Designing For Stained Glass

Designing for stained glass is pretty easy using a photograph or picture, and you will get the exact results you want. I hope you will try it and have fun with it.

Don't forget the book "Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain" by Betty Edwards. The newest edition is called "The New Drawing On the Right Side Of The Brain". It really will teach you how to draw if you are passionate about learning. By the way, I have no affiliation with Betty Edwards or her book. I just feel that the book is the best thing that ever happened to my drawing skills and I highly recommend it to you.


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If you don't know how to draw, but you are passionate about designing for stained glass, I'll show you an easy way to do it. But, first of all, I want to talk to you about an awesome way to learn to draw.

I could barely draw a stick figure when I first started working with glass. It was an all out effort to design the simplest of suncatchers. It looked like designing for stained glass was not going to be something I could do.

Portrait Of MY Son

I met a lady that taught a class in drawing. She invited me to attend. I was skeptical...she would never teach me to draw! Much to my surprise and amazement, I not only learned how to draw, I was drawing portraits by the 5th week, and they actually looked like the person I was drawing. The portrait on the left is one that I drew of my son.

The name of the class was "Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain" and we used a book by the same name, authored by Betty Edwards.

I have since met many people that have learned how to draw just from using that classes. They often comment on how easy it was for them to learn how to draw using the book.

I occasionally use the book as a refresher and actually go right through it, following the lessons. I highly recommend it to anyone that is serious about learning how to draw. It is fun and easy and you will learn how to draw from a totally different perspective than you ever thought was possible. It will help you so that you can start designing for stained glass, and those designs will be uniquely yours.

Again, the book is "Drawing On The Right Side Of Your Brain" by Betty Edwards.

Designing For Stained Glass
The Simple Way

To use this method for designing for stained glass, you should be familiar with construction techniques and impossible cuts. You don't want to design a stained glass piece that can't be constructed due to design faults. Believe me, I have seen such designs in several pattern books. It's pretty bad when a pattern book is published and the patterns have to be revised, by the person that bought the book, before they can be used.

Lily In My Garden

Lily B and W Copy

You will need a photograph or a copyright free picture of the theme for your window. Enlarge the picture to a size that will fit on an 8 x 11 sheet of paper, and print it out. I usually print it in black and white, as the edges and contours seem to show up better.

Lily Drawing

Place the printed copy on a light box. If you don't have a light box, tape it to a window that has a lot of light coming through it. Place another blank piece of paper over it and start tracing the outlines with a pencil. As you are designing for stained glass, you will have to pick and choose the lines you use, and occasionally add a creative line here and there to make it feasible to cut in stained glass.

Once you have finished tracing, start working on the lines with a pencil and eraser, to give them a nice flow. Most important, make sure there are no impossible cuts.

Lily Cut Out

When you are satisfied with the lines, you may want to enlarge or decrease the size of the drawing to make it fit into your design for stained glass. Now you need to cut it out, with scissors, so you have the element with just a little paper left around it.

On another piece of paper, draw a box that will be the finished size of the window you are designing. Place the cut out element on it and move it around until it is in the area that looks best. Tape it down where you think you want it. I say think, because you might want to move it again after you have added other elements to the design.

At this point you can add a border or any other elements that you want. Look for more pictures to find unique elements. Also, add cut lines wherever they are needed.

Lily Pattern

When you are finished, tape your design on the wall. Leave a pencil and eraser near by. Whenever you walk by the design, change things if you see something that needs to be changed. The more you look at it the more you will see what has to be changed to give it balance and life.

This pattern needs a few more leaves on the bottom of the bud stem, and a cut line from the bottom petal of the lily to the edge of the pattern. Actually, one of the leaves can extend to the tip of that petal and eliminate the cut line.

Other than that, I'm happy with it. When I was designing for stained glass, I decided that this design would be a free hanging panel. The stamen will be made from copper wire with a solder blob on the end of each wire. They will stand out to give it a 3 dimensional effect.

Now you can make your Pattern Pieces for copper foil, or set it up for a Leaded Window.

These are the pictures and pattern I used for the sunflower window.

Sunflower Picture #1

Sunflower Picture #2

Sunflower Picture Pattern

Completed Sunflower Window

This is a copied picture, pattern and finished pencil holder made from a photo of a friends family dog.

Dog Photo

Dog Pattern

Finished Pencil Holder

Here's another technique that you can do with your printer/scanner. It's a fun way to design for stained glass. It is used the same way as designing from a photograph, only you don't need a photograph. Obviously you can't put a dog on your scanner, but for things like feathers, flowers, leaves, fruit, or any other small object, it works like a charm.

Simply lay your leaf, flower, whatever on the scanner bed, and scan it to print. Take the scanned picture and decide if you want to upload it to your graphics program so you can enlarge it or make the picture smaller. Then you will give it cut lines and perhaps change an area to make it easier to construct. Now it's ready to use as part of your design or to make as a sun catcher. It's something I've been doing for years when I want to design a leaf or flower to look as natural as possible.

The book "Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain" is available here:

You can buy either the original or the "new" edition. The only difference is, the new edition has added a few new things. It has also left out a few thing that were in the original edition. My preference is the original edition, but perhaps that's because I'm so familiar with it. You know that old saying about teaching old dogs new tricks!

Are you having problems with designing for stained glass or any other area of your stained glass work? If you are, click here to tell me about the problem. Your question will be answered directly under where you asked it.

If you have any questions or comments about designing for stained glass, please feel free to Contact Me.

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This page was last updated on May 30, 2018

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You can't imagine how much I wish I had found your incredible website before I spent many hundreds of dollars on lessons, DVDs, tutorials, etc. I can tell that everything I need to know can be found here. All I can say is "Thank You!" Larry

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