Repainting Glasses: How to?
January 29, 2011 6:19 PM   Subscribe

I just bought new glasses. Yay! They are perfect, except one thing: there is a small purple stripe on each arm, and I've realized that I don't like it. I'd like to paint over the purple, with black. But is it foolish to try to repaint glasses? Is there a reliable method, or business that can do it for me, that my googling hasn't found?

I should mention - buying new glasses is a difficult option because it is very hard for me to find glasses that fit my huge noggin. Stores typically only have zero-to-a-few frames that fit my head.

I've read the previous question here, and googled around. The consensus advice seems to be either:

(1) Don't do it
(2) Use some kind of modelling paint (like you'd use to paint a minature car)
(3) Possibly get powder coating, as the previous MeFi answer here mentions. (The answer was in response to a metal glasses, though - mine are plastic.)

Just looking for what people's advice and experiences are.

(The glasses are the black and purple pair here, you'll need to click the 3rd little line to select the appropriate colourway. Now, an additional detail: as you can see from the link, the glasses are also tinged with purple on the inside, so if your answer addresses painting the entire frames, that would be excellent -- but I am first concerned with purple on the side, and I think that might be the easier part to do, depending on method)
posted by demagogue to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by pearlybob at 6:20 PM on January 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

I painted the temples on my glasses about a year ago with fingernail polish (bright blue - I love it). Worked great. They are just now starting to chip the tiniest bit nearer my ear. I'll repaint them soon.
posted by saffronwoman at 6:22 PM on January 29, 2011

I was going to suggest nail polish as well, but you may need to paint the whole thing to make it look consistent.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 6:26 PM on January 29, 2011

sharpie or a paint pen.
posted by lemniskate at 6:35 PM on January 29, 2011

I vote against using a Sharpie, I suspect that nail polish or a paint pen would work better. I've used Sharpies on various things, and it can be fairly obvious in bright light if the material isn't very absorbent.
posted by ripley_ at 6:47 PM on January 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nail polish. definitely, not Sharpie!!
posted by tristeza at 6:51 PM on January 29, 2011

I was going to say nail polish as well. The good thing about nail polish is if it looks shitty you can take it off super easily. I would probably tape off the stripe in an effort to only cover the stripe part.
posted by grapesaresour at 7:01 PM on January 29, 2011

Sand the area gently, then apply black enamel paint. You should be able to get a little jar from the hardware store for around $3. It'll be more durable and less streaky than nail polish, and it will also smell better.
posted by milk white peacock at 7:08 PM on January 29, 2011

I sharpie'd an old pair of plastic glasses regularly when the frame began to discolor/fade. I would argue that this is a better option than nail polish since if nail polish begins to chip, it might be hard to remove the rest of it without damaging the plastic. (I would not use nail polish remover on plastic.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:18 PM on January 29, 2011

Nail polish is an enamel paint. If you use enamel paint, use oil based for durability and drying time. Water based enamels can take over a month to get completely hardened.

Rule of thumb, is that the shinier a paint is, the harder it is, so I'd go with nail polish.

To color plastics, dyes are often used instead of paint, you could take the lenses out and dip the whole thing, possibly masking the nose pieces. Researching that is probably not worth the effort. Go with nail polish.

Position the glasses in a very bright work area, clamped with the most visible surface of one side facing up. Paint it carefully, maybe a light hair dryer to even it out a bit. Watch out for dust, so cover it if you can while working. Let that side dry, then do the other, then do the parts that don't show as much.

Practice painting on some similar item first, don't let any drips form. Don't repaint an area that is drying, try to get it right on the first one or two strokes.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:28 PM on January 29, 2011

I did just read a post on how to dye plastic, like for computer parts. But I personally would use nail polish, since I already use clear polish for things like preventing wear on the inside of plastic nose pads, or inside rings that tarnish, etc.
posted by lhall at 7:35 PM on January 29, 2011

Take them to your local manicure shop and watch them work their magic. Added bonus you could get a pedicure at the same time to match your new glasses!
posted by Kale Slayer at 8:04 PM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

cel-vinyl is specifically formulated to adhere to acetate, which is what your frames claim to be made of, according to the link you gave.

If you try to paint the inner part of your frames, be sure to remove the lenses, or at least tape them over.
posted by fake at 8:35 PM on January 29, 2011

I'd go with enamel plastic model paint. It's cheaper than nail polish at $1.99 a bottle in hobby stores, and black always comes in flat, semi-matte or glossy. Mail polish is mostly good for... nails. Just be sure to use plenty of masking tape, sand it with fine grain paper if you wish, and use the largest decent brush that will do the job.
posted by halogen at 8:48 PM on January 29, 2011

I'd use Testors black modeling paint. (1/4oz, $1.72 MSRP) It's made to go on plastic, and to leave a smooth finish even when applied with a small brush. I'm not sure what's in it but it wouldn't surprise me if it's basically nailpolish; it's definitely oil-based (although whatever solvent it uses doesn't dissolve most plastics).

Might be worth roughing up the surface before painting it, by wrapping a bit of fine sandpaper around a matchstick or chopstick and carefully rubbing on the area you're going to paint. Also you should practice on some stuff you don't care about so you can figure out how heavy to put it on for the effect you want ... basically you want the minimum necessary to go on and cover without leaving brush strokes. That way it won't drip or run into areas you don't want to paint.

If you know someone who does models or figurines (like toy soldiers or the little Warhammer ones or whatever), might be easiest just to bring them a couple of beverages-of-choice and asking them to do it. Just about anybody who does any sort of modeling ought to have black paint and a brush.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:32 PM on January 29, 2011

Oh, and if it were me, regardless of the solution you choose, I'd mask off the lenses before getting started. Because first thing I'd do, guaranteed, is get paint on them. And if you've been wearing them and they've picked up any sort of scratches at all, that's going to be bad business.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:34 PM on January 29, 2011

Another Sharpie recommender here - it works well on my specs.
posted by anadem at 10:38 PM on January 29, 2011

Response by poster: So many great answers. Thanks!

Would anyone happen to have pictures of their handiwork?
posted by demagogue at 11:44 PM on January 29, 2011

The good thing about nail polish is if it looks shitty you can take it off super easily.

Don't count on it. Acetone will destroy the plastic.
posted by jon1270 at 3:12 AM on January 30, 2011

If you've got a hobby/modeling shop close by, your chances are good that there are some old-school nerds working there, who might have an airbrush setup back-shop, and would do it nicely for you for little money. Modeling enamel paint should do okay, if the object is clean and fat-free. Maybe on top of a layer of primer, just to be extra sure; modeling paints these days are very sophisticated.

As to sharpie versus nail polish, you could paint strips of random plastic first and judge whether the surface effect is to your liking. (I wouldn't use either, but then, I'm a long-term regular-paintbrush-frustrated modeler who finally got his airbrush a year ago...)
posted by Namlit at 5:18 AM on January 30, 2011

A dye might be a better choice. I think it is Dupli-color who has a line of dye-based paints that are used for "painting" car interiors.

I also like the idea of hitting up a hobby modeling shop. I bet one of those people would love to do the project and do a fantastic job.
posted by gjc at 8:19 AM on January 30, 2011

Best answer: Here's a crazy idea: when you get your glasses fitted, you know those repair-type people who help you pick out the frames and adjust them to your head and fix the screws and whatnot? Ask that person if they have any advice on how to do this in a lasting, non-screwing-up-the-glasses way.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:21 AM on January 30, 2011

Is there a chance you can just get different temples (arms)? Maybe a pair another frame from the same manufacturer would fit. Your optician could tell you.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 11:35 AM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

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