Notes on the Development of Stained Glass

Stained glass has a long history. It started out in the homes of wealthy Roman people, its popularity soared with Gothic churches, it fell into disrepute during the Reformation, and now it has resurfaced in our homes and businesses, in addition to our churches. Now it is a rewarding and affordable hobby for people everywhere.

Before recorded history, people discovered that they could add metallic salts and oxides to glass and that would make colors; gold made a cranberry color, cobalt made blue, silver made yellow and golds, and copper made greens. It seems that wealthy Romans in their villas and palaces in Pompeii and Herculaneum were using stained glass in the first century AD. It was when Christians were beginning to build churches, based on Byzantine ones, in 313 AD that stained glass began to be considered as an art form. The earliest surviving piece of a stained glass picture was a “Head of Christ” from the 10th century. The popularity and growth of stained glass were very much tied in with the popularity and growth of churches.

In the Romanesque period, stained glass was influenced by the Byzantine style developed by Arabs. The windows on these churches were relatively small and used mainly red and blue images surrounded by white glass in order to allow as much light as possible. About 1100 AD, Theophilus, a monk, described how to make stained glass windows and his methods have hardly changed since.

It was in the Gothic period, starting in the 13th century, that stained glass windows in churches really began to blossom. Suger, the abbot of the Abbey of St Denis, was the first to build his church in the Gothic design. Gothic churches allowed for larger windows and these were made out of stained glass; Abbot Suger believed that beautiful objects would lift men’s souls closer to God. In the 15th century, stained glass began to be viewed more as a picture (with paler colors and larger figures) and less of an experience of (God’s greatness)

During the Renaissance, there was a new emphasis on three-dimensional perspective. People considered medieval stained glass barbaric. Stained glass windows became made of white glass which was heavily painted, and lead lines were camouflaged. Artists were patronized by the wealthy, and stained glass began to be seen in more private homes and public buildings.

During the Reformation of the 16th century, there was widespread destruction of stained glass windows, because religious imagery was not tolerated. For about 200 years, stained glass was not popular.

In England, in the 19th century, there was a revival of interest in Gothic church design, and stained glass windows with it. Gothic Revival churches of the Anglican and Episcopalian churches in America required stained glass windows, and this led to their development in America.

John LaFarge was an American painter who, in 1879, developed and copyrighted
opalescent glass; and another American painter, Louis Comfort Tiffany made it popular. Opalescent glass was semi opaque with a milky opalescent effect and was usually a mixture of colors with streaks and swirls. Tiffany worked with the Art Nouveau style and created magnificent pieces. Tiffany used the new technology of thin strips of copper as a substitute for lead and adapted this in order to construct lampshades. The opalescent glass stayed popular into the beginning of the 20th century, but today few glassmakers make it because of the toxic chemicals required.

After W.W. 1, people were more interested in windows for neo-Gothic churches, and stained glass fell in popularity until painting became more abstract and expressionist after W.W. 2 which influenced many artists to explore stained glass.

During the last 30 years there has been an explosion of interest of interest in stained glass. It’s gone far beyond its religious beginnings. You often see beautiful stained glass windows in homes, even less expensive ones, and businesses; in addition to church windows. Most craft shows have stained glass nightlights, lamps, and/or other stained glass art objects. Although the materials needed to make stained glass are expensive, it is a very rewarding hobby. There’s one thing about stained glass that hasn’t changed. Creating beautiful stained glass still brings us closer to God.

6 Artful Home Decorating Ideas Using Stained Glass Panels

Stained Glass Ceilings, fireplace screens, and Light Fixtures

A simple idea that adds much to a home space is the incorporation of stained glass panels as ceiling tiles or overlapping with light fixtures. This creates a colorful ambiance and acts like art pieces do, except the added charm of coming from above. Ceilings done this way make for excellent conversation pieces, and will match almost any style décor. Fireplace screens add a wonderful, warm ambiance to your surroundings

Stained Glass Table Tops and Furniture Designs

Many unique and stylish furniture designs use glass paneling to create Art Nuevo feels for the home. Tables topped in stained type glass give off wonderful reflected light that shines throughout the room. With the right lighting, furniture designed with stained type glass makes a dazzling ensemble that sets the mood in the wider angles of any living room or dining area.

Stained Glass Lamps and Chandeliers Art

Lamp shades made with stained type glass are the perfect synthesis of art and home furnishings. They can be set so their light casts in all directions and make a charming addition to the home entertainment space. In a more elaborate sense, it is possible to design stained glass chandeliers that hang from above, dangling light colorful displays cascading across the ceilings and dancing along the flooring of your household.

Stained Glass Flooring and Discothèque Décor

For those who want to take their décor to the next level, why not a party space for your indoor gatherings. Stained type glass flooring can be created, it is a little more expensive than traditional floor tiles, but can be done economically and will last for a longer amount of time. Some homes have taken this idea and created pseudo dance floor feels to entertain guests and visitors. Just as some stained type glass flooring or textures throughout a room, then compliment it with a lighted glitter ball hanging above and a booming stereo system, then you have the premium discothèque in your home.

Stained Glass Swimming Pool Designs

A more elaborate application of stained type glass paneling and tiles can be used in outdoor scenarios. A sweet look can be given to your pool areas, where stained glass can be inserted into the edging, walkways or in spaces for seating around swimming pools or your Jacuzzi. This is a colorful way to make a plain pool area artsy and fun in the daylight hours, although the accents of stained type glass under moonlight make it a romantic texture for the evening swim party. This is an idea that might cost a little more, but the results are amazing for an outdoor project to modernize your home in a stylish way.

Stained Glass windows and panels

A very simple way to add color and texture to your space is using Stained type Glass windows but if that is not an option, a more easy choice is a Stained Glass Panel to hang over your windows. Easily hung by a chain with a bit of hardware, and it transforms your surroundings!

Making Leaded Stained Glass Window Patterns

Vector clip art is an easy way to start making your own stained glass pattern. The vector format saves the image as lines which creates simple clip art images. These images are easy to edit and do not become jagged when enlarged. These free vector clip art images allow you to enlarge, color or combine images to create your pattern.

Make a new folder in your graphics program and name it “My glass pattern clip art objects” or whatever you will remember. Find the images you are interested in, “right click” on the image or follow the websites directions for downloading their images, and save them into this folder. Select which objects will work for this particular stained glass pattern or start a collection of clip art images for use now and in the future.

  • sells professional design packs while providing free download for 500+ vector clip art designs, ornaments, and icons from 35 of those professional packs. Download and import these directly into most graphic programs.
  • offers free vector clip art files free for commercial and personal use. Choose from holidays, wedding, valentine, anime, and more.
  • provides vector clip art, free, for private use only. The free images are not for commercial use. Choose from the sport, mascot, animals, fantasy, tribal, tattoo, transportation, people, ornaments and objects.
  • contains sports, food, religious, wedding, education, medical, holiday, music, transportation and borders vector clip art. These vector clip art images will download in format. Save the zip file by right clicking on the zipped file icon to open it and save it to the appropriate file on your computer.

There may be times when you see something in a photo that pulls together elements you want use to design a stained glass pattern. You can use photos for design elements or find a very simple photo to trace and use for a stained glass pattern.

  • is a website where the photos are free to use for personal or commercial use, Public domain simply means that the photographer has released the copyright of the photo so others can use it for their projects. This website includes flowers, food, and landscape photographs totally over 5,000 photographs to look at for inspiration for a stained glass window pattern.
  • The nice detail about is that you can search for objects. I found an up close and personal photograph of a key that can easily be traced and made into a stained glass pattern.
  • is a repository of public domain photographs to be used for personal and commercial use. Texture is a great category on this website for grass, clouds, buildings, and ideas for the ground including rocks.
  • Freephotos and Fontplay offers over 10,000 photographs and font images that can be used for making a stained glass pattern.
  • is a collaboration of free stock photos to use in any creative manner you choose. Water and birds are a common theme in stained glass window art. This duck in the water photo is easy to trace and be made into individual stained glass pieces to form a leaded stained glass window.

Another way to get the image you want for your stained glass pattern is to scan it into your computer. Save all of the images into your folder you made for this pattern so everything you have found, downloaded, copied and scanned is together and ready for you to combine to design your pattern.

To draw your pattern begin by opening up the images you want to combine for your pattern into a photo editing program. Print the image in “grayscale”. Printing in “grayscale” makes the edges of the images more defined and easier to trace.

Tape one image at a time onto a window that has light coming through it and tape a blank sheet of paper over it. Trace the edges of the image shapes with a pencil. Remember, as you trace the shapes, you will be cutting each shape into glass pieces. Depending on your skill level for cutting stained glass the pieces should be made large while keeping the overall image recognizable. You may need to add additional lines so individual pieces can be cut.

Repeat for each image you want to combine for your stained glass pattern.
Scan each pencil drawing onto your computer and into a photo editing program and print out the images. Cut around each image. Use a large piece of white paper or tape several sheets of printing paper together so it is larger than your finished pattern will be. Tape each image into place. With a pencil add lines to connect each image making sure each individual piece can be cut into a stained glass piece.

Draw an outside bounding box the exact size you want your stained glass window to be. Connect each image to this box. Remember that all the lines do not have to be straight yet do not make them so curved that they can’t be cut into stained glass pieces.

Number each piece of your pattern. Decide which pieces are going to be what color and begin a color code.” Blk” for black, “Y” for yellow, “Gr” for green,” Gry” for gray, etc. Put the color code onto each piece alongside of the number.

On each piece put slash lines depicting which way the grain will go. This will be very important when using stained glass with streaks or textures. You will want to cut each piece of that colored stained glass in the same direction so your pattern flows.

Make three copies of your finished pattern. One will be placed on a flat surface and be used as the template, one will be cut into individual pieces and the third copy will be for stand-by in case you need to re-cut pieces or for reference.