How to Make Stained Glass Windows

My house is right on a main road, so there are always a lot of people driving by. It kinda freaks my mom out that people can see into the house, but she hates mini-blinds, which is what is currently on all of the windows. So she decided that she wanted to do something that would prevent people from looking into the house, without having to have blinds. And instead of just going to the store and buying some sheer curtains, she decided to paint the windows so that they look like stained glass.

Now, my mom has actually done the stained glass painting before, so she knows how it works. This was my first time, however. Thankfully, it was super easy, although kinda tedious. So here is a quick little tutorial on how I made my stained glass windows, so that you can go and make your own!

First of all, you need to figure out what you want to paint. So step 1 is just to find some inspiration. Now, I knew that I wanted my windows to be something steampunk, so I just googled that for a bit until I found something awesome. Also, I have three windows in my room that are together, and I decided to make my windows into one larger mural, instead of three separate pictures, but you could do it either way.

While I was browsing the search results for steampunk, I ended up finding photos of this awesome office.

This company, Three Rings, is actually a gaming company, and while their front office looks totally normal, the back is completely steampunk! In an interview somewhere on the web, one guy called it the mullet office: business in the front, party in the back. The guy was also wearing a bright red military jacket, which he apparently does rather often. Go here for more photos.

A couple of the photos really caught my interest, however. These are walls in the office, and I thought they were super cool, so I decided to combine the two images and use that as my window.

To make it more steampunk, I added some gears, using the border of this image for the gears.

Got Steampunk by NadeshdaVasile, found on DeviantArt

When I combined it together, this is what I got.

I also measured all of my windows meticulously, so that I had everything to the right scale, with the space between the windows blocked out. I originally intended to paint on the wall between the windows, but I haven’t gotten the chance to do that yet. Maybe later.

Now, you can always just work directly on the windows, and paint it free-hand, but since I had a lot of detail in mine, I decided to draw a template. I traced the pattern right off of my computer screen onto some newsprint, so that I could tape that onto the back of the window and trace it.

Making the pattern is step 2. Step 3 is to clean your window. You want the surface to be clean so that the paint and the lead stick to it, and not to all the dust and cat hair that might be on it. Naturally I forgot Step 3 with the first window that I did. Whoops.

Before you go on to Step 4, let me point out that this paint is NOT waterproof. It washes right off with soap and water. (It also peels off rather nicely in one large sheet if it needs to.) Because of this, you do NOT want to paint the outside of the windows, or the paint will wash off in the rain. So make sure that you are painting the inside of the windows.

Now we can begin Step 4. Get some Liquid Leading. Like the paint, this is sold at most craft stores – Michaels, Hobby Lobby, AC Moore – but you may want to call ahead and check, because the AC Moore near my house apparently recently stopped stocking it, and it also may be out of stock in some places. The clear paint was always out of stock, which makes me wonder just how many people are doing this at any given time.

Anyway, Step 4. Tape your template to the back of the window (the outside) so that you can see it through the glass. Some windows can come right out of the frame, which is really nice, because then you can lay the glass flat on a table, making it much easier to work on. However, it can be done while the window is still in the wall, it’s just a little bit more difficult. Now trace the template with the liquid leading. The lead will shrink a little when it dries, so don’t make the lines too thin, or they will break. It can always be touched up later, though, so don’t worry too much.

The liquid lead is kinda hard, so you have to really squeeze the bottle to get it to come out. If you have tendonitis in your wrist and thumb (hi!!) this can get pretty painful. But don’t despair! The paint is much easier!!

Once you’re done with your leading, it should look something like this:

Let the lead dry. I think the bottle says it takes something like 8 hours. I usually left mine overnight, but once it’s no longer wet and sticky you can probably add the paint. Even dry it will be able to squish a little bit, so don’t use that as your measure for how dry it is.

Step 5: Paint!!

When you buy your paint, pay attention to the name of the color, not the color that you can see through the bottle. The paint will change color as it dries, so it’s always best to do a little test spot to try out what the paint will end up looking like. You can just put a spot right on the window that you’re working with, because once it dries you can peel it off cleanly, so there won’t be an obvious test spot sitting there.

Start painting right onto the glass, making sure that it touches the lead. As the paint dries, it will also shrink a little, so if it doesn’t attach to the leading it will pull back and you will get gaps. Remember, all gaps can be filled in later once it’s dry and you can see what needs a touch-up.

Here’s an in-progress shot. You can see the darker red, which is dry. The pink is what it looks like wet, and what it looks like in the bottle. So, you can see how the colors change as the paint dries. I had a lot of trouble finding the right colors for some of my design because of this. I actually ended up mixing a couple colors to get the paint the way I wanted it at one point.

The paint comes in little squeezy bottles. Because it is so liquidy, you really don’t even have to squeeze the bottle to get the paint to come out, it will just pour out nicely, and then you can smooth it around with the tip (much easier on my tendonitis!!). If the paint stops coming out as well, there might be an air bubble, so just tap the bottle on the glass a couple times and it should start working again. Try not to squeeze too hard, or you may get a sudden outpouring of paint, which can get messy. For different effects, you can also experiment with painting it on with a paintbrush, which usually makes the color a bit lighter.

That sand is 2 coats with a paint brush. So light!

Let the paint dry completely, and do any touch-ups where they are needed. If it’s just a small spot, you really can’t see where the new paint was added. However, I don’t recommend painting half of a section, letting it dry, and then finishing it, because you can see a line where you had left off in the first place. I got a bug in my paint at one point, and I had to peel off the paint in that area in order to get the bug out. When I went to add more paint to fill in the gap, there was a definite line where the new paint had been added. Sorry I don’t have a photo of that to show you, but it was not very pretty. I ended up adding some more to try and even out the area, and it worked ok. I bet no one else would even notice, but I know that it’s there.

I found that the best thing to do was do the lead of one and let that dry. The next day, I did the lead of another window, and while that was drying I painted the first one. By the time that was finished I could paint the first one, or lead another one, so that I didn’t have to sit around and wait for them to dry in between.

All in all, my windows took … forever. The smaller ones I finished pretty quickly, and it only took about a day for each one. Mind you, I really wasn’t working that much each day, so I probably could have finished the entire thing in less than a week if I really worked at it. But I’m lazy, and I ended up going away for a couple weeks in the middle, so … yeah, it took forever. It was made much easier by having a more or less symmetrical pattern, because then I really only had to make one template for all the four corners, and then I turned it to fit whichever window I was painting.

It is kind of tedious, and it tends to get boring if you’re painting for a long time, so I usually just put a movie in and worked while I listened to the movie. Books on tape would probably be better, if you have any, because you can’t actually watch the movie and paint at the same time. So I always picked movies that I’ve seen a lot. And really long ones, like the Jane Austen mini-series, because then I would get more of the window done.

And, ta-da!! My steampunk porthole windows! (Please note the octopus hanging on the bed … and the underwater bedspread … complete coincidence, I assure you.)

All in all, the colors that I used were ruby red (border), gold sparkle (gears), metallic copper (porthole), crystal clear (water), cocoa brown (connectors on the porthole), snow white (fish), orange poppy (starfish), orange poppy mixed with a lot of snow white (octopus), peach (coral), and I think the sand is gilded oak. Or amber, but I’m pretty sure it’s gilded oak, painted on with a brush. Oh, and there’s some turquoise in the fish’s fins.

Published in: on August 9, 2011 at 3:02 pm  Comments (2)