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Which Paint Is Best For Your Project?

Painting glass allows you to add infinite amounts of detail and texture to your stained glasswork. It opens up a whole variety of effects to you. It is fired permanently on to the surface of the glass in a kiln.

This is where you’ll learn about:

  • the right paint for your stained glass project
  • the different types of paints available
  • when best to use them
  • who makes them and where to buy them

What exactly is glass paint?

blue and yellow john piper

– Often called enamels or vitreous enamels, they are a mixture of metallic oxide pigments, flux and ground glass.

– They are used for surface decoration, and are fired on permanently in a kiln.

– Their colour and opacity depends on the type of metal oxide used.

– When painting glass, you need to use a face mask, as inhaling the dust is dangerous.

What types of glass paint are there?

There are masses of different types of paint, and lots of confusion as a result. Broadly, they’re divided into two main categories: opaque (that you can’t see through) and transparent paints.

Painting with opaque paints

1. Pigments

Firstly, there’s a range of various browns, black, and greys in what’s often called ‘glass pigments’. Reusche is expensive, but probably supply the best of this type of stained glass paint.

These paints are what you see used in church windows for drapery and facial features.

It sounds dull, but if you imagine some of the bright colours in your stained glassart partially covered with dramatic painting, you’ll understand how exciting this type of paint is.

Have a look at the John Piper window above – see how the dark painting has created an almost 3-D effect? And how the black paint actually makes the colours – particularly the yellow – stand out more vividly?

2. Colored Paint

The second type of opaque paints – more commonly called enamels – are coloured. There’s a huge range of colours and they vary between manufacturers, who each have several different types of enamel.

colored enamel tests

Some are high firing – suitable for use at fusing temperatures, some are lead-free – for tableware, and some are made for architectural applications and withstanding the weather.

Above are some tests of Range 34 Ferro enamels. You can see the colours are bright and varied. They’re best used in situations where privacy is needed, or where the light source is from in front – rather than through – them.

Johnson Matthey also makes three ranges of opaque enamels for architectural use.

Painting with transparent enamels

pinky purple boat window

Transparent paints also come in a wide range of colours, and are best used for architectural work, with light comingthrough the glass.

The complaint I always hear from my students about transparent enamels, is that they are wishy-washy. They can be layered up and fired repeatedly to deepen their colour, but really it’s best not to compare them to coloured glass.

You’ll never achieve that gorgeous depth of colour or transparency that we all love, but they do have a charm and benefits of their own.

What painting with transparent paints does do, is to allow you to change colour within one piece of glass without the need for lead. And that can really free your designing up. Imagine not having to think about whether you can cut a certain shape, but just painting instead. Lovely!

Just like the opaques, there are lots of manufacturers of transparent paints.

I’ve used Ferro and Heraeus and prefer the colours achieved with the latter, although Ferro do a fantastic blue.

This commission window (above) for a narrow boat double door used Heraeus transparents.

Now you’re clear about what type of paint you need for your project, you’re ready for Perfect Paint Mixing

 

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