stained glass made perfect course

Create a Stained Glass Pattern from a Photo

If you’re just starting out, and don’t know how to make stained glass, you might be a bit nervous about designing your own panel at this early stage. The good news is, you don’t have to!

Designing For Stained Glass

If you do fancy learning how to make stained glass designs, I’ve put together 5 simple steps that might help you.

1. Inspiration

– Photos are always good for inspiration, and can get you past that empty blank page you’re faced with at the beginning of a project.

– Find one that interests you. It can either be one you’ve taken, or one that you’ve found. I’ve chosen one I took of a cactus in Lanzarote.

spiky green cacti
Cactus photograph for design inspiration

– Think about why you chose your photo? What do you like about it? Is it the colour, the shapes, does it make you laugh? Whatever it is you like about your image is what you’re trying to capture in your design.

– In the photo above, I liked the contrast of the strong, spiky leaves with the wispy twirly bits at the end. I also like the light and dark greens, and the energy that brings.

2. Selecting Part Of The Image

– It’s sometimes easier to choose a section of a photo, rather than the whole thing. If you tried to pick out all the shapes in this one, there would be hundreds of complicated pieces and it would be too difficult, even for someone with lots of experience in stained glass.

green cactus with section selected in red
Selecting an area to use for the pattern

– You can isolate a section by either cutting out a square or rectangle in a piece of paper and hovering it over your image until you find a section you like, or on a computer.

– Turn your photo upside down and around if you want. This sometimes helps you see something different.

3. Making Simple Shapes

– Now pick out some simple shapes. I’ve done it on my computer in the photo below, but you can do it by putting tracing paper over your image and tracing some of the shapes that you like.

– The lead lines in stained glass are your ‘drawing’, and they are a very strong part of your design. It’s best to think about the pattern they make carefully at this stage. I’m trying to get mine nice and spiky here.

– You can see I’ve also picked out the wispy bits that I liked about the photo at the beginning. They give a bit of ‘life’ to the design.

red and turquoise cactus line pattern
Outlining the shapes for the stained glass pattern

4. Color And Texture

Once you’re happy with the shapes, you can start thinking about color and texture. I always color in my designs so that I don’t make mistakes later on with the beautiful artglass.

– Make a few photocopies or scan your outline design, and work out what colors you want and where, so that you get the balance right at this stage.

light medium and dark green cactus pattern
Working out color and texture in your design

– If you leave some areas clear, it really makes the design stand out. It makes the colors ‘zing’.

– In the design above I’ve tried to create some depth with the dark and light shades.

5. Adding The ‘Lead Lines’

This is the point that it all comes together.

– Add the lead lines in, along with any details that you want to add – in this case my ‘wispy’ copper wire. To get this effect, simply solder pieces of bent copper wire to your solder lines after soldering.

– Now you can really get a sense of what your stained glass panel will look like.

green cacti with black and copper lines
Adding the lead lines to your stain glass pattern

– Make sure you’re really happy with your design. You don’t want to waste time and money making it in glass if it’s not right at this stage.

How To Make Stained Glass Designs – Troubleshooting

Some things to watch out for:

– that the shapes are ones that can be cut out in glass.

– anything that tapers off into a thin point. These are difficult to cut, so widen the ends a bit.

– shapes that don’t join up with other shapes. You can’t have shapes that stop in the middle of the glass, there must be a lead line to the edge, or to another shape.

– lots of points joining in the same place. They will end up creating a big blob of solder. Try putting a circle where they meet instead.

– concave curves. They’re the most difficult shapes to cut as the glass wants to break on the inside of the curve, so don’t make them too deep. Try to avoid them altogether for your first piece.

– if you’re designing for a window, you need to be working to scale at this point. You don’t want to design something long and thin for a short and fat window. See Measuring to get accurate measurements, and scale the Sight Size down to fit your sketchbook.

Finding A Pattern

I’ve had a look on the web and have come up with a few of the best sites that offer free stained glass patterns.

1. Spectrum Glass have a lot of designs for hanging panels and suncatchers on this site. There’s geese and horses to geometric and abstract patterns.

It’s easy to browse through them using the arrows at the top right of the page. They do recommend Spectrum Glass, but of course you can use any type of artglass.

This website is the best one for total beginners, but there are patterns that are for intermediate level.

2. Chantal’s Stained Glass. This is a lovely pattern site. Lots of suncatchers, panels, lampshades, boxes and just about everything else! Highly recommended.

There’s something here for all levels of skill, from beginners to advanced.

3. Free Stained Glass Patterns. This site has some amazing designs. You can get an idea of what each of them will look like in glass as they are all in color. Scroll down for the pdf to print off.

This site is suitable for intermediate to advanced.

Once you have found a pattern you’re happy with, you’re ready for the next stage, Cutting Pattern Piece.


My simple to follow free e-Book shows you how easy it is to cut even the most difficult type of curves in stained glass.

On top of that you'll get stained glass tips, tricks and inspiration with the Everything Stained Glass Newsletter.

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stained glass made perfect course