Painting bottles for brewing, decorating, or just holding liquid

13 May

Bottles with Roman numeralsWarm temperatures can ruin beer, and sunlight is suspected to add not only heat but even faster spoilage — that’s why you should store bottles of homebrew beer or cider in a dark place. Dark bottles also reduce your brew’s exposure to light, which is why the best beers come in brown bottles or opaque kegs. I decided to paint my clear bottles so they’d better protect my cider and so they’d have a more distinctive look. You could also do this on any color of bottle for a decorative effect.

It’s an easy process to paint your bottles in solid colors and get sharp results — the final appearance resembles a dipped coating like wax. Adding shapes or text adds a lot of time to the process, but it may be worth it from time to time.

  • Bottles: Choose bottles you like. Bottles with interesting shapes look great when painted, but so do very simple bottles. I had a combination of beer and Coca-Cola bottles (12 oz.), Ikea SLOM bottles (33 oz.), and lemonade bottles (25 oz.).
  • Balloons or masking tape (if desired): It’s good to protect the pouring/drinking/operating surfaces of your bottle. Using a painting rack reduces the need for additional protection, but it’s a good idea to use masking tape to protect the lip of the bottle (and the flip-top lid on resealable bottles) if you’re going to do a lot of painting. Cheap balloons can save you trouble, since you can just pull a balloon over the mouth of the bottle and be guaranteed good coverage.
  • Spray primer (I favor Rust-Oleum)
  • Any color of spray paint: The primer alone makes for a great effect, but you should at least try a color now and again.
  • Stencil (if desired): You can make your own by cutting a design into a sheet of clear plastic (you can even use plastic sheet protectors intended for three-ring binders).
  • Painting rack: You can make a painting rack for bottles by punching evenly-spaced holes in a cardboard box. Make sure the holes are big enough for the necks of your bottles and that your bottles won’t touch while in the rack.

Bottles with balloonsBottles in painting rack

1) We want to keep paint out of people’s mouths and therefore away from the mouth of the bottles. The painting rack may help. To be sure, use masking tape to cover the mouths and necks of the bottles. Ordinary balloons can be stretched and pulled over the top of the bottle instead for the same effect with less effort. You only have to cover the mouth and cap of the bottle, so feel free to cover more or less to your taste.

2) Position your bottles in a safe painting location, such as in the yard with a dropcloth or bed of newspaper. This is where a simple painting rack comes in handy.

White bottlesPainted bottles

3) Spray your bottles with primer, following the instructions on the can. A single coat should be sufficient, but look carefully — it’s easy to miss parts of the neck and shoulders of a bottle when it’s upside down.

4) After the primer has dried, apply a solid color (if desired). I often keep some bottles white – the grainy texture makes them feel like ceramic.

Homemade plastic stencilStencil in use

5) If you want to stencil something on to the bottle, just tape your stencil onto the bottle and use a different color of paint. I went with Roman numerals representing the volume of each bottle. Bottles can be hard to stencil because of their curves — for best results, paint in several light coats, and use a clean stencil with a touch of spray adhesive on the back. You can also stencil an unpainted bottle — white primer pops at the eye on brown bottles.

6) The painted coating will inevitably scratch and chip over time. If desired, apply a few coats of spray finish such as polyurethane to give your bottles a more durable finish.

Silver bottlesPainted bottlesPainted Coca-Cola bottles

I’ve gotten a number of blushing compliments on the bottles — they make your homebrew seem more dangerous, that’s for sure. I’m particularly pleased to have had an excuse to put “XXX” (or, more specifically, “XXXIII”) on cider bottles. Drinking out of one of these is guaranteed to make you feel like a Depression-era political cartoon!


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