The subject of glass painting is extensive enough to fill a book of its own.
There are literally dozens of ways to paint on glass, ranging from using
traditional oil paints to using specialized glass paints that require firing
with a kiln.
Some of the major types of paints and processes used for glass painting are:
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TRADITIONAL STAINED GLASS PAINTING
Traditionally, glass painting referred to painting on the surface of a sheet
of glass to be included in a stained glass work. This kind of painting, which is
actually closer to drawing than painting, was done to add details such as faces
and folds of clothing that couldn't be added with traditional lead
lines. It was also used to cover up portions of stained glass works
so that light was kept from shining through.
In most cases, the glass paints used for stained glass painting are
predominately browns and gray-blacks. The colors tend to be water or gum arabic
based, and can be applied with a brush in a method similar to the way
watercolors are applied. In most cases, these paints are fired onto the glass
using a kiln. The heat of the kiln causes them to bond permanently with the
There are several major types of traditional stained glass paints, including
vinegar trace paint, matt paint, silver stain, and oil based paints.
• Vinegar trace paint
This paint, which is dark and completely blocks out the light in the areas
where it is applied, is most often used for figure or design lines. It is fairly
thick and must be mixed with water, vinegar, and gum arabic to use. Gum arabic,
which helps the paint stick to the glass, is usually purchased in powder form
and must be mixed with water or alcohol before using.
Vinegar trace paint must be applied "wet on wet"; that is, both the
brush and the glass surface must be wet. You can't apply more paint to a
particular place once it dries; if you do, the paint is likely to flake when
fired in the kiln.
Painting with vinegar trace paint requires practice. The hardest part is
learning to apply just the right amount of paint. Too much on the brush and it
will blot, too little and it will dry before the stroke is complete.
When dry, vinegar trace paint is often scraped or scratched with a small
stick or quill. This gives the paint a texture and depth that can't be gotten
from the paint alone. Once prepared, the paint is fired to around 1100 degrees
F. It becomes shiny after firing.
• Matt paint
Matt paint, which uses a base of either water and gum arabic or water and
vinegar, is easier to apply than vinegar trace paint. It can be applied thickly
or thinly and can even be "blended" and stippled or worked with a
second brush to give it an interesting texture. Some artists even rub it with
their fingers to achieve more unusual effects.
Because it is more transparent than vinegar trace paint, matte paint is
generally applied over tracing paint. Often, two firings are required, one for
the tracing paint and a second for the matt paint.
Matt paint is most frequently used for filling in backgrounds and adding
shadows. As with vinegar trace paints, the color selection is somewhat limited,
consisting primarily of blacks, brown, blues, and greens.
• Silver stain
Silver stain, which is available in shades of red, yellow, and orange, gets
its name from the presence of silver nitrate in the stain. After firing, it
turns golden, not silver-colored. It is unlike paint in that it actually changes
the color of the glass, rather than simply covering it up with a dark line or
Silver stains do not flow well from the brush, but since they are generally
used to add accent colors (rather than detailed lines) this is not a major
issue. They are often applied to the opposite side of the glass from vinegar
trace and matt paints, and may be fired face down, with the silver stain resting
on the kiln shelf.
Since silver stains are fired to around 1000 to 1100 F, they may be fired at
the same time as stained glass paints. Unlike glass paints, silver stains darken
and grow deeper with each firing.
• Oil-based stained glass paints
The advantages of oil-based glass paints are that they come in more colors,
are easier to work with, and are not effected by general atmospheric conditions.
The major disadvantage of these paints are that they tend to be less consistent
in application; although colors may be mixed like regular oil paints, they do
not always mix easily or thoroughly and sometimes fire unevenly.
Oil-based paints, which use an oil-turpentine base, are generally fired to a
slightly lower temperature than water-based paints. They tend to break up if
fired to higher temperatures.
If you are interested in learning more about the traditional stained glass
painting process, obtain a copy of Albinus Elskus's The Art of Painting on
Glass, widely considered the classic in the field.
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to the next kind of glass painting, using paints that don't need to be fired in