A Different Approach To Working With Stained Glass

Studio Pass

Today I want to invite you into our studio to look at an approach we used on some windows we recently installed.

Maybe you’ll use this method exactly as you see it here today.

Or maybe you’ll make changes, giving it a life that’s all your own.

Whatever you do, I’m sure you’ll find the demonstration useful.

The designs

So please look at these proposals David prepared nearly two years ago now:

Water-colour designs for stained-glass windows

You see a lot of circles.

And in those circles, you’ll probably detect some kind of shading.

But, at this scale (the designs are 18 inches high in real life; 450 mm), not much else is clear.

So have a look at this:

Stained-glass roundels

And now I’m sure it’s clear there’s far more than just a simple shadow in those circles.

Each roundel has an emblem.

Question for you:

Can you imagine how you might paint the emblem? How you might paint them a lot of them?

It really is helpful to stop and consider for a moment, before I take you inside the studio and show you what we did.

  • Basically it’s a light image against a dark background.
  • And in case you’re wondering: it’s all clear (‘white’) glass, ideally with a bit of texture.

Have you got your own ideas?

If so, let’s continue.

First I’ll use words to list the individual stages.

After that, you’ll find the video.

The individual stages are:

I’ll be brief here. This list is just to help you get your bearings:

  1. Clean the glass.
  2. Apply a sticky stencil to each circle.
  3. Remove the unwanted part of each stencil. This is the uncovered area where the sandblaster’s sand will strike.
  4. Sandblast.
  5. Remove the remains of the stencil.
  6. Fire-polish the glass to reduce its roughness. (This is especially important to ensure that, later on, the cement won’t stick.)
  7. Apply a matt.
  8. While the matt is still wet, apply a shadow.
  9. And blend …
  10. Allow the paint to dry.
  11. Rub the matt to highlight it.
  12. Fire again.

The video is coming up soon.

We start at step 7 – with the painting.

Please remember this: you don’t need a sandblaster of your own to work like this.

We don’t have one. We have a friend who hired us theirs and let us use their studio.

(Which reminds me. When I first quit my previous profession to learn stained-glass, I used to travel across London to a shop where I could hire a light-box by the day and a sandblaster by the hour.)

But now to the video.

Studio pass:

Over to you

If you enjoyed the video, please let us know.

If you’ve got questions, please leave them in the comment box below.

And it’s so helpful to us if you post a link to Facebook or Twitter.

Thank you!

Stephen Byrne of Williams & Byrne the glass painters

43 thoughts on “A Different Approach To Working With Stained Glass

  1. Just love these windows! Thanks for a very clear explanation of the techniques used to enhance the sandblasted circles.

  2. I enjoyed your video on shading sand blasted circles. Apart from the video I like the colors you achieve in painting glass. I do some limited glass painting and have a small kiln but have never had a lot luck having colors turn out. My work is all in tracing black or dark brown. Thanks again for sharing your techniques.

  3. Great video! I have done some sandblasting in the past but using a much finer grit. This is texturally superior for this type of application. I will try it.

  4. Another great post from you! So inspiring and lots of information for me to explore, thank you so much. Immediately shared it on Facebook 🙂
    Love, Candida

  5. Hello Stephen,

    Thank you for such an exciting video and technique. I’ve been doing a similar thing but without the sandblasting.

    Could you share with me what temperature you fused the post-sandblasted circles? I like that you still have some of the sandblast texture in the glass and love the way the painting looks on top of that.

    David’s watercolor sketches are beautiful as well and I’m sure the windows are going to be stunning!

    All the best,

    • Hi Bonnie,

      The temperature for the post-sandblast firing will partly follow from the coarseness of the sand and also from the glass itself.

      We used a fairly fine sand. And the glass was made by Lamberts, so antique, and softer than most float glass.

      So, after sand-blasting, we fired them to the top temperature of 1275 Fahrenheit / 690 C., where we soaked them for 10 minutes.

      Then down to to 1040 Fahrenheit / 560 C. as fast as the kiln allowed.

      Next, down to 980 Fahrenheit / 525 C. at 80 Fahrenheit / 25 C. per hour.

      But certainly there were several tests to figure out how the glass reacted to this schedule: it will be different for different glass, different coarseness of sand and for different kilns.


      P.S. Another factor was: to make sure the fired glass was smooth enough that cement would not stick.

  6. Hi Stephen,

    I have been researching sandblasting on glass. I’m thinking of setting up my own. What material did you use to blast with?

    You must be busy. I haven’t received any info in a while. Hope it is a good busy!!


    • Hi Sue,

      The stencils themselves were stick-on plastic (low-adhesive, so it didn’t take long to clean them after sandblasting). We had them cut for us by a firm in London: we e-mailed them the designs, they snail-mailed us back the stencils.

      The sandblaster itself had fine-grain sand in it this time.


  7. Hi Stephen,

    Another inspiring technique. My question is: have you used this technique on flashed glass? And could you achieve a graduated effect similar to acid etching?

    Mike S. – Shrewsbury

    • You can certainly sandblast flashed glass. In our experience, it is not as subtle as what it’s possible to achieve with acid-etching where, for example, you can use a feather to push away the eroding top layer from particular places, so the acid continues working there. Sandblasting is somewhat cruder, even with fire-polishing – but still a valuable technique.

  8. Hello David. Thanks very much for the video demo.Very useful tip,applying the darker paint before the wash dries and then blending. Always enjoy your demos. Thanks. Farook

  9. Love the window and thanks for sharing the technique on the roundels.
    Now I can upgrade the plain roundels instead of just relying on the colors.

  10. Beautiful, as always! I do want to try this technique but don’t have access to a sandblaster (to rent, borrow or steal). I suppose I could buy one 😉

    However I think I will try etching cream first.

    Do you think I might achieve favorable results with it?

    Thank you again for sharing.

    • It’s worth trying, Marian: it depends on how far the cream abrades the glass. I’ll be interested to know. Something will happen: whether it similar to the effect in this post, or a completely different one … Happy explorations!

    • Marian,

      I have used etching cream to remove the flashed portion of flashed glass, under duress. It CAN do anything a sandblaster can do, but at greater cost of time and sanity. I wrote up my experience doing so here: http://brynnsglass.blogspot.com/2013/04/memorial-disks.html you can see what it looked like between coats of cream.

      Just know that it will not be fast! I am much happier with the near-instant gratification (comparatively speaking) with sandblasting, when possible.

  11. Really great video. (I suspect that the sand blasting box was at Lead & Light!)

    In a way these slightly obscured circular lights are acting as a kind of high-speed modern grisaille, letting through plenty of light, but not allowing the sun to dazzle.

    Thanks for keeping this art and craft alive.

  12. Thank you for sharing your technics. Very valuable information that you never know when or in which way it would be necessary or just essential.

  13. Thank you for the video, (just received) and thank you very much for sharing your expertise and your valuable experience with us. I look forward to your messages and am very much obliged to you both for the many lessons. I don’t know how you guys find time to do your work when you spend so much time showing us (in great detail) just how to do the various steps. Thank you again, . . very much!!!

    Michael E. Silk
    Ontario, Canada

  14. I loved the video – extremely clear exposition of technique. And it addressed the question as to why the shading was employed on the sand-blasted pieces in the first place.

    I’m only just setting out to learn about glass painting and probably have the beginner’s lack of comfort with the seemingly random application of shade! I think if one could see this in the flesh it would help, but I suspect that use makes master…

    Thank you for passing on all of your experience!

  15. Thanks for the post. New to glass painting. Interested on learning. Experience with Tiffany reproductions and Victorian panels. Trying to expand glass working skills.

  16. You guys are SO generous with your knowledge and your techniques! Thank you so much for sharing them with us lesser mortals!

  17. Have done stained glass for years but recently introduced to grisaille at my class. My instructor referred me to your website and videos. I found what I have seen so far to be amazing and inspirational. Your instructional videos are clear and easy to follow and your approach makes it seem easy to try these techniques. Seeing your hands manipulate the materials gives me the opportunity to model my own movements and feel less clumsy doing my own projects. I look forward to seeing more of what you have to offer.

    • We’re glad to meet you and work with you. Also glad you find the videos useful. I will jump in and say one other thing: I hope you won’t be deterred if some techniques are harder than they look to do – your enthusiasm and practise will, with time, make them as easy as they are on-screen.

  18. Thanks for the post, I found it interesting. One suggestion I might make is, before removing the frisket, spray the sandblasted area with Reusches’ 50R001 clear glaze. I apply it with an airbrush not too heavily. The frisket is then removed and the piece fired as you would fire paint (1150 to 1200f.). You will remove the heavy “tooth” of the sandblasting without the long high fire. It’s faster with less chance of picking up shelf texture. Just a thought.

    Best wishes.

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