Painting a Jar Tutorial

Painting a Jar Tutorial

One my goals is to help you unleash your inner artist. Creating soothes the soul and can awaken your inner passions. So many people don't believe they are creative, I challenge you to discover your hidden talents!

Unleash your inner artist

I plan on creating a series of arts and crafts tutorials to guide you to unlock your magical creative powers! This article and video tutorial mark the beginning.

Together we will paint a jar. This is a very simple project that will show you some basic art principles that you can apply to a variety of projects. For example, you can apply the same methods to other objects made of wood, metal or glass. 

Watch the video tutorial or follow the steps below!


You can use these jars to:

  • Decorate your home
  • Store crafts materials
  • Use them as plant pots, like I am for my avocado Ava who you will meet in the video

Laughing girls with painted pot


  • Jar: Choose any jar of your liking. I recommend instead of purchasing one that you up-cycle one you have lying around in the house. The jar I am using in the video is from a lentil soup for example. 
  • Gesso: Gesso will be used as the base for the paint. You can find this in any art supplies shop. You may need to thin out its consistency with a bit of water to get the best level of smoothness. 
  • Varnish: There are spray varnishes and liquid varnishes in matte or glossy finishes. I have chosen a liquid varnish with a glossy finish. Either combination will work, and they have each their pros and cons.
    • The spray is easy to apply but in the past projects, I have noticed that the result can be a bit sticky even when fully dried. It also requires a well ventilated area for it to be applied.
    • The liquid varnish will ruin your brush but sometimes I apply it with my hands and gloves making the finish even smoother. Depending on the number of layers this one may take longer to dry.
  • Acrylic Paint: My preferred painting medium is acrylic paint but you can use what you have at hand, simply make sure that it has good coverage. Cheaper acrylic paint is often thicker and can be perfect for this craft project. Consider using also markers and other pens that can be used on different surfaces, they can be handy for the details of your artwork.  
  • At least 3 brushes: Depending on the design you want to achieve you may need more paint brushes, but make sure to at least have 1 for the paint, 1 for the varnish and 1 for the gesso. The varnish and gesso brushes should ideally only be used for these purposes as they will eventually ruin your brush. I recommend wider brushes so that you have a larger coverage in one stroke. 
Let's get started


1. Apply gesso:

The purpose of applying gesso is to create texture so that the paint can adhere to it and also creating a white background so that the colours are very saturated and vibrant.

  1. Before you apply the gesso, I recommend that you verify it is not too thick. If it is too thick, water it down with a bit of water to get a pancake like consistency. The results will be a lot smoother.
  2. Select your gesso only brush and apply the first layers of gesso. Spread the paint towards the same direction to achieve a more consistent coverage. Don't worry about it being precise.
  3. After the first layer, let it dry for at least 30 mins. The times may vary depending on your surroundings, the thickness of the layer and gesso you are using. Before applying the next layer, make sure it is completely dry.
  4. Apply a second or third layer until you have full coverage. Once this is completely dry, you can start with the paint. 

 2. Painting your design

Here is where your creativity comes in place. Think about the purpose you are doing it for and let your imagination guide you to what you'll paint. This can be as simple or complex designs, the important thing is to have fun. 

For my jar, I took Ava, my avocado as inspiration. Her "home" was getting too small and because she needs a lot of water, my imagination jumped to the ocean. So I decided to make her a new beach house. From there she can enjoy the waves and the surfer boys ;)

  1. Choose your colours: 
    1. To create a beach house, I chose a sandy orange, ocean blue and white for wave accents.
    2. I also needed green for the surfer boy and a black marker for the details.
    3. When choosing your colours try to balance them out by choosing some cool (blues and purples) and some warm (red and yellows) colours. This will create a more soothing combination. 
  2. (Optional) Trace your design in pencil:
    1. If you are making a very complex design, I recommend to trace it beforehand by hand or with tracing paper. This will be a great guide to apply the colour, specially making it easier to get the design right around the curves of the jar.
  3. Adding colour: The exact steps will depend on your designs, so I will explain what I did.
    1. First I applied the orange tone to mimic sand. I cover the entire top part of the jar. It needed 2 coats for full coverage. 
    2. Once the orange was dry, I started adding blue in a curved fashion to mimic ocean waves. I applied this all around the jar without the waves needing to be exactly the same height, since also the ocean is not even.
    3. Before the blue was completely dry, I started mixing in some at the top of the waves. When paint is wet, it will still mix heavily, so it created a lighter blue. 
    4. For the bottom, I did the same by adding a dark purple to create the sense of the deep ocean. By continuing to work the light, mid-tones and dark shades, the waves end up having more depth.
    5. After it was all completely dry, I added more white to the tips of the waves. This time the colours don't mix because the paint is dry leaving the white accents to represent the waves breaking. 
    6. To complete the background, I added 2 coats of yellow to the bottle neck to give the illusion of a sun.
  4. Adding details:
    1. To make the design fun and quirky, I loved the idea to add a surfing avocado wearing sunglasses. With a marker I added a rough sketch of it. Make sure that the marker is waterproof as mine smeared a little when applying the varnish. 
    2. I also added a few birds all around the jar. When you add details like this it is recommended to add them in odd numbers. Psychologically this is more appealing to the eye to see 3 instead of 2 birds.
    3. Let everything dry at this point. I left mine overnight. 

3. Apply varnish 

This will seal your project and make it waterproof.
  1. Make sure that everything is completely dry and finished before you apply the varnish. 
  2. You may need 2-3 layers applied with your varnish only brush. Make sure to let the layers completely dry in-between. 
  3. It is recommended to change direction, vertical vs. horizontal, of the application of the varnish in each layer to make it smoother. For my project that wasn't looking great, so I applied it all in the same direction.

Voila it is done

Painted Jar