What is Stained Glass Paper?

Cynde Gregory

Stained glass paper is a convenient, inexpensive way to bring the glowing colors and dramatic forms of true stained glass to windows, accents, and even paper screens. It can be purchased in sheets or rolls in many different styles and designs, including bold primary colors or softer pastels. Glass adhesive is pre-spread on one side of the paper then covered with a peel-off protective backing. It is easy to apply and can be pulled off and re-applied if the paper shows wrinkles or bubbles.

A stained glass window, the inspiration for stained glass paper.
A stained glass window, the inspiration for stained glass paper.

There are many styles of stained glass paper, designed to mimic a range of historic stained glass. Gothic-styled paper echoes the tall arches and large blocks of color found in Europe’s oldest churches. Tiffany-styled paper displays narrow copper-foil lines and small mosaic patterns. Craftsman-styled paper imitates the thick lead lines and geometric shapes of designers such as Frank Lloyd Wright.

White glue is a key ingredient in making homemade stained glass paper.
White glue is a key ingredient in making homemade stained glass paper.

As it is inexpensive in comparison to handcrafted stained glass windows, doors, or panels, stained glass paper can be used to try out the look of stained glass before making a large financial commitment. If one design style doesn’t suit the furniture or design elements in a room, it can easily be removed and another style tried out in its place. Many home owners find stained glass paper to be the best way to decide upon a style before purchasing handcrafted stained glass pieces. Renters also find stained glass paper is a wonderful way to transform a room without leaving permanent damage. When it’s time to move, the paper can simply be peeled off, the window scrubbed clean, and no damage is done.

With black or gray poster board as a frame, stained glass paper can be handcrafted using waxed paper, food dye, white glue, and masking tape. First, 20 or so geometric shapes, such as triangles, squares, and circles are cut from white paper. Using crayons, the pieces are colored in primary or pastel colors. Some of the pieces can be put together in a mosaic to create an abstract pattern with a thick border around each piece. If one color combination doesn’t work, another can be tried until the mosaic looks right.

Next, geometric pieces can be used as a pattern and pinned to the black poster board; the borders will show as thick, black lines where the poster board shows through. A razor tool can then be used to cut around each shape and through the poster board, keeping the border around each piece. The waxed paper must be cut a little larger than the poster board and placed on top of a piece of discarded cardboard. The poster board is put on top of the waxed paper and tightly taped together along all edges.

Finally, white glue is poured into several small bowls along with a little food dye. They are stirred together until the color is uniform; secondary colors can be created by mixing together two primary colors. The colored glue is poured into the cutouts, matching the colors and shapes as they were arranged in the pattern. The project will dry overnight, and the following day, after the taped edges are trimmed, the stained glass paper can hang in a window. Sunlight will pour through in jewel-like colors!

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