Monday, September 29, 2014

Floating Ornament How To

Mostly as a resource for my customers on Etsy, I decided to post a VERY DETAILED tutorial on exactly how to get those floating images inside the clear glass ornaments.  I used the shepherd bulb from my three piece ornament set as an example.  If you would like to purchase the ingredients and follow along they are available on my Etsy site, or you can skip the craziness and just order them finished ;0}

When you get your vinyl in the mail, it will come on transfer tape.  It is sticky enough to hold the vinyl in place, but once the vinyl is applied it will peel off fairly easily.  There are two types of transfer tape I use.  This one is a clear, slightly more sticky kind.  The clear is very nice when making these ornaments, but it can be a little too sticky for some pieces.  I also use a masking tape type of transfer tape.  It is not clear, but comes off really easily.  Usually the masking tape type is best for larger vinyl pieces.  This particular ornament is a 4" size, so it will usually just depend on what type I am using that day exactly what kind of transfer tape your vinyl will come attached to.  Regardless of type, you still apply it in basically the same way.

I take the paper backing off of the ornament piece and lay the transfer tape on the table sticky side up.  

If you order the smaller pieces they will come on sheets like this.  You first need to cut them apart and work with one nativity at a time.

So, lay the vinyl on the table, sticky side up.  Take your clear ornament insert and slowly, carefully {in the air} center your insert over the vinyl.  I like to stand for this part so that I can have a good perspective and get that vinyl centered where I want it.

***for the small nativity that comes in sheets, you want it to be just lower than center so you can see it well once it is in the ornament***

{if you look really close you can see that the square of transfer tape is just blending into the table.  It is there}
When I feel like I am holding that clear insert over the vinyl correctly, angled so the tab on the insert is totally at the top and the design is not too far right or left, I slowly lower the insert onto the transfer tape/vinyl.  I usually like to put the bottom of the insert down first, then slowly proceed up the insert.  That way if I feel like I really am not centered there is still a chance I can pull it back up and start over.  

I am trying to be very detailed so that the most confused person can re-read a few times and get the idea.  Really this process is quite fast and simple.  Most times, once you connect the insert with the vinyl you are stuck with where ever the vinyl ends up.  It is very difficult to pull the insert off and usually the vinyl or the insert or both are destroyed.  That is why with your first piece you should take your time and get the hang of things.  If you get your vinyl on, but the tab is not at the top, you can trim the sides just a bit so the insert can turn one way or the other inside the ornament and sit in there with the vinyl design upright.

I will tell you that sometimes when I am attaching, the vinyl jumps up off the table {probably static or something attracting it to the clear insert} and stick to the insert before I am ready.  To avoid any chance of that happening you can either have a friend hold the corners of the transfer tape down or use actual masking tape or scotch tape and tape the guy to the table, sticky side up of course.

Once the insert is down all the way it should look something like this.  Smooth the vinyl down with your fingers and turn the whole piece over. 

Rub in down again pushing on the non-sticky side of the transfer tape.  It is best to do most of your touching from this side.  That way if your fingers are smudgy, the mess will pull off with the transfer tape.  Trying to clean smudges off the insert after the vinyl is attached is not the funnest process ;0}

Now this is my preferred method for taking that transfer tape off.  I leave the piece on the table, pull back one corner of the transfer tape, and use my finger to press down and more or less drag the transfer tape off.  I do it this way so you have a much lower chance of bending that insert.  If you bend the insert, you will get a white line in the thing and you will not be able to do anything to get rid of it :0(  Not fun.  You will be able to see that white crease line in the insert after it is in the ornament.  

Leave the piece on the table to take the transfer tape off and you will avoid the whole issue!

Once I get one corner pulled back, I hold the insert down and keep dragging.  I have to show you in two pictures, cause I only have two hands, but take the above and below picture and imagine them happening at the same time.  Again, this keeps you from creasing your insert.

Once you get that transfer tape off, you can just throw it away.  Or better yet, go stick it to somebody's face.  My kids love it.  Or they just love me so they put up with it.  

The hard part is over!  Put that insert to the side and grab your ornament!!!

I like to set my ornament on a tape roll.  Whatever roll you can find, or even a wide mug will probably work.  Rolls of packing tape are my favorite ornament holders, for the 4" ornaments anyway.

Grab that silver ring at the top of the ornament and gently pull it off.  I have had one or two ornaments chip at the top when I pulled really quickly in a trying-to-hurry-and-fill-this-order kind of fashion.  

Set the cap aside.  Take a minute to make sure there are not any stringy glass shards or sharp points that stick out.  They will scratch your insert all the way down.  If you do have some, try VERY CAREFULLY to shave them off with scissors or something of that nature.  If you don't want to mess with that, just take the ornaments back to the store and exchange them for non-sloppy opening ornaments.  Be sure to check your replacements while you are still in the area just in case you have another bad couple.  I have noticed the ornaments are getting sloppier at the opening.  I have also noticed that ornaments are being made thinner.  This year I had 3 break in my hands when applying vinyl to the outside.  Be super careful when working with glass!!!

So, take the insert, roll it up small enough to fit into the opening of your ornament.  Typically, the smaller the ornament, the smaller the opening, the tighter you need to roll.  Do not fold!  Folding will crease and mark up your insert.  Also, I like to roll the side with the vinyl on the inside so that there are not ledges on the outside of the roll to get caught on the lip of the ornament during insertion.  

One thing to watch here is that beginning roll.  I have had ladies rolling it too tight at the beginning and permanently bending the insert.  Be careful.  You can always try a loose roll, then if it is too big to fit in the ornament, open it up and try a little tighter.  The mini ornaments, 1.25 or 1.5" are ridiculous.  I usually give 4 or 5 extra nativities and inserts because you end up bending tons with how tight you have to roll the insert.

If you are having trouble, try rolling towards the edge of your table or hard work space.  That is what I do with the mini ornaments and it helps a lot.  Do not try to roll in the air.  Roll the insert against a hard table or hard covered book or something.  

So get that bad boy all rolled up, 

And insert it into the ornament, tab side up.  That is another thing to watch for when rolling.  The whole point of that tab is for it to stick out the top of the ornament, locked in the small neck of the opening so your image does not end up upside down.  When you roll your insert, be certain the tab is sticking out of the top.

The insert will start to open when it gets inside.  Be careful to not hold on to that tab too tightly.  The momentum of the insert opening can tear that tab right off.  

OK, so my insert is inside.  Look good?


We are not done.  See how it is curled in there.

How about the top view.  Can you see that better?  It is all bent out of shape.  We want a flat line.

I typically use a BBQ skewer to do this job, but I was too lazy to walk the four feet to grab one with the day I had ;0}  I have used pencils or pens...and would not really recommend using the exacto knife unless you think you can do it without scratching/cutting your insert.  That wasn't a good decision I have decided in hindsight.  Anyway, take some long thin object that will reach all the way to the bottom and just gently push the insert in the center.  I tend to push it one direction, then pull the pushing stick out and put it back down inside the ornament on the other side of the insert, then push from the other side.  If you didn't have to roll the insert too tightly, you will only have to do this once or twice to get things just right.

Those little mini's are real buggers in this department.  I typically have to work with those quite a bit to get them uncurled.  Just do your best, then walk away.  It will look perfect to you tomorrow.  

Occasionally, you have a traumatic accident.  It is OK.  Go eat a cookie, go for a walk, take a nap...whatever it is you do to unwind.  Grab some tweezers and come back.  Using tweezers you can work the inserts back out on most occasions.  When trying to remove an insert, I grab the insert near the center, push it against the walls of the ornament {to make it kind of curl} then pull it up and out.  You might have to twist or turn it a bit, but usually I can get it to basically curl back up and come right out.  Just know you have a very high chance of ripping the insert, so don't plan on using it again.  Extras are a big plus with these guys.

If you ordered from me, and you have a terrible accident, email me at or convo me on Etsy and I will see if we can't work out getting you a replacement.  I know how it feels to destroy your only piece!!!

Well, once the inset is in there right, you will not be able to see the insert when looking at it head on.

Top view.  See how it is a straight line?  I do typically, for this set anyway, push it back just a tad.  I just like how it looks from the front.  

If you are putting snow in, now is the time.  Use a funnel, insert it on one side of the insert and add snow until it is full enough for your liking.  Then pull the funnel out, push that insert tab to the other side of the opening, and insert the funnel tip into the other side of the ornament.  Add snow to equal that of the front.  If you get too much in there, just turn it upside down over your snow bowl and shake some out.  You might have to add and shake out pinches of snow a couple times until you like how it looks.  You might also have to grab your tool and push that insert around again to get it centered again.  Take your time.  The whole process can be really enjoyable if you relax and take your time.  

Don't have a funnel, it works fine to just hold your ornament over a bowl and use a spoon or something to sprinkle snow inside.

Know that when I say snow, I mean fake snow ;0}  Just making sure that is clear.

Also know that if you put snow inside your ornament, it will end up sticking to the vinyl and insert a bit.  If you are not a fan of messy, skip the snow.  The ornaments are gorgeous without it too.

There you have it, how to get that floating image inside your clear glass ornament.  

I have another tutorial on this same style of ornaments HERE that talks more about creating your own inserts and more specifically about the products used.  This tutorial again was simply to explain in further detail the actual process.

I will be back in the next few days with a tutorial on how to get those letters on the outside so they look just right.  Until then, Happy Crafting!


  1. Thank you so much for the detailed tutorial. I really want to try to do this myself, so I can say I made it, lol. Gonna look for your other tutorial for the outside vinyl, and then to Etsy to shop!

    1. I love it Daughn! Good luck and let me know if you have ANY questions. Beware, this is very addictive ;0}

  2. Making these tonight. I am assuming when I add the snow glitter I don’t need to use polycrylic like some ornaments require. Great tutorial. Sooo excited to try this


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