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Stained glass painting - tools and materials

Stained glass painting - tools and materials

At the Williams & Byrne stained glass studio, we use many different kinds of tools and materials in painting stained glass:

  • Brushes, scrubs and needles
  • Light boxes, glass palettes, palette knives and painting bridges
  • Stained glass paints, silver stains and enamels
  • Kilns to fire the glass
Here's more information for you about how we use these different materials and tools.

Stained glass paint and silver stain

Our glass paints and silver stains come from Reusche in the US. They don't pay us for this testimonial; it's just that we think they combine a fantastic product with an excellent service. You can download their glass stainers catalog from here.

We mainly use their tracing black (DE401) and bistre brown (DE402). These fire at 1200 - 1250 Fahrenheit (650 - 675 Celsius). We also use all of Reusche's silver stains: these are likewise amazing.

Stained glass enamels

Our stained glass enamels come from Thompson Enamels in the US. Again, we aren't paid to mention them; rather, we mention them on account of their quality. You'll find the enamels we use right here: enamel supplements from Thompson Enamels. The GPP-series can also be used for silhouettes: we'll soon prepare a free guide to show you how to do this.

For distributors in your country, visit the Thompson Enamel website and click on the Distributors button.

Stained glass tracing brushes

Stained glass tracing brushes

We use our tracing brushes to trace and paint lines and shadows onto glass. Some brushes have fine heads, others have broad heads: as you see in Part 4 on tracing, you need both kinds.

The hairs can be natural or synthetic: we don't have a preference. The hairs can be attached to the shaft of the brush by a metal ferrule or by a quill: again, both kinds are fine.

We keep different sets of tracing brushes for glass paints, silver stains and enamels. We also keep different tracing brushes for different media such as water and the different oils we use.

It's worth spending the extra money to buy excellent quality tracing brushes: they need to keep their shape and hair. (Even so, with the constant use we make of them, our tracing brushes eventually wear out.)

The hairs on most of our tracing brushes are 1 inch long.

Thin, wide brushes

Thin, wide brushes

These are the brushes we use in painting stained glass. We use them to prime the surface of our glass with an undercoat of light-colored glass paint - a technique which we explain in Part 2 of our e-book, Glass Painting Techniques & Secrets from an English Stained Glass Studio.

We also use these brushes to help turn traced lines into shadows - one of the wonderful stained glass technique that we explain in Part 3. (We also need a blender to do this - see below.)

Of the two kinds of brushes that you see here, we greatly prefer the long one on the right: it's lovely to hold and use.

Both brushes are about 1.5 inches wide; the hairs are between 1 and 1.5 inches long.

Stained glass blenders - large blenders

Stained glass blenders - large blenders

Stained glass blenders are made from badger hair. We mainly use them to smooth or otherwise move glass paint around on the glass before it dries. They are essential to softening and shading as you discover in Part 3 when we show you how to shade before you trace and then fire your glass just ONCE.

We also use them to create texture: a "wet" stipple is where we use a blender to "stab" wet glass paint repeatedly to leave behind a gently patterned surface.

Our large blenders are 3 inches wide at the base with hairs which are between 3 and 3.5 inches long. The kind on the left is traditional and more expensive than the kind on the right; but we also use the kind on the right and think they are very good indeed (despite containing fewer hairs).

Stained glass blenders - small round-headed blenders

Stained glass blenders - small round-headed blenders

We mainly use these small round-headed stained glass blenders for the oil-based painting that we describe in Part 6 of our e-book, Glass Painting Techniques & Secrets from an English Stained Glass Studio.

These brushes are excellent for oil, because the oil paint only dries slowly.

This means we have the time to use small blenders like these for gentle and delicate work where speed is not essential.

By contrast, we use large blenders mainly for shading water-based paint precisely because the water evaporates quickly: there, a larger blender is needed in order for us to work as quickly as possible.

Stained glass scrubs, needles and sticks

Stained glass scrubs, needles and sticks

We use scrubs, needles and sticks for highlights as described in Part 5 of our e-book, Glass Painting Techniques & Secrets from an English Stained Glass Studio.

The principle is always the same: once the glass paint has air-dried, we can pick and scratch it before it's fixed by firing in the kiln.

The important point about scrubs is that their hair is coarse. You can therefore also use them for a "dry" stipple by stabbing and puncturing dried paint.

You can use just about anything for needles: for example, we also use knitting needles as well as large sewing needles which we've forced into the end of old brushes.

As for sticks, you can make your own by sharpening the ends of old painting brushes or scrubs. Do note that you need to be careful not to do yourself an injury with needles and sticks.

Painting bridge

Painting bridge

The main use of a painting bridge in painting stained glass is to guide your hand while you trace and protect the unfired glass paint that you're working on.

They're made from wood or plastic. We make our wooden ones ourselves.

Like riding a bicycle, they take a little bit of getting used to, but they soon become second nature.

There are good and bad ways of holding a bridge as we explain in one of the six free bonus gifts with our e-book, Glass Painting Techniques & Secrets from an English Stained Glass Studio.

Stained glass light boxes

Stained glass light boxes

Here are the main features of our own light boxes which we make ourselves:

  • 3 mm toughened glass on top which is sandblasted on one side to diffuse the light and which rests on a narrow internal ledge
  • A low-heat movable light source within (ours is a standard bathroom wall-mounted light)
  • Mounted on legs which allows the air to circulate and permits the electric cable to pass underneath
  • Painted white inside to reflect the light
Our light boxes are 22 inches by 16 inches. They can certainly be larger if required, but not much smaller.

Stained glass kilns

There are so many different kinds of kiln that perhaps it's useful simply to describe the kiln we use each day. It's an electric (not gas). It loads from the top. There is just one shelf. It measures about 20 inches by 20 inches. There are 2 ventilation holes (one on top, one on the front side). The electric elements are in the lid.

It's also worth describing the surface on which we fire our glass. We had made for us a mild steel tray. We fill this tray with whiting or plaster or paris: this is the surface on which are glass sits when we fire it - we don't use any shelf primer. You will find more information here on our stained glass Forum.

Change the way you paint stained glass!

By teachng you our stained glass techniques, we can change the way you paint stained glass, so get your stained glass painting book right here.

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