon color. It cost alote but its dry waterproof but removes with windex and a scraper with. this paint is solid coverage. you will love it.

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MBurgess 23 months ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

I am glad it was helpful! My paintings have brought me a lot of joy. Areas that are prone to weather issues do require something more sturdy than Tempura. Use a base of latex, from your local hardware store, then do the designs and details with the acrylic paints. I can use Tempura because the weather in the desert drops in temperatures without the moisture. Thank you for visiting and taking time to comment.

claudia 23 months ago

Hi..have been painting on windows as a kgn teacher and then on the thrift shop where I volunteer. Now asked to paint at Country Club and am grateful for your advice. We are in a cold mountainous area, so am concerned with tempera and snow, have only used acrylic and know that tempera has to be easier, but am concerned.

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MBurgess 2 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

@getupandgrow: (Thank you!) The process is fairly simple. You have to know my little secret --a spray misting bottle and little bit of patience. This takes about 15 minutes for a standard picture window. If you don't remove it the way I recommend it can get really messy.

Thank you for your visit and comment!

getupandgrow 2 years ago

Love this lens, and think you're amazingly talented. Just one question-does the paint come off easily once the holidays (or other occasion) are over?

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MBurgess 2 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

@Mommie-Moola: Let me know how it turns out! I would love to see your paintings. =) Thanks for visiting!

Mommie-Moola profile image

Mommie-Moola 2 years ago

Great How-to Lens - I might actually try this!

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MBurgess 2 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

@LadyCharlie: Thank you, LadyCharlie! I would love to see what you get to do after reading this! Christmas art in window painting is an absolute thrill if you love Christmas as much as I do! Appreciate you comments, lady! =)

LadyCharlie profile image

LadyCharlie 2 years ago

Wonderful lens...This is a form of Art that I hadn't thought of and I do a lot of Artwork. Thanks for sharing!

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MBurgess 2 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

@chocochipchip: Let me know how it turned out. Thanks for the visit! =)

chocochipchip profile image

chocochipchip 2 years ago

This is so fun! I love your lens! Gonna try it!

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MBurgess 2 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

@TanjaCrouch: In a climate like Southern Nevada, you start with the base paints and work your way up on the outside of the windows. In an area that may be subject to extreme cold or heavy rains and humidity, starting backwards is the best course of action to follow. Thank you for the inquiry. It helps me develop better tips. To find out more, order the guide and it is all there for you in detail. Happy Holidays! =)

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TanjaCrouch 2 years ago

I'm a little confused. Don't you paint on the inside of the glass so that you have to do the highlights first and layer up in opposite order? And how do you do that?

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    Maria Burgess (MBurgess)41 Followers
    69 Articles

    I have gleefully painted windows for a couple of decades. Learn about my technique and decorate your windows this holiday season!

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