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Mike O’Regan fitting the reverse painted pub mirror!


As a natural progression from the traditional sign writing side of my business, I developed an interest in reverse painted and gilded glasswork and have been honing techniques and styles ever since.

Here is a brief introduction into some of the work I have been commissioned to produce and an insight into the skills and methods I am learning and developing while doing so.


I was commissioned by a local public house to produce a vintage style oval mirror featuring the name of the establishment.  As I had produced many pieces for them previously, I was given a free reign with the design, the only condition being that it featured green and gold.

The first step was to come up with the design, ensuring that it both kept to the client brief and was a workable design using the method I had selected.

Initial Concept

Initial Concept

Approved Design

Approved Design


Once approved, the design was vectorized and produced on my plotter to cut a vinyl mask in reverse for the back of the mirror.

Stencil being applied

Stencil being applied

Fully applied stencil

Fully applied stencil

The mirror itself was then completely masked for protection so that only the cut away parts of my design were visible.  I then sandblasted the design into the mirror using a standard glass etching abrasive and fortunately I have the use of an industrial sandblasting cabinet for good measure!

The masking was then removed and the mirror cleaned with methylated spirits before painting.

Removal of stencil

Removal of stencil

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Clean and ready for painting!

Clean and ready for painting!

At this point, the mirror could be framed and reverse lit if one so wished, however this one was for painting so I decided to use metallic gold paint sparingly on the shadows of the lettering and some of the minor details.  Hammerite was used in this case as it is has a thick consistency so a single application gives the required coverage.

A golden tone of gloss paint was used on the acanthus design and of course the required green was applied – ordinary oil based gloss paints are fine for this. My trusty mahl stick came in handy for the detailed picking out process, both to steady my hand and to keep it out of the wet paint.

Painting in progress

Painting in progress

Once completely dry, the painting was backed up with an oil based undercoat and the mirror framed and fitted onsite.




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This is a slightly more tedious process due to modern strippers taking on average two days to remove the backing paint from the mirror in order for you to work directly on the silvering.

It does however, open up a whole new choice of techniques as you can oxidize, antique or completely remove the silvering once you have it exposed. An added bonus is that Gold leaf can be applied to stripped areas without losing any of its lustre as it would with a sandblasted piece.

Here is an early experimental project that was distressed a bit more than I would have liked, however you can see how sharp the graphics look and the effect of the gold leaf.

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For this example I produced a ‘sea shanty’ mirror using a graphic that I liked the look of so I just vectorized in a sign program to make it useable.  I wanted this piece to have an antique rustic appearance about it, and was very pleased at how it came out.

The backing paint was removed from the mirror using paint stripper – it is important to let it soften completely, then carefully scrape it off using a plastic scraper to prevent the silvering underneath becoming damaged.

Once the paint is off and the glass is cleaned with methylated spirits, a cut vinyl stencil is applied as in the previous project.  All other exposed areas are masked off for protection.

Stencil on glass

Stencil on glass

I removed the silvering through the stencil using household bleach at full strength.  This is best done with a cotton bud and wearing gloves of course!  In a matter of seconds, the silver dissolves.

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Once the area has been de-silvered the glass is thoroughly rinsed under cold running water to remove all traces of bleach. The stencil can then be removed.

Removal of stencil

Removal of stencil

I decided to antique the piece at the edges and this was accomplished by gently dabbing wrinkled newspaper in bleach then applying to the silvering.  Again, rinse immediately in cold water.

The glass was then backed up with a chestnut brown spray paint (Painters Touch) to add colour to the clear areas and protect the remaining silvering.  I then made my own frame as detailed below.

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The frame for this piece was made of pine which was then whacked about and beaten and bruised with a wire brush and other implements.  A rough coat of black satin was lashed on and force dried with a heat gun to make it blister.

Crackle glaze was then applied and dried before top coating in powder blue. The heat gun was then applied immediately which caused the dramatic cracking effect.

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A wash of walnut wood stain was then applied and sanded when dry.  The wash reactivated the crackle glaze and some of the powder blue flaked off to reveal the black.

When completely dry I applied a coat of oil based matt varnish to strap down the layers.

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As an afterthought I added patinated corner brackets to give the look of an aged frame that had been reinforced.

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I hope you enjoyed following these processes, more to come!





  1. David Agnew

    Mike, enjoyed the process of the mirror work immensely, learning these techniques opens up a plethora of possibilities to try out. Small detail noticed……..change the pozi drive screws in the mirror frame for Easter slotted or use short clout nails!!

  2. Lesley Anne Kinney

    Very nice work indeed!
    I used to work with mirror in the USA but since returning to the UK I can’t find any real mirror. Everything I’ve bought so far is just glass with a silvery plastic backing (what we used to call “Chinese mirror” in the States). Do you have any sources for mirror in England?


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