From the Postbag #2 – Texture

Stained glass painting Q&A

Here’s a photo of some textured glass paint. And the question is, how’s it done?


Well, what do you think?

And do you think one firing or two?

Give it some thought and we’ll come back to it in a moment, because for now …

Some background

There’s one simple reason why a whole lot of painted stained glass isn’t as successful as it could be.

The painter didn’t take things far enough.

See, once you start applying paint to glass, you’re nearly always committed to going the full distance.

And truth is, it’s often a bad idea to leave any pieces unpainted.

Yes, I know it all depends on the design and where the piece is going.

All the same, bare glass in a painted panel tends to look really, really bare.


And if you leave too much unpainted glass around a painted image … then the image itself tends to look bleached.

Washed out.

That’s why blocking it / flooding / silhouetting around a painted image is mostly such an effective method.

Sure this honey bee looks fine:

stained glass honey bee

Honey bee

The reason is, there’s a lot of painting on the back.

And you can see for yourself how the gargoyle on the right is ever so much more attractive than the one on the left:

stained glass gargoyles


The blocking in around the outline makes the outline stronger and more readable.

This isn’t easy. It’s something a glass painter learns about through experience and observation: how much light to allow through, how much paint to put on.

But inexperience and lack of confidence / excessive pride in tracing (!) often lead the novice glass painters to stop too soon.

Now the piece in question …

textured glass paint

A lot of random texture on the back will keep the image readable

… is part of a much, much larger stained glass window.

Look at the spotted green border on the left … or the texture behind the painted silhoutte on blue glass … or the texture on the pink glass …

You can see how, if none of this texture were there, the whole window would look very bare indeed.

And we can imagine there was a budget for this window. There always is!

Since tracing complicated images takes a lot of time – but texturing does not – you can also imagine how texturing is a way of succeeding within the available means and resources.


Useful tip!

The method

In a slightly different context, this is all covered in Part 1 of Glass Painting Techniques & Secrets from an English Stained Glass Studio.

You can do this all in one firing. If there’s a painted image on the front, do it on the back. If there isn’t, do it on the front: easy.

  1. Apply an undercoat, badger smooth, and leave to dry.
  2. Load a medium-soft toothbrush with paint, and flick spots over the dried undercoat. Allow to dry.
  3. Clean and dry your hand. Rub the glass gently until paint is removed from where the water in the flicked spots has weakened the gum Arabic in the undercoat.
  4. Dust with your badger.
  5. Fire.
textured glass paint

Use a medium-soft toothbrush to flick spots of paint across the whole surface of the undercoat

So once you’ve flicked paint onto the glass …

Flicked paint - allow to dry

Flicked paint – allow to dry

You gently rub the dried paint …

Essential - clean, dry hands and fingers

Essential – clean, dry hands and fingers

And this is the kind of effect you will achieve:

Ready to fire

Ready to fire

Quick and effective.

If you don’t like the result, just rub it off and do it again.

One note of caution: if there’s painting on the front, be careful when you apply the undercoat to the back – you don’t want wet paint to seep beneath …

The great thing is, randomness is fine here, so there’s not much to worry about.


Without inflicting psychological injury on yourself, have a look at various pieces and panels you’ve painted, and ask yourself if less light (more paint) would have improved the finished piece.

All the best,

Best wishes from David

12 thoughts on “From the Postbag #2 – Texture

  1. Hi David,

    What a great feature and effective results with minimal time and effort.

    I am always fearful of overdoing the painting but now will try out spattering to give a bit more contrast.

    Thanks once again for your inspiring ideas and showing us how it can be done!

    • Hello Eileen,

      Thanks for your comment. I know what you mean about the fear of overdoing the painting. All the same, I’ll stick by my position here and suggest to you that more stained glass fails by painting too little rather than by painting too much.

      Think of Harry Clarke. Yes, wonderful designs to start with. But light – pure light – just penetrates through the paint in very isolated places.

      It’s a good exercise to trace, shade and fire two identical pieces. And then to take one of the pieces even further

      Every best wish to you, Eileen,

  2. What a delightful tip. I had always used vinegar splatter, which is quite cantankerous and definitely odiferous, to obtain a similar result. I believe you just made my life a trifle easier. Thanks bunches.

  3. I was taught this same effect but with different tools. We used a water bottle with a super fine mist in the place of the toothbrush and a super soft round brush instead of fingers. Even a soft round cosmetic brush seems to work. The spots are more round and less fractal looking than with this method.

    • Hello Syrcaid,

      Thanks so much for your comment.

      You’re absolutely right. Everyone needs to know that many effects can be achieved in many different ways.

      I myself haven’t tested things enough to know for certain that one method gives superior and more rounded spots than another one.

      I also wonder: using fingers (rather than a brush) – maybe this, with experience, will give actually give people more control. At least we have nerves in our fingers (but not in our tools).

      All the best,

  4. Hi Stephen,
    This is the first observation that I wanted to comment on, as it really
    struck a chord with me. It is very true that a painted project should be followed through to include every piece. The covering up of that very expensive consignment of gorgeous glass does take some bravery, but I have learnt that it’s worth it in the end. Glade to see you mention Harry Clarke, I love his work, very intense. Would you, or David know if he did his own painting/ construction etc, or was he just the designer ?

    • Hello Roy,

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, in its own way, it does indeed take bravery. Which is not the same as recklessness! No, judgement and experience are required. (If you don’t go far enough, the painting will be bleached. If you go too far, the window will be ruined. )

      I don’t know for sure the answer to your question about Harry Clarke, but I assume he did his own – on the basis that acid fumes were implicated in his early death.

      All the best,

  5. Hello Stephen,

    Thanks again. I will try this out but I’ll take a few pictures of my painting before doing the spattering.

    We also did this during a work shop given by Lisa and Peter of Peli Glass in Zoetermeer. Very nice people. They share their knowledge, just like you and David do.

    All the best,

    • Hello Annemiek,

      Yes, good idea to photograph your work – also to experiment with test pieces before you do this for real!

      Best wishes,

      PS As you say, Lisa and Peter are excellent people, which is exactly why we work with them – they provide all kinds of glass painting materials including paints and brushes, and we provide knowledge and support.

  6. Thanks for the excellent tutorial on glass painting. Also, I really appreciate the prompt response concerning the spottling technique which has always eluded me … so far! Can’t wait to try it now.

    You had mentioned that there was to be another tutorial released in February. I would love to have that information as well.

    Also, looked into purchasing Sandalwood oil from Ananda Apothecary and found it to be quite pricey for even a small quantity. Is there any substitute in Reusche’s line, like Balsam of copaiba? I have lavender & clove oils on hand for mixing.

    Thanks again for all the help!
    Susanne Clarke

    • Hi Suzanne,

      To be clear: it’s not essential oil of Sandalwood you need, just Sandalwood Amyris (which isn’t really sandalwood at all): this is much cheaper. More to the point, it’s perfect for the job.

      All the best,

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