Silver Stain

Don't use water ...

Mix It This Way And You’ll Get Amazing Results

Jeff Hitch e-mailed us from Mission Viejo in California with a question about silver stain:

Can you please give me some tips on how to paint with silver stains? I have been using vinegar and brushes with no metal (since I understand there’s an active ingredient in the stain which corrodes the metal). They paint OK but they just don’t flow as well as other types of paints. Also, I can’t get them to gradate very well. Can you help?



Stain often causes problems, and maybe it’s caused you problems too:

  • Slight differences in temperature can produce dramatically different results.
  • Differences in glass tend to produce different results.
  • And, when glass has previously been fired, this can also produce different results.

Therefore it’s always important to run tests.

This is especially so because one tends to paint stain last of all, when everything else has been done to perfection.

So, even with what we’ll tell you now, you always need to advance with caution.

The majority view

Most people in this country mix stain with water.

I’ve asked around, and most people in the US seem to mix stain with either water or vinegar.

Here’s a run-down of the resultant problems:

  • Both media make it difficult to judge the density of the colour.
  • Both media are difficult to apply to all and only the desired area.
  • Neither media shades at all well.
  • Both media, when dry, are messy and noxious to clean up.

So a lot of problems.

It’s madness to tolerate problems like these, so Jeff is absolutely right to ask questions.

A Different Approach

We use oil, either oil or tar, sandalwood amyris mixed with a little bit of lavender.

Oil of tar is wonderful but carcinogenic, so we absolutely and unequivocally can’t recommend anyone gets into using it.

Sandalwood amyris and lavender work fine.

Sandalwood amyris is very thick: that’s why you can use it to make the basic paste, and then use lavender (which is thin):

  1. Get your sandalwood amyris.
  2. Follow similar directions to how we mix oil-based paint as explained in Part 3 of Glass Painting Techniques & Secrets from an English Stained Glass Studio.
  3. You just need a one or two palette knife’s worth of stain.
  4. Add the oil a little at a time.
  5. Keep adding oil until you have a really thick paste.
  6. Decant this into a tiny sealable jam jar, and leave it to settle.
  7. The next day, put some of this paste on your palette, add some lavender and mix it with a palette knife until you have whatever consistency you want.

You obtain lighter colours by making a thinner dilution on your palette and by spreading it more thinly.

Being oil, this is far easier to achieve than with water or vinegar.

It’s also possible to blend the stain.

Problems solved – but you will always need to experiment!

No messy clean up – the only disadvantage is that it doesn’t dry as such, so you must handle the glass carefully until it’s fired.

We’ve found oil far more predictable and controllable than water.

It also keeps for ever in the jam jar, so it’s far more economical to use than with water. No waste.

Firing: we usually go to 220 Fahrenheit / 100 c. over 2 hours, rest there for 10 minutes, then go to 1040 F. / 560 c. over 2 hours, then let the kiln cool at its normal rate. But we aware that every case is different.

Enjoy the liberation from water and vinegar.

Silver Stain – How to Trace, Blend, Shade and Flood from a Reliable Batch that Works for Months

This is really important: how much time and money are you wasting by not knowing the insider techniques which will take your staining to the professional level?

I mean, how comfortable are you with using stain to trace, blend, shade and flood?

And how would you like to go a long, long way to getting rid of that anxiety which most people feel when they come to check if their silver stain has actually worked?

Like, so it’s not all hit-and-miss?

I wrote a guide and filmed some demonstrations. If you’re interested, hit the link and get the guide right here.

16 thoughts on “Silver Stain

  1. Hi guys!

    I was Googling “Jeff Hitch” because I got a lead that he teaches beginning glass painting here in California.

    It’s great to know (through Google) that he has also been in contact with Williams & Byrne.

    If you have the means, can you do me a favor and forward a request that I am trying to make contact with him? – I am still looking for a person to get me going on the basics.

    My best regards as always.
    Hal Wilson
    Santa Margarita, CA

  2. I am a teacher of stained glass painting & reside in San Diego County, California. I teach at Ed Hoy’s in Illinois and hold individual classes in my studio which are usually 5 days in length. I am also thrilled with having found this English painting studio. I am recommending the site to all of my students.

  3. Hello Sister Marie,

    Thanks so much for your enthusiasm and support. For our part, David and I get so much from our encounters with people all over and in every walk of life. And now we meet you: wonderful!

    All the best,

  4. I find that if you mix your silver stain with some dry gum arabic before adding water, then, once you’ve added water, you let it sit for a short time (thus allowing the water thoroughly to mix with the gum & stain) that you can then apply it fairly evenly on the back and fire stain to kiln shelf so that your other painting & matting on the front will not be disturbed. The gum takes away the stickiness. It dries rather quickly. It is easy to handle even if you still have work to do on the other side.

    • Good point, thank you! For our part, we have managed to get by without adding gum Arabic to silver stain – the kind we use possesses adhesive qualities of its own! So it’s useful to know that gum can indeed be added for added security e.g. when you want to fire the stain against the kiln shelf.

  5. Cheers gentlemen – your information is always fantastic!
    I want to share that I recently completed an exhaustive series of silver stain tests with 18 stain formulas from 4 manufactures in 3 countries. I made over 200 samples and have posted my research on a blog at:
    I hope you and your readers will find it to be a valuable resource.
    Kindest regards,

    • Hello Kenneth,
      Thanks for your message and for your enthusiasm.
      And also for the amazing link.
      I’ve added your site as a “site we’re following” and know that so many people will be thrilled with and grateful for your incredible work.
      All the best,

  6. Hi guys,
    Fantastic information! I’ve been working with glass for the past 12 years but haven’t painted in a while. Great resource for those of us who are a bit rusty and need a memory ‘jog’. I’ve been having real problems with consistent silver staining using water so I can’t wait to experiment with your oil technique.

    Great to see there are traditional stained glass artists in the world who are incredibly skilled.

  7. Hi guys,

    I just found your website yesterday as am going to have a go at painting. I have never picked up a brush before. I have been lead-lighting for about 20 years and want to add another arrow to the bow, so to speak. So not sure how old some of the comment are … but just wanted to say that your website is really great – so much info to take in.

    I have paid for the first part of your online book and will get the other part when I find them.

    Am very pleased with your site and the work that you guys have put in to it.

    Many, many thanks,

    • Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your comment, and I’m glad you found the site and like what you see. We’re here to work with you and other glass painters of all levels: day by day, week by week, month by month.

      Take things at your own pace, do things in your own way, do them well, and we’ll be here!

  8. Hi Stephen and David, greetings from Texas!

    I had the privilege to share a weekend with you back in September 2010 before I moved to Texas. Since then I’ve been doing some practice, and I also found a place in Dallas where I had the chance to continue my learning of stained glass painting: it’s at Kittrell/ Riffkind Art Glass. I’ve been trying silver stain using water as the media without much success. I would like to try oil instead next time, and I was wondering if you know whether Sandalwood oil can be substituted for Clove oil.

    I’ll be going to England in September for my daughter’s graduation, and I was thinking about popping by and say hello to you if that’s OK.

    Thank you again for all your tips and invaluable help.

    Take care!

    • Hi Consuelo,

      I’m glad to hear from you and also glad to know you’re doing well. Now you ask whether it’s possible to substitute Clove for Sandalwood when mixing up a batch of silver stain. My immediate answer is: why not take a half-teaspoonful of stain and see how it works for you? I myself don’t know how it will work but that is because we are perfectly happy with the result (and the smell) of Sandalwood, so we don’t feel the need to try. But if you do, that’s wonderful, and you must.

      All the best,

      P.S. Everyone who’s keen on fascinating detail: Ken Leap’s book on silver stain is absolutely magnificent.

      P.P.S. We ourselves use Sandalwood Amyris, which is not a real Sandalwood (except in name).

      P.P.P.S. We’re in and out in September. It will be lovely to see you again; just be sure to ring ahead to make sure we’ll be in the day you plan to call.

Comments are closed.