Designing a stained glass lamp shade

Designing Stained Glass

If you like creating beautiful art, stained glass may be the perfect craft for you. Stained glass is a centuries-old art form that is still popular today.

Learn how to create beautiful stained glass pieces at home. It’s a great way to show your creative side and make something amazing that will be enjoyed by everyone.

In this article, we discuss what you need to know to start creating your own stained glass. We will cover how to work with glass, the design process, and tips to keep you safe. So let’s get started!

Introduction to Stained Glass

Stained glass art is the creation of beautiful designs using different colors of glass. These intricate pieces can take many hours to create, and often require a great deal of skill and patience. Stained glass is a truly one-of-a-kind art form.

Beautiful stained glass art is used in custom windows, lamps, doors, as well as panels used for interior doors, cabinet doors, room dividers, etc. Other decorative items crafted with stained glass include suncatchers, holiday ornaments, and jewelry.

Types of Glass to Use for Stained Glass

Sheets of stained glass come in many different colors and styles. The color is added as a part of the manufacturing process. Metal oxides or metal powders are combined with the molten glass, and depending on the metal, the glass takes on a particular color.

Colored glass is popular and easily accessible for stained glass projects. The majority of crafters purchase packs of ten to twenty sheets at a time. To make your project stand out, you can choose stained glass that has been painted or etched. This type of glass is more expensive, but the end result will be much nicer.

Whatever type of glass you choose, make sure it is appropriate for the application. The standard thickness for stained glass projects is 3 mm. Glass that is too thin or too thick will be difficult to work with.

Choosing the Right Colors for Your Glass

The color of the glass is important when making stained glass. Different glass colors can produce various effects and add depth to your design.

Kokomo Opalescent Glass

Consider how you want the glass to look when selecting colors for your stained glass piece. Are you looking for vibrant colors? Or do you prefer a more subdued look, with softer colors? Take into account the colors of the other items in the room.

Tools and Materials Needed for Stained Glass

Before you start your stained glass project, you’ll need to gather the right tools and materials.

Here’s a list of the items you’ll need:

  • Glass Cutter
  • Soldering Iron
  • Lead Came
  • Copper Foil
  • Safety Glasses
  • Ruler
  • Cutting Mat
  • Cutter Oil
  • Flux
  • Tinning Compound
  • Lead-Free Solder

Once you have all the necessary tools and materials, you’ll be ready to start your stained glass project.

Safety Tips for Working with Glass

When working with glass, safety is always the top priority. Glass cuts from handling glass and cuts from flying glass shards produced while cutting, breaking, and grinding glass are two hazards of stained glass craft work. To protect your eyes, you must wear safety glasses at all times.

Lead particles emitted during cutting or grinding are poisonous. Some believe the danger of lead comes from ingestion or inhaling airborne particles rather than through your pores. Consequently, a protective mask should be worn.

As a precaution, always wash your hands after handling lead.

Soldering burns are relatively common and can be excruciatingly painful. Gloves can shield you from this danger.

Fumes are produced as flux vaporizes while soldering. These fumes are both corrosive and poisonous, and must be ventilated out of your workspace.

Dust is a dangerous but little-known hazard associated with glass work. Glass dust from grinding or whiting compound, like asbestos, can cause serious lung damage. To avoid inhalation hazards, only clean this dust with a wet rag or sponge and wear a dust mask.

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep your work area clean and organized.
  • Always wear safety glasses when cutting glass.
  • Wear gloves to protect your skin.
  • Use a cutting mat to protect your work surface.
  • Never leave your tools unattended.
  • Keep tools away from children.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area.

By following these safety tips, you’ll be able to work with glass safely and avoid any accidents.

The Basics of Stained Glass Design

To begin, you will need a full size template of your design to transfer to the glass for cutting out the individual pieces. To use your own hand-drawn design you can either draw it in a sketchbook or use a computer program to create a digital design. 

If you would rather browse an extensive list of free downloadable patterns, they can be found online at various sites. One that we like and can recommend is

Resize the pattern to the full size of your project to make a template.

The template can be transferred to some light-colored glass by placing the sheet of glass directly on the template copy and tracing the design lines with a Sharpie marker. Use the template to trace out your cuts.

Glass design on lightbox

A light box can be used to assist in illuminating the template from below with darker colored glass, but it is not required. Likewise, you can cut the individual pieces out of a copy of your template and trace around them on the glass.

Once you have a general idea of what you want, you can begin working on the details. Determine what colors and how many sheets of glass you will require and the size of each piece.

Tips for Cutting Glass

Cutting glass is an important part of creating stained glass pieces. Here are some tips to help you cut glass safely and accurately:

  • Use a glass cutter and plenty of cutter oil to make sure the cuts are clean and precise.
  • Wear safety glasses while cutting to protect your eyes from glass fragments.
  • Use a ruler or straight edge to ensure you’re making straight cuts.
  • Take your time and make sure each cut is as accurate as possible.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to cut glass safely and accurately.


Read my post with detailed tips on cutting glass here (link)


Designing Your Stained Glass Piece

It’s time to start cutting the glass now that you have a basic design and all of the necessary tools and materials. Each piece of glass must be measured and marked so that you know where to cut it. To measure and mark the glass, use a permanent marker or a ruler.

You can begin cutting once all of the pieces have been marked. To ensure clean and precise cuts, use a glass cutter and plenty of cutter oil. While cutting, wear safety glasses and gloves to protect your eyes and skin from glass fragments.

Once all of the pieces have been cut, you can begin assembling your stained glass piece.

Stained glass lamp shade

Join Your Glass Pieces Together

There are two commonly used options for joining multiple shaped stained glass pieces into a finished work of art.

  • Copper Foil
  • Lead Came

The lead came method involves fitting the shaped glass pieces together with narrow, flexible strips of lead. The lead came is a “h”-shaped channel that allows the glass pieces to slide into either side. To hold the glass, the lead strips are soldered together at the joints.

Another technique, known as copper foil, was developed for the production of Tiffany stained glass lamps with many tiny curving joints. Copper foil is wrapped around the glass’s narrow edges.


For more details and how-to instructions for foiling glass, refer to this post (link).


To connect the pieces, solder is applied to the entire edge. Many hobbyists today use this method of edging each piece of cut glass in copper foil and then soldering the edges together.

Finishing Your Stained Glass Piece

You’ll need to cut out, shape, and arrange the glass pieces to make your stained glass art. The pieces must then be soldered together to form a strong and secure bond.

Apply the copper foil centered on all soldered edges. Press and smooth the foil against the glass edges to burnish it. Use push pins to secure all of your glass sections on a crafting board in the location specified in the original drawing or plan.

To prepare the pieces, apply a light coat of flux compound. Tack solder the pieces together using a soldering iron and lead-free solder. Check that all seams are as tight and secure as possible. Now solder along each seam in a consistent pattern.

After you’ve soldered all of the pieces together, you’ll need to clean and polish the piece. Remove any flux and solder residue with a damp cloth. Similarly, use a soft cloth to give the piece a nice shine.

Some artists enjoy the smooth look of hobby came as a finish for the outer edges of their project. This will give the piece a finished appearance and increase its security. Connect and solder the joints.

How to Display Your Stained Glass Masterpiece
Louis Comfort Tiffany in New London - Life & Career

Video from Lyman Allyn Art Museum link in New London, CT 

Also, don’t miss The Corning Museum of Glass, or CMOG

Now that your stained glass piece is complete, you can display it in a variety of ways. You can display it on the wall, on a stand, or in a window.

The most basic way to display stained glass is to hang it in a window. To secure the piece in the window, use suction cups, a window hanger, or a mounting bracket. If you’re feeling particularly inventive, you can even design your own frame for your stained glass window.

You could use a lampshade or a lightbox to display your stained glass work. This would result in a lovely, illuminated display that would showcase your work well.

You can also use your stained glass piece to collect sunlight. Hang it in a sunny spot and watch the beautiful colors light up in the glass.


If you want to show off your creative side, now is the time to begin your own stained glass project. It’s fun and very rewarding to create beautiful works of art.

Stained glass is a wonderful form of artistic expression as well as an engaging hobby. You can create many beautiful pieces with the right tools, materials and practice. Family and friends will admire your work for years to come.