Glass paint vs. ceramic paint
Someone might wonder:
“Ceramic paints are cheaper than stained glass paints. They also come in many different colours.
So is it possible to paint stained glass with ceramic paints, rather than the proprietary ones?”
This is such a useful question because it has an interesting range of answers.
Money and Value
If we were asked this question by someone who had never designed or painted stained glass before, we would immediately start a conversation about money and value.
Are stained glass paints expensive in themselves, or, rather, are they expensive when used wastefully or lazily?
For example, it would be wasteful to prepare a teaspoonful of paint at a time rather than a good-sized lump; and it would be lazy if someone couldn’t be bothered to learn best practice because it would interfere with their self-expression.
When you’re painting stained glass – if the resultant window is beautiful and well-made – what are a few pounds or dollars that you spend on best glass paint?
Surely they are a trifle – not worth worrying about:
When a window can last a hundred years or more, and be seen by many thousands of people whose emotions will all be wonderfully affected by the play of colour and light, then this small amount of money is not an issue.
Required by the Design
With another kind of person, we might immediately strike up a conversation about design.
Our own position is that we design first, and then we figure out how to paint it second.
True, this has often caused us months of experimentation and heartache.
But – and this is important for us, although we understand completely it may be less important or even unimportant for other people – we have continued to create a wide range of stained glass windows, whose only unity is maybe formed by the attention we put into their indivdual designs.
That is, we don’t have a house style.
So for us, the question therefore is: what kind of design might only be realized with the use of specifically ceramic paints?
Maybe one day we’ll prepare such a design, but we haven’t done so yet.
Another series of points are mildly scientific.
First there the different firing temperatures e.g. whether ceramic paint will fuse with glass at the lower temperature that glass requires.
Second there is the compatability that such fusion (if successful) still requires in order for firing stress to be removed as the glass cools down and anneals: would ceramic paint in fact leave hidden stress that will risk the future of the glass?
Third there are the different conditions to which stained glass windows and ceramic objects are respectively subjected and which their painted surfaces must respectively withstand e.g. weather, daily handling etc.: is ceramic paint proved to be fit for such events as windows regularly experience?
In other words, the use of ceramic paint is now largely a question of someone’s attitude to risk (because stained glass studios just don’t have the resources to test such questions for themselves).
Range of Colours
As for the different colours possessed by ceramic pigment, it is needlessly competitive to insist on a count.
Suffice it to say that there is also a wide range of inter-mixable colours possessed by stained glass paint.
But when, outside of restoration, do you absolutely need them?
Remember also that, within stained glass, it is frequently the glass which owns the colour. Thus it is the paint’s function is to stop or mute the transmitted light.
This is completely unlike the function of the paint which adorns the surface of ceramic objects, where it is the paint’s function to bounce back a specific colour to the onlooker’s eyes.
How many colours do you really need in your stained glass paint? Is the variety of ceramic colour merely a distraction at best, a complete irrelevance at worst?
Paint vs. Silver Stain
Neither glass paint nor ceramic pigment behave anything like silver stain of course.
This is because silver stain changes the molecular structure of the glass, causing it to filtrate yellow light instead of white.
Silver stain is a joy to use. Yet it can also be a challenge.
See this green man: all the painting in the first firing, all the staining in the second firing.
Yes, we could have done it all (painting and staining) in just one firing – and that is another point we shall discuss with you.
That’s all coming soon in a special publication.
Thus, a really useful question, the nuances of whose different answers are a joy to consider.
Both stained glass paint and ceramic pigment require firing in order to be incorporated with the top surface of glass and pottery respectively. And indeed some of their ingredients are shared.
But maybe this presents the outer limit of their agreement.
So, by all means experiment for yourself, yet always bear the previous points in mind.
And what, we wonder, have you experimented with?
Some of that must remain secret – for legal reasons.
The rest, we’re glad to share with you throughout this website.
As always, please share your insights and experiences with other visitors here.