Painting Glassware with Lustres

Lustre Paints give Glassware that special metallic sheen!

Blue lustre colored wine glasses with the
 typical metallic sheen

Lustres are a special kind of glass paints which are based on metallic compounds dissolved in organic solvents. 
The color comes from the dissolved metallic compounds. Precious metals and base metals and mixtures of the two are used in concentrations of less than 6%. 
The result of painting with lustres is a transparent, colored coating of not more than 50 nanometer thick and with a slight metallic sheen. 
Firing of lustre paints must be done in a kiln. The temperature ranges from 480-540°C (900-1005F) for crystal glass and from 520-620°C (970-1080F) for soda lime glass. 


Although lustre paints have much in common with gold paints, the lustre paints were actually invented much earlier. They were not used for glass however but for ceramics. Together with the later development of the precious metal paints the lustre paints were improved and adjusted to glass and crystal.

Different lustre colors
The type of metal(s) used in the paint determines the color. There are many colors available ranging from ruby to pink to yellow, blue, green to violet and purple. Most suppliers have a range of 12 to 30 different colors. Lustre paints of different colors are not mixable so the colors that can be made with lustre paints are limited to the available colors. 

Lustre paints can be applied by brushing, spraying and screen printing. For cleaning the utensils it is necessary to have a thinner, which is delivered by the supplier. 
For each color one should have separate brushes or other tools because mixing the different colors might have a bad effect on the final result.

Since the solvents in lustre paints are very volatile one should always take care that the viscosity of the paint is adjusted by adding thinner.
The final color is depending on the firing conditions. The amount of oxygen during the firing is of great influence on the final color. So to reproduce the exact same color is sometimes difficult. 

The mechanical resistance of lustres does not achieve the same standard as most 
ceramic colours and precious metal paints because the formed lustre film is 
very thin. Therefore it is recommended to test the decorations under your own conditions to achieve the required resistances. 

The price of lustre paints are directly related to the used (precious) metals. The price therefore varies with each color. (The red color comes from gold!)
The price, the necessary equipment and the difficulties one can encounter during painting with lustres, make lustre paints less popular for hobbyists. 

In the industry, lustre paints have been replaced by other paints like the resin based glass paints and the hybrid glass paints like OrmoSol and OrmoGlass.
These paints are easier to apply, are not limited to a few colors and have better resistance to scratching and dish washing. The resin based glass paints and the hybrids, like OrmoSol and OrmoGlass, also doen't contain any poisonous heavy metals and they are cheaper.

The best way to copy the lustre color look is to use OrmoGlass. OrmoGlass misses of course the metal sheen, but the high gloss approaches this special metal sheen effect. (The resin based glass paints don't even come  near to lustre colors.)

The metal sheen on lustre colors is, however, a very special characteristic of lustre paints that can’t be copied exactly by the alternative paints.
And that’s the reason that lustre paints are still sometimes used for glassware, despite the bad influence on environment, health and wallet.
Lamp shade painted with brown lustre
Peach lustre beer mugs with the typical golden sheen