Stained Glass Painting – 6 Big Myths Which Hold You Back

Here are 6 big myths of kiln-fired stained glass painting. Throw away these silly myths and take your stained glass painting to fantastic heights! Fasten your seat-belt and be prepared for the ride of your life.

The way we paint will change the way you paint!

Myth #1 – “Paint your trace lines first”

This seems obvious, and it’s what all the books tell you to do.

But, when you paint a room, what’s the first thing you do once you’ve cleaned all the surfaces?

You paint an undercoat!

It’s just the same with glass. When you first paint an undercoat over the whole surface of the glass, your tracing lines will have a beautiful surface to stick to. It’s amazing how much easier it is to paint a neat tracing line when you’re no longer painting on bare glass but an on unfired undercoat instead.

Take care to paint the undercoat as lightly and evenly as possible and then to let it dry. Then start to paint the other details.

Using an undercoat is common sense when you think about it, and it works like a dream.

Myth #2 – “Paint and fire your trace lines before you paint your shadows and matting”

Well, this is so much a part of received wisdom that we feel a bit like Galileo when we tell you that it’s just not true.

Of course, if you really want to, you can certainly paint and fire your trace lines first, but the point is you don’t have to.

In fact, you can paint many shadows before you paint your trace lines: your glass painting will become extraordinarily delicate and suggestive when you do this.

Here’s what you do.

Start by painting a light, even undercoat over the whole surface of the glass and let it dry.

Now paint some light, dry trace lines where you want some shadows to be, and let them dry.

Then reinforce these lines with second coats and let them dry.

The final step is to paint a light wash over the whole surface of the unfired glass, and, while this paint is still wet, use your blender to soften the trace lines and turn them into gentle shadows.

Once the paint is dry, you can then trace further details. The effect is gorgeous: gentle blurs and shadows which soften the boldness of your trace lines.

Myth #3 – “You must fire a layer of paint before you paint on top of it – otherwise the paint will blister in the kiln”

There are several causes of blistering, but painting on top of unfired paint is not one of them: we often paint six layers of paint, then fire our glass just once. That’s right: we layer up our paint and fire our glass just once. The paint never blisters. So what causes blistering? There are four main causes.

A. Too much gum Arabic in your paint: the solution is to dilute your paint so that it contains a smaller proportion of gum Arabic.

B. Not waiting until a previous layer is completely dry: the solution is to allow earlier layers always to dry completely before you paint on top of them.

C. Correcting a line or shadow before it dries: the solution is to allow a stroke to dry completely before correcting it.

D. An incorrect firing schedule: consider slowing the rate of increase, lowering the top temperature and/or decreasing the amount of time that you hold the top temperature.

Follow these suggestions and you’ll be able to paint on top of unfired paint as much as you wish. The effect can be astonishing – and your paint won’t blister!

Myth #4 – “You can’t paint on both sides of the glass and fire the glass just once”

When you paint on both sides of a piece of glass, you create a magical sense of depth.

For example, you can take a blue piece of glass and paint waves on top and fish beneath (as if you were peering through the waves to see the fish below).

The advantage of doing this in a single firing is that you can adjust both sides before fixing them permanently in the kiln.

Most people don’t even consider painting on both sides of the glass. And, of those who do, most of them believe each side must be fired separately, but this is just not true.

At our studio, we place our glass on a bed of plaster of Paris: the heat from the kiln is more than enough to fire paint on both sides at once, and the underside never sticks.

Try this technique for yourself and see what we mean!

Myth #5 – “You can’t mix oil and water”

Again, this seems so self-evident that no one ever questions it or even considers how to take advantage of it.

But we did, and here’s the technique we’ve pioneered.

First of all we use some water-based paint to shade and trace as usual.

Then, before firing, we use some oil-based paint and add more details. It’s amazing, but the oil-based paint doesn’t disturb the unfired water-based paint below. the cursed woman painting

Then we fire the glass just once. In this way we can add as many as six layers of paint all on top of one another and finish our glass in a single firing.

Myth #6 – “The best way to mix glass paint is to mix a teaspoonful at a time”

We’ve left this myth till last because we first wanted to demonstrate the 5 amazing things we can do in our stained glass studio. And the reason we can do them is that we ALWAYS paint with a LUMP of paint.

We always mix several ounces of glass paint at a time, add a little gum Arabic and just enough water so that the glass paint is like a bulbous jelly fish that’s been washed up on a beach.

This lump, of course, is too thick and dark to paint with as it is. But this means we can dilute it a little at a time and so prepare small batches of glass paint which are the perfect consistency for the next couple of strokes. So the lump lasts for ages. We cover the lump when we aren’t using it, and we re-mix it from time to time.

Liberate your painting – paint with a LUMP! Painting with a lump is your passport to a whole new world of beautiful glass painting.

What happens when you throw away these 6 big myths of stained glass painting?

It doesn’t matter what all the books say. It doesn’t even matter what the experts say. The only thing which matters is what works. We threw away these 6 big myths some years ago, and you can see our painted stained glass in buildings across the world. If what we say strikes a cord in your heart and excites you forward to new skills, we’ll be absolutely thrilled.



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