Want to make garden balls? These step-by-step instructions show everything you need to create decorative garden balls. Use a bowling ball or other orb, add some marbles, and design your own outdoor art.
If you’d like some design ideas, I have a gallery of garden art balls here.
How to Make Garden Art Balls
- Getting Started (See the how-to video)
- Supplies and Materials
- DIY Instructions and Tips
More Garden Ball Inspiration
- Garden Ball Idea Gallery | More Ideas
Garden Balls * Orbs * Globes
What are these called?
The garden balls you see here go by many names: bowling ball art, decorative glass balls, spheres, orbs, or globes, garden art balls, and the old name gazing balls.
Gazing balls—those reflective, single-color, metallic balls on pedestals, were standard in formal gardens for many decades until creative gardeners came up with less breakable, and innovative DIY alternatives like the ones you see here.
Garden art by Karen Weigert Enos
SeraphinasArtworks | Etsy
Using a bowling ball, thick glass lamp globe, fish bowl or vase, some decorations, and adhesive (see the one I recommend here), you can make a glass garden sphere for approximately $5-20. I’ve provided free instructions below.
Along with flat marbles (glass gems), additional design options include pennies, old costume jewelry, and/or paint, or decoupage with Mod Podge.
Really, you can cover the base sphere in just about anything with a flat side that adheres nicely and can withstand the weather but for the instructions here we will focus on the basic glass gem garden ball.
Watch the Video First
Do I need to grout garden balls?
No. This project is not the same as creating tile mosaics that traditionally use grout. Grout cannot adhere to the adhesive we use so it is not recommended. You would have to apply the adhesive very carefully, never getting it in the gaps, for grouting to be possible. So, I don’t do it. And it’s not necessary.
If you do not want any gaps between your flat marbles, there are a few tricks.
First, you may want to spray paint your ball before decorating it so that the underlying color shows through.
Also, you can fill in any gaps or spaces using vase fillers which are small plastic or acrylic beads sold in the florist section of craft stores. You can also use products like fine aquarium gravel.
Or, just leave the gaps which can also look good.
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Supplies & Materials
Here are ideas for the base, decorative materials, and adhesive.
Lamp globe | I look for old lamp globes (from ceiling fixtures) at the thrift store that have strong, thick glass. I have lamp globes in my garden all year-round here in Canada and I am yet to have one break. The old ones are tough!
You can also use fish bowls or vases or anything else with good, strong thick glass.
Bowling ball | Be sure to sand off the glossy surface before you start for better adhesion.
Some people also use old sports balls such as a soccer or football ball but I have not tried this myself. Long-term I would worry that the ball will deflate, causing the marbles to fall off.
Styrofoam balls are not recommended either because they can react with some glues and also would likely not stand up to the weather year after year.
No matter what, do a test to see how your materials stick. You may need to sand after spray painting as well.
If you want your bowling ball or lamp globe to have a color that shows in the gaps between the marbles—and may show through the marbles if they are translucent—sand and spray paint it first.
Krylon brand has all-in-one primer paints in various colors.
The quantities needed will depend on the size of your base (lamp globe or bowling ball) and how complex your design is.
- Flat-bottom marbles, also called “glass gems” at craft and dollar stores. Also look for unusual toy marbles and square gems.
This may be the only decorative item you need. If you want to make a complex design, consider the following items as well.
- Fillers go between the flat marbles if you want to fill in areas between marbles with additional color and texture.
These are sold under various names:
- Mini-bits (embellishment glass, 2-4 mm)
- Vase fillers
- Vase gems
- Filler confetti or table confetti
- Pebbles for aquariums or aquarium gravel
These fillers (for the gaps between the flat marbles) are sold under various names. It really helps to see them in-person or read the size descriptions carefully online. You want to be sure they are the size, colors, and textures you want for your project.
I have found them in craft store, florist shops, and dollar stores. Most often they are in the floral department.
More Ideas for Decorative Materials
Coins, round glass or mosaic pieces, flat stones or decorative accent glass, beads, necklaces, aquarium gravel…. Quantity will depend on the size of your ball or globe. Leftovers can always be used for other projects.
- GE II silicone sealant (outdoor, waterproof, clear) works very nicely as an adhesive for outdoor garden art projects because it is permanent.
- This means you cannot remove it once it has dried.
- This is why I recommend you plan your project design in advance, make sure you have enough materials, and work in small sections, applying just enough adhesive to secure a handful of flat marbles before continuing with the next section.
- If you have to stop in the middle of your project, use up any adhesive you have already applied first. You cannot add more adhesive on top of dried adhesive. It will not stick.
- If you are new to using this product, this answers frequently asked questions and provides tips for successful use for outdoor garden art projects.
- I use clear (not white or any other color) GE Silicone II and it must be waterproof and made for outdoor use.
- GE Silicone II sealant is sold as a sealant but works as an adhesive when you apply it fairly thickly, allowing it to grab the flat marbles as it sets.
- Do not substitute with other sealant products – GE Silicone II is the only one I’ve tested that works.
- Check the ‘USE BY’ date on the tube to make sure you’re getting fresh product.
- You will also need a caulking dispenser (if you’re using a tube cartridge).
Also see The Glue Resource Guide for Garden Art Projects for more options.
DIY Instructions and Tips
Read all the steps before you start. This tutorial a basic ball with flat marbles. Using fillers or ‘mini bits’ is a more advanced method that requires a lot of time and patience, applying each tiny bit, one at a time, while the adhesive is still wet. If you are keen to try this, be sure you read and obey the adhesive product warnings regarding ventilation and skin contact.
The garden ball DIY video also has top tips for beginners.
You must read and obey the warnings on the adhesive product label.
The adhesive works so well because it forms a permanent bond. This also means, you only have a limited amount of time to add your decorative materials before it dries. Once it is dry, it is never coming off and there is not anything that will remove it. This is why I advise you to plan your project ahead, and work in small sections.
1Assemble Your Materials
Assemble your materials including glass lamp globe or bowling ball, flat marbles, floral fillers, and GE II Silicone. Read the product label to understand health and safety considerations, clean up, and drying times.
If you are new to using silicone sealant as an adhesive, read these tips for success first.
2Clean, Paint, Sand Globe or Bowling Ball
Start with clean, dry glass lamp globe (the old kind with thick glass) or a bowling ball. If the surface will not wash up with soap and water, I use methyl hydrate to remove any leftover grease.
For best adhesion, rough up the surface of the bowling ball with sandpaper.
You can also apply spray paint if you want a specific base color. If the spray paint creates a really smooth surface, rough it up (gently) with fine-grit sandpaper when the paint is completely dry.
You must be certain the surface you apply the adhesive to has some ‘grab’ and is grease-free or the adhesive and marbles may not stick.
3Plan Design and Apply Adhesive and Marbles
- Make sure you are using the correct adhesive. Other sealants I’ve tested do not work the same way. If you have one you like, stick with it!
- I recommend GE Silicone Sealant: waterproof, clear-drying, for outdoor use. Please read the product label and follow the safety instructions.
- Plan your design first, work in small sections, and be sure you have enough materials to complete the design.
- Use a strong bowl to hold the glass globe or bowling ball in place while you’re applying the silicone sealant.
- Work in small sections. You want the sealant at least 1/8″ thick. Again, read the label on the silicone sealant and follow the safety guidelines. It will also tell you how long the adhesive will take to dry.
- If you want to add decorative fillers (optional), this must be done while the adhesive is still wet. Once the silicone sealant dries, it cannot be removed and will not stick to anything.
- With some silicone sealant applied to the back of the flat marble, place it exactly where you want it on the ball. You may need to hold it in place for 10 to 20 seconds until the adhesive keeps it in place.
WAIT! If your marbles are not sticking, stop what you are doing. This probably means the surface is not clean enough or has some sort of greasy residue that the adhesive cannot stick to. Or, the adhesive may be old and faulty. Either way, remove all adhesive immediately with a rag, before it dries, and see this page for troubleshooting the problem.
- If you work from the bottom up, each new row of marbles rests on the row below and they won’t shift around while you are waiting for the adhesive to dry. Starting at the base also gives a nice border to the lower part of the ball.
- That said, if you are working on a particular design, you may want to place the main parts of the design first and fill in the rest afterwards.
NEED A BREAK? If you do not want to complete the entire project in one sitting, just make sure you have applied marbles to any section with adhesive before taking a break. Again, you cannot make the adhesive sticky again once it has dried. There are no second chances with this stuff. But it’s worth it because it works so well.
When you have finished adding all the marbles, allow everything to dry. See the product label for the required drying time.
When the silicone has dried, your globe is ready to be displayed outdoors.
Have a look at your local thrift shop. I often see weird nameless things that would make great stands.
- Metal plant stands
- Solar lamp stands
- Lamp bases
- Birdbath or flower pot, or, sit the ball on the ground.
I used an old glass lamp as the base for this garden art ball (above) and solar lamp stands for the ones below.
If you used a bowling ball, just place the hole on the ground. There is no need to fill it in.
Here’s a few more by my friend Karen Weigert Enos. You can see more about Karen and her art here.
I hope you’ll make something wonderful.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
How to Make Garden Art Balls
Supplies & Materials
- Wash and dry ball (bowling ball or glass lamp globe).
- Spray paint in desired background color. Follow product instructions including recommended drying time.
- Lightly sand surface so adhesive will stick. Remove any dust.
Plan Your Design
- The amount of flat marbles needed will depend entirely on the size of ball and your design.
- Map out your design first to ensure you have enough of each color.
- Work outdoors or in a well-ventilated area: follow safety precautions on adhesive.
- Use a strong bowl with a rag/towel to hold your ball in place while working.
- Work in small sections from the bottom up using gravity to hold the pieces in place. NOTE: Once the adhesive sets fairly fast and you cannot apply anything onto it once it has set.
- Work in small sections applying adhesive at least 1/8-inch thick. You can either apply it to the ball or directly on the back of the flat marbles, piece by piece.
- If you are adding decorative fillers, apply them as you go.
- Gently press flat marble with adhesive onto ball and hold in place for a minute.If creating a design work from the middle out.If doing rings of marbles, work in layers going up, doing lowest ring first.
- Never leave bare adhesive on the ball: always apply marbles or completely remove while wet.
- Allow to dry per instructions on adhesive product.