The last few years I’ve been seeing a lot of beautiful beach themed decorations for Christmas. After redoing my bathroom in an ocean theme awhile back, I’ve been drawn to all kinds of beach/ocean themed things. But as much as I’d like to, I certainly don’t have the budget to completely replace all my current Christmas decorations. But I can at least make a few glitter seashell ornaments to add to my ornament collection. Gotta start somewhere, right?
Because of all the paint and glue this project is not a quick one. Most of the time is spent waiting for things to dry in between coats, so actual working time is still not too much. But the end result is definitely worth it.
This was one of those rare times that the finished project ended up looking almost exactly what I had envisioned. I did my best to capture the look of the finished ornaments, but the pictures don’t truly do them justice. In person these glitter seashell ornaments sparkle so beautifully in the light and they will be a welcome addition to the Christmas tree this year.
What You Will Need for this Project
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Acrylic Paint and Primer
If anyone is interested in knowing the exact colors that I used for these shells, the blue is a Folk Art Metallic craft paint in Ice Blue, the purple is a brand called Anita’s that I found at Hobby Lobby in Pearl Lavender, and the pink is a Rustoleum Metallic Spray Paint in Champagne Pink.
I also forgot to mention that you will want something to protect your work surface when you are painting or adding glitter. Usually I use a nonstick craft sheet because it’s reusable and so easy to clean but I somehow misplaced it. I ended up using wax paper and that worked just as well.
How to Make Glitter Seashell Ornaments
Prepare Shell (if Needed)
This step may not be needed, but I wanted to include it in case it applies to anyone. I bought my shells from Hobby Lobby, so I didn’t need to do anything extra to them. If you purchased yours from a store, like I did, skip down to the next step.
If you collected your shells yourself at a beach you will need to clean them before you can craft with them. Otherwise your ornament could end up smelling like rotting fish and who wants that?
You can clean shells in either boiling water or a bleach solution. I don’t personally have any experience with this so I can’t suggest any specific method. There are plenty of tutorials out there on how to clean seashells you found at the beach, though.
Before adding any paints or glitter, you need to first drill the hole in your shell where you will string your ornament cord. It’s possible to do this step at any point but it is by far the easiest if you do it first.
Decide how you want your shell to hang once it is finished. I wanted mine to hang upside down, so I drilled my hole at the bottom. This end is also thicker and less fragile so I figured it would have a lower chance of breaking. If you want your shell facing the other direction, drill your hole at the top.
Flip your shell around and use your hand drill to make a hole through your shell. I find it best to work from the back of the shell. If you work from the front you are more at risk of cracking it.
I chose to use the smallest bit I had, which is 0.0585 inches (about 1.5mm) in size. It really shouldn’t matter what size hole you drill as long as your ornament string will fit through it.
Take your time and don’t rush this part. If you try to go too fast or press too hard you risk cracking your shell. You will need to use some force while drilling, so don’t be too afraid to use a little pressure. Just be patient and go slow until you drill all the way through.
If you are planning on using acrylic paints, you will need to prime the shell before painting. Seashells like the one I used have a slick surface that doesn’t take paint well. But by using a primer spray you will create a surface that is much easier to paint on.
Spray two coats of primer onto each side of the shell, letting the shell dry for a bit between each coat. This usually takes about 20 minutes, but check the instructions on your spray can. Then let dry completely. I gave my shells a full 24 hours for the primer to cure before I started the next step.
If you happen to find a spray paint in the color you want for your shell, you could use that instead and then skip to adding the glitter. I wanted a metallic finish and was having trouble finding a color I liked in a spray paint. I finally settled on the Rustoleum Metallic in Champagne Pink. It still wasn’t the exact shade of pink I was looking for, but I wanted to paint at least one of the shells with spray paint. In the end I’m still very happy with how it turned out.
Now you can add your paint color. I picked a purple color with a metallic finish for my project, but you can use any color you like. Starting on the back side, brush your paint over the entire shell in a thin layer.
Keep adding more layers of paint until you have the coverage you want, letting the paint dry completely in between coats.
Once the back side is finished, flip the shell over and paint the front as well.
The number of coats you will need will depend on your paint. This purple color took four layers on each side, while the blue one only needed three.
Don’t worry about the hole you drilled being filled with paint. After the paint is dry you can easily poke your drill back through to clear it.
I did my entire shell in one solid color, but if you like you can use a different color on the front and back to make it a bit more interesting. But the back of the ornament is going to be up against the tree and not be seen anyway so it’s not a big deal either way.
Add Fine Glitter to Glitter Seashell Ornaments
Now it’s time to add the first layer of glitter. The chunky glitter is going to be the main focus, but larger glitters are harder to get full coverage with. By using a fine glitter on the bottom layer you don’t need to worry about any empty spots.
Brush a thin layer of Mod Podge or other decoupage glue onto however much of the shell you want to be glittered.
Then sprinkle glitter onto where you just applied the glue.
Don’t be shy with the glitter and pour it on thick. Doing so will ensure that you get good glitter coverage. Then pick up your shell and tap it a few times to shake any excess glitter loose.
Use something under your shell to catch the glitter, like a craft sheet, wax paper, or parchment paper. That way you can pour any extra glitter back into your bottle. Glitter can be expensive, so why waste it?
Put your shell off to the side to dry for at least 20 minutes.
This should be enough for the fine glitter but in case you end up with any gaps in your glitter you can repeat this step to add another coat.
Your drill hole will most likely be filled with glitter after this part. Like with the paint, poke your drill through the glitter to clear the hole before moving on.
Add Chunky Glitter to Glitter Seashell Ornaments
Brush another layer of Mod Podge over your glitter layer and pour on the chunky glitter this time. Use your finger to gently tap over the glitter so that none of the flakes are standing up. Then tap off any excess. Again, return any extra glitter to the bottle.
This time if the drill hole is being blocked with glitter you should clear it before the glue dries. Very carefully poke your drill through the hole in the back, moving any pieces of glitter as needed so the hole is clear again. Then set the shell aside to dry for at least another 20 minutes.
Originally I was planning on this to be the final layer of glitter, but when I got to this point the solid layer of chunky glitter just didn’t look right. So I added one additional step that I think made it look a lot better.
Add a Pinch of Fine Glitter to Glitter Seashell Ornaments
I wanted there to be more of a variety in the glitter sizes, so I decided to add just a bit more fine glitter on top.
Brush on one last layer of Mod Podge over the chunky glitter. It’s very hard to keep this layer thin because of the texture of the glitter, but try to get it as thin as possible.
Then take just a pinch of your fine glitter and sprinkle it over the Mod Podge. You’re not trying to get anywhere close to full coverage this time, just enough to make the layer underneath look less “flat.”
The glitter I sprinkled on top isn’t actually the same as what I used on my first layer. My bottom layer is silver, but because the chunky glitter is holographic I wanted to use a holographic for the top as well. I used the silver holographic from this sampler pack. If I had a larger amount I would have used holographic glitter on the bottom layer as well, but I was working with what I had. Since it is such a small amount of glitter on the top layer it probably doesn’t matter, but I wanted to put that out there for full disclosure.
Again, set aside to dry one last time and clear the drill hole when finished.
String and Hang Glitter Seashell Ornaments
Once the glue has completely dried you can thread your ornament string through the drill hole. Then tie the ends in a knot to make a loop. Now you can hang your ornament on your tree. It would also make a beautiful gift for someone who loves the beach (or glitter).
Overall I’m super happy with how these ornaments turned out. I can’t remember the last time I finished a craft and looked at it thinking, “Yep, this is pretty much exactly what I had in my head.” The metallic finish of the paint along with the sparkly glitter makes for a very eye catching final result.
If I decide to make more of these in the future, I will probably try to use spray paint instead of acrylics. Not only did the pink shell take so much less time to paint, but because the layers are so thin you really get to see all the little details of the shell. Looking at the blue and purple shells in comparison you really see how much detail is lost because it has been filled in with paint.
However, acrylics are still going to give you the best variety of colors.
I would also want to try a different glitter to see if that would make any difference. I’ve seen some glitters on Amazon like this one that have different shapes and sizes mixed together. I would still probably do a base layer of fine glitter but I think it would make the top layer look even better.
And lastly, the string I used to hang the ornament is a little too thin, especially because the shells have a bit of weight to them. If I did this project again I would try to find a string that’s a little thicker.
I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial and found it helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. I’d love to hear from you! Thank you for stopping by and happy crafting!