Types Of Art Glass
How To Choose The Right Glass
Stained glass sheets come in a huge array of colours, textures and transparencies. It can be hard to know which is best to use.
Here you can find out about all the different types of sheets available for glassart.
You can discover which sheets are best for each specific project and learn about the various ranges made by different manufacturers.
Stained Glass Sheets
What are you looking for?
If your main concern is maximizing light and flooding your home with dancing colour, it’s Cathedral or German New Antique stained glass sheets you need. They are transparent and let light through.
If you want to maintain privacy or don’t want too much light coming through, the best stained glass sheets for you are Opalescent or Semi-Opaque. That’s because light bounces off the surface and you can’t see through it directly.
Fusing is a bit different. For this you will always need a special Fusible Glass, which can either be opaque or transparent.
To clear up a frequently asked question; you can use absolutely any sheets for making stained glassart, including Fusible sheets.
You can of course mix Opalescent and Cathedral in the same project with very exciting results.
Stained Glass Sheet Suppliers
Without question, it is always best to visit a supplier yourself and choose your own sheets if you can, as photos never, ever do the beauty of the individual sheets justice.
However, if there’s no stained glass suppliers near you, there are lots of stained glass suppliers who will ship glass to you.
It’s probably best to pick individually if you can, as there’s nothing worse than having too much of something that doesn’t excite you.
Cathedral and German New Antique Glass
Cathedral is an umbrella term used to describe a machine made glass (as opposed to Antique, which is mouth blown and consequently very beautiful and expensive).
It is transparent and comes in many textures and is usually, although not exclusively, made from a single colour.
Cathedral sheets are especially good for beginners as they are uniform and very easy to cut.
There are many different manufacturers who make this type of stained glass, each with their own textures and specialities.
It might be worth having a look at Kokomo to see if you like their particular collections.
Spectrum make a huge range of cathedrals that are very reasonably priced, consistent and simple to cut. They also have unique textures to suit every design:
Waterglass (pictured above) with a distinctive gentle texture
Baroque (pictured at top) with dramatic three-dimensional coloured swirls and the Artique, that copies Antique blownglass with it’s irregularities
German New Antique is a little less dense than the Spectrum Artique and comes in a wide range of colours.
It has delightful striations that give it the appearance of being handmade. These are deliberate and there to be used to good effect.
Because it is machine made it has an even thickness, making it one of the easiest to cut.
Opalescent and Semi-Opaque Glass
Opalescent or Opal is glass that you can’t see through.
Semi-Opaque is usually a colour mixed with white or another colour, which allows you to partially see through it.
These sheets are perfect for projects that don’t need to be transparent – lamps, fire screens, wall art, and boxes.
Opalescents can be amazing when put alongside Cathedrals, as the contrast between opacity and transparency seems to make the qualities of both glasses shout much louder.
Tiffany used a lot of this type of glass very, very skilfully in his stained glass windows and lampshades.
Uroboros produces some amazing premium handmade opalescents, with each sheet being an original work or art in itself.
If you can’t afford this, Spectrum’s machine-made range is excellent, covering single colour Opalescents to wispy and streaky Semi-Opaques (pictured above) that are shouting out to be used creatively.
Iridized and pearlescent sheets
These have a coating of metallic oxide bonded on to the surface, which make them shimmer and change colour depending on the viewing angle.
These sheets can lift a stained glass artwork, but are best not over-used as they can dominate a design.
The term Fusible Glass describes a range that has been specifically manufactured for compatibility so that it can successfully ‘fuse’ with other sheets during firing.
The measurement of this is the Coefficient of Expansion (CoE). If your glass is not compatible – or fusible – your stained glassart will contain stress and crack during or after firing.
Perhaps the most successful manufacturers of fusible glass are Bullseye Glass. Their glass has a CoE of 90, and is compatible with both dichroic and Uroboros sheets.
Each sheet is hand rolled and they have stringent compatibility checks in place.
Depending on your project, you can choose either opaque or transparent.
Before you choose, think about whether you want the light bouncing off (reflecting) or shining through (transmitting). And then choose away – what Bullseye don’t make isn’t worth having – you can have single colours, streakys, iridescent, textured, chopsticks, streamers… I could go on!
If you use this for stained rather than fused glass, the single-rolled version – as opposed to double-rolled – is cheaper and just as wonderful.
Spectrum also does a Fusible Glass range called System 96.
They don’t have the same number of variations as Bullseye, but they are expanding all the time. System 96 sheets are very reliable, easy to cut and visually interesting.
It’s also cheaper than Bullseye. Only use System 96 for fusing, as the other Spectrum glass is not compatible.
You might find this 3.5 minute video helpful for identifying the different types of stained glass sheets available. It always helps to see them for real:
Here are the company’s websites if you’d like to see the full range of sheets they sell.
GET MY FREE ‘CUTTING PERFECT CURVES’ eBOOK
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.