Stained Glass Painting with Lead-Free Paints

A colleague in the US wrote and asked us whether we’d used lead-free glass paints.

We hadn’t.

So we decided to give them a try.

And here’s what we discovered.

Series 5 Tracing Black (E401)

We used Reusche’s Series 5 tracing black (E401) and bistre brown (E402).

Now series 5 is flagged as lead and cadmium free, which is all good and fine. But we would remind you that, whilst using these paints, you must still be aware of the danger of inhaling dust, since dust can get your lungs into all kinds of trouble.

When preparing our lump, we used exactly the same procedure as we always do. The only difference was that we prepared about half our usual quantity.

The first thing we noticed was the incredible creaminess of the paint.

Stained glass painting with lead-free paints

So smooth and creamy …

We imagine it was a bit like wearing a satin shirt when you’re used to good hard-wearing cotton … (Not that we’d know.)

Just mixed, it was a little tricky to get to flow smoothly. But that’s also what we’d expect of our paint that isn’t lead-free. So we covered it up and left it overnight.

And here’s where we discovered something really interesting.

Next morning, the lump hadn’t dried up as much as we’d expected it to.

Stained glass painting with lead-free paints

Surprisingly usable the morning after …

This wasn’t down to how we’d sealed and covered it: we did the same as we always do.

Nor was it down to the temperature in the studio: we compared it with some ordinary tracing paint that we’d also been using the day before.

So we suspect it’s connected with the size of grain, which may also explain the extraordinary creaminess of the paint.

Now why is this an interesting discovery?

Leave aside that the paint is lead and cadmium free – the slow-drying property of this paint might be particularly useful to glass painters who work in hotter climates than we have here in overcast and cloud-bound England.


Because, even uncovered and in use, the lump remained creamier for longer, and overall needed less attention.

Overall, we continued to find the creaminess a little bit unsettling.

We imagine it was a bit like driving a Jaguar XKR 5.0 V8 Supercharged Convertible when (like me) you’re used to cycling.

Stained glass painting with lead-free paints

The paint loaded nicely, although its smoothness and creaminess take a bit of getting used to

That is, perhaps a little too smooth for our own personal taste and experience.

But maybe something that I’d get used to.

In fact, if England were hot, then I’d jolly well make myself get used to it.

And my test pieces fired just fine on the usual firing schedule. Here’s one of the silhouette tiles that you’ll find in Part 2 of the e-book:

Stained glass painting with lead-free paint

Excellent finish after firing

And here’s a leaf that we often paint on our glass painting courses in the studio. It uses softened lines as explained in Part 3 of the e-book:


Also fine for softened lines and shading

Our conclusion is that Series 5 is worth looking at, not just for reasons of health and safety, but also on account of its moisture-retaining property.

All the same, we ourselves will continue to use the standard lead-based stained glass paints as used for hundreds of years now.

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