Painting Trace Lines

Outlining Your Design

Stain glass painting opens up an exciting number of options for you. Once you get the hang of it you’ll be able to add detail, texture and colour to your stained glasswork.

stain glass painting brushes
Starting with line work is best, especially for beginners, as it can be fired first to give you a permanent reference point for the matting (or shading) that you do later.

Stain Glass Painting

What you need - painting checklist

Palette, Palette knife, Water, Paint, Gum Arabic, Pipette, Painting brushes – the thin brushes are known as ‘tracing brushes’ – size 3&5 are good for beginners, A light box, Bridge or armrest.

1 Cleaning your glass

Glass paint will gather in blobs if the glass is dirty or greasy. You can clean it with rubbing alcohol – isopropyl is the best cleaning agent. Almost as good is a smear of your mixed paint on a tissue and rubbed over your glass.

2 Getting the consistency right

painting lines on glass
- Add some water to the edge of your mixed paint until it’s the consistency of thick evaporated milk.
- It’s crucial to get this right – my students often try to start glass painting with paint that’s too dry and find that they run out of paint or their lines are uneven.
- Too thick an application will result in blobby paint that blisters in the firing. Too thin and it fires off.

3 Start stain glass painting

Traditionally people did their tracing (line work) by following a what was called a 'cartoon' under their glass, but this may not suit you if you work in a more spontaneous manner.

- Charge the brush by twirling it around in the paint.
- Hold the brush in a perpendicular position gently between forefinger and thumb and rest your palm on the bridge.
- Off you go! Don’t expect to get it right first time, it takes time to get used to stain glass painting.
- Try pressing lightly and using just the tip of the brush.
- Then try moving the brush quickly and slowly, to get an idea of the different marks you can make.

using brush for line work
This photo shows artist Mark Angus using the whole length of the brush to make a stroke.
- Have a go at that too. See how far you can go without running out of paint.
- As water dries quickly, you’ll have to learn to keep going until you’ve finished – once the paint has dried it’s difficult to seamlessly add to it with wet stain glass paint.

4 Correct or enhance paint lines with a needle

using a needle to scrape paint
- You can easily tidy up lines with a needle pressed into a brush handle.
- You can work into your lines with a needle to enhance your stain glass painting.
- You can really have fun with this – scratch patterns in or add detail – for example making hair ‘hairier’.

5 Final clean

Greasy fingerprints will fire in permanently, so you need to make sure your glass is free of them and any unwanted smears of paint. You’re now ready to do your initial firing.

6 Firing your stain glass

Assuming it's simple paint mixed with water, I'd recommend the following kiln firing schedule:

Segment 1. 570F/300C per hour to 1220F/660C (matt finish) - 1250F/675C (shiny finish). Soak 5 mins.
Segment 2. Full to 1040F/560C. Soak 5 mins.
Segment 3. 50F/10C per hour to 986F/530C. No soak. Off.

Helpful Resources

This is a really good 5 minute video that takes you through the whole process of stain glass painting a face.
It might be a bit off-putting as it's quite a difficult subject, but you could try using the techniques on an easier drawing first.

Video of traditional stain glass painting

Once you're happy with your line (or tracing) work, and have fired them permanently, you can move on to Blending Paint.




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