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So, You Want to Paint Holiday Windows?

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

How to Make Temporary Window Designs With Washable Paint

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!

Necessary Materials

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!

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.

Artist paint brush set for window painters.

Artist paint brush set for window painters.

Artist's Brushes

The brushes used for window painting are soft with bristles that leave fine strokes. Window painters use a variety of paintbrushes 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-inch common paint brushes
  • 2 2-inch sable brushes for filling in color
Scroll to Continue

Read More From Holidappy

Painting Windows

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.

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 storefront.

It's your art, test it out!

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

Use a couple of drops of dishwashing 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

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.

A reindeer team.

A reindeer team.

Painting Reindeer

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.

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

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

Holiday Wreaths

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

Ann T on April 23, 2020:

Thanks for all the info!

How do you wash it all off when the season is over? Is it easy to clean?

rita on December 05, 2018:

I keep trying to paint windows with tempera and the paint just flakes off. I live in Ny and I think it could be the climate. Someone suggested Acrylic paint. would you agree? It may be challenging to remove.

Elaine on December 04, 2018:

How much would you charge to decorate a 5’ x 5’ window? With couple a snowman

Christina on November 24, 2018:

How do I keep the Tempra paint from flaking?

Mary Beth Myers on October 27, 2018:

Thank you....good info

Charmayne on October 22, 2018:

I'm interested in painting seasonal art on my livingroom window using tempora paint but because of weather my creations will be painted inside showing to passerbys.To make the picture pop do you have any suggestions? Any video I've seen it's all painted from the outside

Heather on October 05, 2018:

I've moved from Boston to Las Vegas and am missing the cold weather. I think a holiday scene will do the trick to make it feel more like the holidays this year. How easy is the clean up. I will use poster paints. Thanks

How is the best way to acquire old unused windows for painting on? on April 15, 2018:

I am interested in painting windows to

Sell during the holidays. Where is a good place to old windows?

Ana on March 23, 2018:

Thank you for all this information!

Can I ask you, how much do you charge? I mean, is there a difference if the drawing is elaborated, or does the season has something to do whit it, is it related to the number of windows...

How do you calculate the prices?

Diana on December 11, 2017:

I love to celebrate my passion for season changinging imagery, so i draw a bunch of pics of all a season has to offer and then create a window covered illistration that highlights some things to create a big illustrated scene to enjoy......I have had however an unexpected sweaty window glass this winter though and my paint has ever so slightly shown melting in places of variable spots ....(cold outside - heated inside..single paned windows.)

Any advice?

Nicole on November 27, 2017:

I am painting a holiday window at home. We have a large picture window. I am painting on the inside because we live in Fairbanks, Ak, so painting on the outside of the window isn't doable. What can I do do that our holiday painted window is more visible for passerbys? It looks great inside but not quite so easy to see from infront of the house.

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on November 26, 2017:

Tempera does not mix well with anything. Follow the directions I gave the commenter above with the polyurethane and acrylics. Let your paint dry completely before adding the next coat or layer. Charge what you feel your talent is worth. $20 + a panel is not unreasonable if the painting is super detailed. Happy holidays!! ❤

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on November 26, 2017:

If that is the only paint you can get in your area switch up to the acrylic. You'll need a white polyurethane base coat first. Draw out your scene. Fill in large areas with the base paint and leave fine lines open where your design changes so you can define your images for detailing with the acrylic colors. Allow the base coat to dry for several hours.

The acrylic works best in areas that attract a lot of moisture and humidity.

Adrienne on November 25, 2017:

Hey so I was wanting to bring back the holiday cheer with painting fun scenes that made me smile when I would see them on Windows as a kid. I also live to draw paint ect. But I was wondering what a price guide would be . I don't want to over charge ...I was thinking banners two windows 90degree angle a word like joy and a character Rudolph a present with a puppy comong out what have you and charging 80 would that be fees able what have you charged for say per character per window of course depending on size and detail ......

Oh and I'm in Colorado so it gets pretty cold out here will tempura paint be good to use with possibly a indoor outdoor white base mixed in?

Bianca on November 02, 2017:

I am painting Windows this year. The only temper paint I can find is thin and jelly looking. What can I do to thicken it.

Lisa Fowles on September 19, 2017:

Thanks for the tips. Next question how do you price your windows? Do you go back and remove the drawings after. And best way to remove the paint.

Lynn on September 08, 2017:

I live in Vancouver bc. I'm a beginner. It rains all the time here. What type of paints should I use on the outside windows that I don't have to scrape off later. And what should I charge for doing it

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on September 23, 2016:

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 on September 22, 2016:

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?

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on August 31, 2015:

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!

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on March 16, 2015:

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 on March 09, 2015:

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

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on March 02, 2015:

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 on February 22, 2015:

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.

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on November 15, 2014:

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 on November 12, 2014:

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.

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on March 12, 2014:

@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 on March 12, 2014:

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?

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on December 18, 2013:

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

Mommie-Moola on December 18, 2013:

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

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on December 04, 2013:

@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 on December 03, 2013:

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

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on November 20, 2013:

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

chocochipchip on November 20, 2013:

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

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on November 18, 2013:

@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! =)

TanjaCrouch on November 18, 2013:

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?

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on November 18, 2013:

@DLeighAlexander: Thank you! Merry Christmas to you as well! =)

DLeighAlexander on November 18, 2013:

Very nice! Merry Christmas to you.

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on November 18, 2013:

@RoadMonkey: Paint your designs on the interior side of the glass. That technique is highlighted in The Essential Window Painting Guide.You need to be aware of the window "sweating" though. If it does, than acrylic or latex would be the way to decorated. They are a rubbery paint medium that won't melt off the window like tempera might with a moist glass surface. There are tips for making your Tempera water proof in my book, too. Clean off is the same, but would take a bit more time and effort. Thank you for your visit today!

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on November 18, 2013:

@BarbaraCasey: It only takes one painting to get you hooked! Stencils are a great way to trace out design images to fill in with paint if you cannot draw. Designs and letters are included in the document when you download The Essential Window Painting Guide. Thank you for your visit! =)

BarbaraCasey on November 18, 2013:

Wow. Just wow. Hmmm... I have sliding glass doors for the first time in many years. Stencils, huh?

RoadMonkey on November 18, 2013:

I love seeing the shop windows painted for Christmas and never thought about doing it for myself. Maybe an idea to try - though, as I live in Northern Ireland, I need to find paint that WILL stand up to rain but also clean off easily after Christmas.

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on November 14, 2013:

@lanerlue: I bet your windows freeze over. I would try doing a painting backwards where you live. Start with the outlines and work your way in. This way you don't have to deal with the snow or cold and neither does your paint. Removal is tricky with this project so make sure you tape off the area and use a drop cloth.

lanerlue on November 13, 2013:

@MBurgess: I live in the Black Hills of South Dakota and it does get pretty cold. Last year I bought the special Rich Art Window Paint, and it worked great. But, it is so expensive and there aren't a lot of colors to choose from.

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on November 12, 2013:

@lanerlue: What I can recommend you can find in my book. The paint tips are written in detail there. What kind of climate do you live in? That makes a huge difference. Some people do use household latex to do windows, but it is a royal pain to remove. Paint flakes for me if the temperatures are too cold or the paint is really old or the wrong kind. I love the Blick Art Tempera as it has never let me down.

lanerlue on November 12, 2013:

I am looking for a nice vibrant paint that is thick enough not to require several coats and does not flake off. Will the tempera paint you recommend do all of this?

Do I need to add anything to the paint to make it stick better to the window? Some other sites recommend adding dish soap so the paint doesn't flake off the window. Do you ever have this problem?

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on October 24, 2013:

@kepezzo: That is a really good age to start out. Let her practice on your sliding glass doors! =)

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on October 24, 2013:

@sousababy: It has taken me years to paint like this. I love the versitility of glass. It can be anything you want it to be. Thanks for your comments! =)

kepezzo on October 24, 2013:

Will show to my 8yrs old daughter...she will go crazy....thnx for ideas.

sousababy on October 24, 2013:

I admire artists who can paint on various surfaces - it's harder than it looks.

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on October 06, 2013:

@kira-spellman: Thank you, Kira! I hope that you do find your holiday painter self and join me on this fun hobby. If you have any questions, message me. I would be glad to help!

kira-spellman on October 06, 2013:

What a gift that you have given to share so many tricks of the trade for the sheer joy of sharing! Every year I tell myself "I'm going to start doing this" and I don't know that I will get to Christmas decorate in time as I need time to practice and gather supplies. There is time to start practicing for other holidays of the year, though! Thank you so very much for re-inspiring the artist in me! I love what you do! It is beautiful!

Maria Burgess (author) from Las Vegas, Nevada on September 10, 2013:

@NatureFan LM: You are welcome! If you do decide to use the directions, let me know what you painted! =) Thanks for the visit and comment =)