How can I Learn to Create Stained Glass?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Classical stained glass is a beautiful decorative accent using pieces of colored glass cut and set into leading to create an image. It can be found all over the western world in places like church windows, homes, and businesses. Church windows often have dazzling displays of stained glass which inspire people to want to learn more about it. There are a number of techniques for learning how to create stained glass, depending on how much of the process you want to know about.

Studying classic stained glass pieces can help an artist determine their style.
Studying classic stained glass pieces can help an artist determine their style.

Stained glass, especially in the form of windows, is a unique art form. Stained glass windows are sometimes called illuminated wall decorations because of the way they play with and enhance natural light. Stained glass is not used in rooms which need a great deal of even, natural light: it is used to enhance the beauty of a room or to tell a story. It takes some time to learn how to design stained glass well, so that it will complement rather than overwhelm a room. With some practice and education, you can create beautiful stained glass objects which will be treasured by their owners for years to come.

Taking a glass blowing class is a good way to start learning about stained glass.
Taking a glass blowing class is a good way to start learning about stained glass.

The glass used in stained glass is colored in a number of ways which have different qualities. In the first technique, stained glass is created by mixing metal oxides with glass to create vivid, solid color. The oxides are mixed in while the glass is being annealed so that it will not shatter from minor impacts or temperature changes. Another technique called plating involves painting the colors directly onto pieces of glass and baking them in a furnace so that the color blends with the glass, although it can be damaged by scratching. This technique is also used by some artists to make stained glass windows or accents, with the artist painting a pattern or scene directly onto a large sheet of glass which is fired before being installed. Another popular type of glass, flashed glass, is made by dipping clear glass into hot glass of another color to create a layer of color on the glass.

If you are interested in learning how to make the glass used to create stained glass, you should take glass blowing craft classes. A number of art centers and colleges have glass blowing programs and offer classes to the public by arrangement. In a glass blowing class, you will learn about the different types of glass, how to blow strong durable glass, and how to add color to glass. You will also learn about the equipment needed to make glass.

If you do not have an interest in the production techniques used to make glass, but would like to learn to make stained glass art pieces, you can either take classes or use books. A basic class is recommended so that you understand the fundamentals of working with glass, including how to cut glass well, how to connect pieces of stained glass with leading or grout, and how to safely handle toxic substances used to make stained glass. After you have taken a basic class, you may want to purchase several books, set up a project table, and start creating. You can also learn about painting details onto the glass and making solid frames to display stained glass pieces, as well as different techniques and styles used in stained glass art.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Who knows where I can study stained glass? At a university?


@bythewell - If someone doesn't want to worry about the shattered glass, I would suggest using paints instead of trying to learn proper stained glass techniques. You can get special craft paints that are meant to go on glass, and even ones that can be used and then peeled off to be reused as stained glass suncatchers. They have special thick paints that can be used as raised relief between the colors as well.

I'd say they would be good for kids who might not be old enough to try the real stained glass techniques.


@umbra21 - It's actually not that big a deal. I took a couple of classes in it once and you don't even really need special tools, although it depends on what kind of stained glass type you're making.

The glass itself isn't that expensive and there are hundreds of different colors available. And all you need is a $30 cutting tool to cut it into shapes.

A workshop area definitely helps, though, because you have to be careful about shattered glass bits going everywhere. And, depending on what kind of finished product you're making, you might need to solder metal bits together as well (for example, if you're making a stained glass lamp).

But in general, I was surprised by how easy it was. Once you learn the basics, it's really only limited by your imagination.


I have a friend who makes stained glass pieces and every now and then she'll post a picture of them on her Facebook page. They are always so amazing and beautiful, I have no idea how she does it. Stained glass always seemed to me to be one of those things that is almost magical and impossible for the average person to achieve without a workshop and special tools.

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