Antique painted stained glass window

Embellishing Stained Glass with Paint

Embellishing Stained Glass with Paint

Embellishing stained glass with paint takes the magical glow and resplendent hues of stained glass to the next level, lending vibrancy, depth and refinement. Enamels and stains heighten realism through nuanced shading. Meticulous details add intrigue. Producing these painted flourishes requires specialized techniques and tools that we’ll explore here.

When selecting a paint or embellishment method for stained glass, it’s essential to consider the project’s requirements, desired finish, and the paint’s compatibility with the glass type.

Painters tools and brushes

To begin, assemble your stained glass painting toolkit. Gather an array of paintbrushes for different effects. Thin rounds excel for precision work, wider flats for washes of color, and soft badgers for gentle blending.


Tools and supplies for stained glass beginners blog post is here (post link)

Use glass for a palette to provide a smooth clean surface for mixing paints to the perfect consistency. A pipette allows drop-by-drop water incorporation. Stained glass designs are easily traced when illuminating your glass from below with a light box.

For comfort and safety, carefully craft your studio space. When handling powdered paints, proper ventilation is essential to avoid inhaling particles. Protect yourself with gloves, aprons and most importantly, a respirator-type mask. Thoroughly clean tables and glass surfaces using rubbing alcohol to eliminate oils or dust that could impede paint adhesion. Bright lighting ensures you see colors accurately. An organized layout keeps all materials conveniently at hand.

A light box being used to trace stained glass patterns

The Paints

When it comes to adding embellishments to stained glass windows, look for paints that offer precision, durability, and a finish that complements the glass. The most commonly used paints and stains for embellishing stained glass works are acrylic enamel paint, vitreous paint, silver stain, and paint pens.

There are differences between vitreous and enamel paints used on glass. Acrylic enamel paints are water-based and contain acrylic polymers, while vitreous paints contain ground glass (also called frit) and require firing to become permanent.

Gum arabic is a binder and a common additive in many artistic mediums, including some used in stained glass art. When mixed into the paint or stain powder, it helps the paint adhere to the glass surface and burns away during firing.

Vitreous paints and silver stain benefit from the addition of a small amount of gum arabic as a binder. Enamel paints for stained glass are typically formulated differently and use other components that help them adhere to the glass surface. Consult the specific product’s documentation or the manufacturer’s guidelines to understand its composition and recommended additives.

Acrylic Enamel Paints

Acrylic enamels are water-based paints that are used on a variety of surfaces, including stained glass. They are durable and adhere well to glass.

The opacity of acrylic paint varies based on the specific formulation, pigments, and the thickness applied. Depending upon how it’s used, acrylic enamels provide a semi-translucent to opaque finish on stained glass, allowing some light to shine through while offering vibrant colors.

Manufacturers of Acrylic Enamel Paints

Folk Art Enamels is a widely recognized and respected brand that offers a diverse palette of colors specifically formulated for use on glass and ceramics. Deco Art Americana Gloss Enamels is another popular choice for artists.

Check details and pricing of Folk Art Enamel paints here (Amazon link)


Preparing the Enamel Paint

Mixing is not needed with acrylic enamel paints as they are typically ready-to-use straight from the bottle. If thinning is needed, water or a specific acrylic medium can be added. To apply, ensure the glass surface is clean and free from dust or oil. Choose brush size and type depending on the desired outcome.

Painting Enamels on Glass

Vitreous Paints

Vitreous paints are traditional paints for stained glass and can be traced back to medieval times in Europe. The term “vitreous” refers to the fact that these paints, when fired, fuse with the glass they’re applied to, essentially becoming part of the glass itself. They are especially used in classic stained glass work as well as in historical restorations where they work perfectly to embellish the stained glass with paint.

Vitreous paints contain finely ground glass (or frit), pigment for color, and a medium to help in application. The result is a paint that can be translucent or opaque, allowing light to pass through in varying degrees.

Manufacturers of Vitreous Paints

Reusche is one of the most well-respected brands in the glass paint industry. They offer a broad spectrum of colors and styles. H. Blyth & Co. is another quality producer with a wide range of products suitable for various glass artistry.

Check pricing on Reusche vitreous paint (Amazon link)


Preparing the Vitreous Paint

Vitreous paint typically comes in a powdered form. On a glass palette, mix the powder with a medium, which can be water, oil, or a proprietary vitreous paint medium. It helps to grind the dry paint to a fine powder with a glass muller before mixing it with any liquids. Use gum arabic in small amounts if adhesion is an issue. The consistency you’re aiming for depends on the application. It can be as thick as cream for matting or as thin as ink for tracing.


See details of a glass muller featured on Amazon (link)


Silver Stain

Silver stain is a unique material in the world of stained glass. It doesn’t “stain” the glass in the same way that other glass paints do. Instead, it adds a yellow to amber color to the glass, depending on its application and firing. The name “silver stain” derives from the silver nitrate content that reacts with the glass to create the color. Silver stain was used historically to add details and highlights to stained glass windows and it’s still in use today.


For a detailed look at repairing and restoring stained glass, read this post (link to post)


Manufacturers of Silver Stain

Reusche provides high-quality silver stain that professionals often use. Another reputed name, Lamberts, also produces a range of silver stain products.

Preparing the Silver Stain

Place a small amount of the silver stain powder onto a palette. Add a few drops of a mixing medium, which can be water, oil, or a proprietary medium specific for silver stain. Optionally add a small amount of gum arabic as a binder. Mix until you achieve a smooth consistency similar to cream. Adjust the consistency by adding more medium or stain powder as needed.

Reusche silver stain

Applying Silver Stain

Make sure the glass surface is clean. Use brushes to apply the stain. Paint brushes ranging from soft squirrel hair brushes for washes to stiffer hog hair brushes for detailed work are suitable. The intensity of color produced from silver stain is determined by the thickness of the application: a thin wash will yield a light lemon color, while a heavier application results in a deep amber.

Texturing and Finishing Silver Stain

To add texture, you can use various tools like sponges, stipplers, or even fingers to create different effects before the stain dries. Removing certain areas of wet glass stain will create a lighter effect upon firing.

Once fired and cooled, inspect the piece. The stain is now permanently fused to the glass. If the result is uneven or too intense, you can’t remove it, but you can add more silver stain and re-fire if necessary. If it’s too light, another layer can be applied and re-fired to deepen the color.

Silver stain precautions

When working with silver stain, safety is paramount. Always work in a well-ventilated area, wear safety goggles, and use gloves. Silver stain contains heavy metals, and it’s essential to avoid inhalation of powders or ingestion.

Embellishing Stained Glass with Paint


  • Apply multiple layers to achieve depth and gradient effects.
  • Use a sponge to dab paint onto the surface for a textured look.
  • Swirl two or more colors together.
  • Pre-cut stencils help you create intricate designs or patterns.
  • Make stained glass textures and effects using different brush strokes.

Acrylic enamel paints offer a more accessible and flexible method for painting on glass without the need for a kiln. They’re especially popular for DIY projects or when the artist wants a painted effect without the permanence and commitment of vitreous paints.

The Glass Painter


The paint can be manipulated while wet using brushes, sponges, feathers, or other tools to create various textures. You can also layer different colors, baking or firing in a kiln to set each layer. Embellishing stained glass with paint is easy using techniques like stippling to create a textured surface by dabbing at the wet paint.


Tracing fine details on stained glass using vitreous paint is a foundational technique in traditional glass painting. Proper tracing defines and accentuates the designs, adding depth, character, and intricate detail. Follow these tips for success.

Ensure the glass surface is impeccably clean, free of any dust, oils, or residues.
Use a light table or box to illuminate the design underneath the glass, making it easier to follow the lines accurately.

Read more about the uses of a lightbox for tracing, painting, cutting and layouts here:

Using a Lightbox for Stained Glass (post link)

Light box for stained glass

When mixing your paint, aim for an ink-like consistency, ensuring the mixture is smooth without lumps. Use brushes with fine, long, and pointed tips. The fine tip gives precision, while the length of the bristles holds a sufficient amount of paint for continuous lines.

Maintain a consistent pressure with a steady hand as you work to create continuous, unbroken lines. Lift the brush only when necessary. Rotate the glass piece as needed to make it easier to trace certain angles or curves. For more defined lines, you can go over the traced lines a second time after the first layer has dried.

If you make a mistake, quickly wipe away the error with a clean, damp brush or a cotton swab. Since vitreous paint doesn’t set permanently until it’s fired, you have some leeway to correct errors.

Allow the traced lines to dry thoroughly. Depending on the medium and the environment, this can take several hours. Ensure the lines are dry before moving to other techniques or firing, to avoid smudging.

Master the tracing technique and you can achieve detailed, refined, and lasting designs that elevate the beauty and intricacy of the finished piece.

Badger Blending

This smoothing technique beautifies stained glass, particularly with vitreous paints. Badger blended transitions and gradients become smooth, brush stroke lines soften, and your artwork appears more polished and refined. Badger blending provides a higher degree of control over shading and highlighting.

The tool central to this technique is the badger brush. This brush is large, soft, and round with hairs made from badger fur. Its unique properties allow for gentle blending of vitreous paint on the surface of the glass without removing the paint.

Badger brush

Vitreous paint is applied to the glass using regular brushes. While still wet with paint, the badger brush is gently swept over the surface in continuous, sweeping motions. The aim is to soften the edges of the paint and eliminate any brush marks, creating a smoother transition between painted and unpainted areas.

This technique requires a delicate touch. Don’t press too hard, as there is a risk of removing paint instead of blending it. The smoothness achieved from badger blending is especially important when working with transparent or translucent glass, when brush strokes are visible as the glass is lit from behind.

Badger blending enables you to achieve refined and sophisticated effects, especially in shading and gradient transitions.


Allow enamel paint to air dry. Depending on the thickness, this can take several hours. Some acrylic enamels can be baked in a standard oven to speed up the drying process and increase durability. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions if choosing to bake. Once dried the enamel paint is relatively durable.

Vitreous paint has a different drying process. After applying the vitreous paint to the stained glass, allow it to air dry. This process hardens the paint and prepares it for firing. Several hours to a day is a good estimate for drying time.

While the paint might seem dry to the touch after this period, it can still be reactivated or manipulated with the medium (often water or oil) used to mix the paint. If reactivated, the vitreous paint should be allowed to dry again before firing

Kiln for glass firing

Firing Vitreous Painted Glass

The glass is placed in a kiln and fired. Firing temperatures typically range between 1050°F (566°C) and 1250°F (677°C), depending on the paint and desired outcome. Firing is what makes the paint permanent, fusing it to the glass surface.


After drying or firing and allowing the glass to cool, you’ll see the final result. The colors may change slightly after firing. If the outcome isn’t as desired, you can add more paint and re-fire. You can layer different applications for nuanced effects.

Paint Pens

When precision is key, artists often turn to paint pens, especially for detailing and finer embellishments. Artistro and Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Pens are two popular choices for their vibrant colors and tip variations, allowing artists to create both fine lines and broader strokes.

Check pricing on Sharpie extra-fine tip oil based paint pens(Amazon link)


Painted stained glass work of artist Izabela Carlucci
Painted stained glass by artist Izabela Carlucci


Beyond the Basics: Advanced Techniques

Once you’ve honed fundamental skills like tracing, shading and highlighting, it’s time to take your stained glass painting to the next level. Explore advanced techniques that add intrigue and artistic depth.

Incorporating texture transforms smooth glass into a tactile canvas. Use irregular tools like crumpled paper or stiff brushes to produce organic wood grain or water ripple effects. Stipple paint with a sponge for a mottled appearance. Etch patterns into cured paint to reveal glittering glass underneath. Endless options exist for bringing surfaces to life.


For geometric designs, stencils offer convenience and precision. Simply lay your paper or plastic template over glass and dab on paint. Easily repeat motifs like florals, grids or medallions. Change colors as desired without re-sketching. Reusable stencils make consistent work quick.

Don’t overlook the backside either. Apply contrasting hues or complementary textures to add hidden depth. Viewers may not see it, but you’ll know the secret artistry within. This also prevents wasted paint when firing both sides simultaneously.

Speaking of layered firing, combining varied paint types opens new possibilities. Enamels lend opaque coverage while transparents allow light transmission. Alternate between the two or integrate them into blends. Fire multiple times, adding colors and details between kiln sessions.

For sharp edges, block out sections before painting with adhesive vinyl or masking tape. Remove materials after drying to reveal defined panes of color. Similarly, incising thin outlines with pins or engravers exposes bright glass cleanly contained by tinted surroundings.

Armour Etch cream (Amazon link)


Etching looks great on clear or stained glass. Stained glass artists use creams such as Armour Etch to etch designs into glass using premade vinyl stencils or hand drawn designs cut out of clear vinyl contact paper. The cream is applied to the stencil and left for 15 minutes before being washed or wiped off. It is important to apply a thick layer of etching cream in order for the chemical to react properly on the glass or mirror.

How to do Glass Etching

If seeking more mechanical means, consider screen printing. Use squeegees to press pigments through custom stencils onto glass. This achieves repeatability for production needs. Any paint is adaptable for screening with appropriate thinners and binders.

Ceramic Decals

For pre-made imagery, ceramic decals offer convenience. Apply decals overtop your painted, fired, and cooled glass artwork and fire again to permanently affix. From intricate floral designs to crisp type, options abound.

The only limit is your creative vision. Savvy painters utilize every tool possible—stencils, textures, layers, resists, decals and more. Combine these advanced techniques for glass artwork that astounds.

Troubleshooting Your Way to Success

Like any artform, stained glass painting comes with its own set of challenges. But armed with the right troubleshooting knowledge, you can overcome common issues.

Flaws in your glass itself can sabotage even the best laid plans. Always choose the highest quality glass your budget allows. Inspect carefully for distortions, bubbles or texture that will disrupt paint application.

Illuminate Flaws
MAKING A LIGHT TABLE for Stained Glass

Light boxes help illuminate flaws. Never underestimate their value for flawless tracing. Attempting to draw freehand leads to shaky, uneven lines. Guiding your hand via illumination keeps work neat and precise. Upgrade to an adjustable light box that fits any project size.

Mix for Success

When mixing paint, improper ratios spell disaster. Too much gum arabic prevents drying, causing paint to slide off glass. Too little and paint won’t adhere. Test consistency on scrap glass to perfect your recipe. Take precise notes to replicate your successes. 

Bubbles are another mixing mishap. Aggressive blending whips air into paint, leading to cratering and cracking when fired. Gently fold paint instead for a smooth, air-free mixture.

Uneven application troubles new painters. Thin translucent covering avoids unsightly brushstrokes. Layering creates depth. Load brushes properly and utilize glass slickness for long, sweeping strokes. Don’t overbrush wet paint.

Brushes Matter

Brushes also impact results. Use the highest quality you can afford and care for them diligently. Fraying bristles make a mess of paint. Natural hair works best for buttery application. Clean brushes promptly to retain their spring.

Rushing the drying stage spells heartbreak. Thick layers need extra time before firing or risk cracking and pitting. Be patient! Slow drying in a dust-free space prevents costly mistakes. Invest in a dehydrator for consistent results.

Careful Firing

Firing mishaps have many causes. Improper ventilation can coat glass in soot. Shocking hot glass with quick cooling causes fractures. Keep meticulous firing notes and check manufacturer guidance. Test new techniques on scrap first.

Embellishing Stained Glass with Paint – FAQ

What types of paint can be used to embellish stained glass? The most commonly used paints for embellishing stained glass are acrylic enamel paints, vitreous paints, silver stain, and paint pens. Each offers different properties and effects.

What are the differences between vitreous and enamel paints?
Acrylic enamel paints are water-based and use acrylic polymers, while vitreous paints contain ground glass (frit) and require firing to become permanent. Enamel paints are more accessible without needing a kiln.

What is gum arabic used for in stained glass paints? Gum arabic acts as a binder when added to paints and stains for stained glass. It helps the paint adhere to the glass surface and burns away during firing.

Do you need to mix acrylic enamel paints before using them on stained glass? Acrylic enamel paints are typically ready to use straight from the bottle without mixing. Water or acrylic medium can be added for thinning if needed.

How should you prepare the glass surface before painting with acrylic enamel?
Clean the glass surface thoroughly to remove any dust, oils or residues that could prevent the paint from adhering properly.

What is the difference between using a paintbrush vs a badger brush? Paintbrushes allow for detailed painting and control. A badger brush is used for gentle blending of wet vitreous paint to create smooth transitions.

How long does it take acrylic enamel paint to dry on stained glass? Drying time depends on thickness, but enamel paint generally takes several hours to fully dry on stained glass. Baking can speed up drying.

What ingredients are in traditional vitreous paints? Vitreous paints contain finely ground glass (frit), pigments for color, and a medium like oil or water to aid application. The paint fuses with the glass when fired.

How should you mix vitreous paint powders before use? Grind the powder finely first. Add small amounts of a mixing medium like oil, water or a proprietary medium until a smooth consistency is achieved.

What techniques can you use to embellish stained glass with paint? Techniques include blending, texturing with sponges or tools, tracing, stenciling, layering, screening, adding decals, etching, and more.

How does tracing help embellish stained glass? Tracing defines details and creates depth. Use thin paint and fine brushes to create intricate designs by following lines illuminated from below.

What is badger blending and how does it help? Badger blending uses a soft badger brush to gently sweep wet vitreous paint, softening edges and eliminating brush strokes for smooth transitions.

FAQ Continued . . .

How long does vitreous paint take to dry before firing? Vitreous paint needs to fully dry first before firing, which typically takes several hours to a full day depending on thickness.

What firing temperature is generally used for vitreous painted glass? Firing temperatures for vitreous painted glass typically range from 1050°F to 1250°F (566°C to 677°C). Higher heat fuses the paint permanently to the glass.

Can you remove vitreous paint after firing if the result is unsatisfactory? Once fired and cooled, the vitreous paint is fused permanently to the glass and can’t be removed. More paint can be added and re-fired if needed.

Why use paint pens for stained glass embellishing? Paint pens allow precision detailing and finer embellishment, especially for beginners. They provide vibrant colors and different tip sizes.

What are some advanced techniques for embellishing stained glass? Advanced techniques include texturing, stenciling, screening, decals, etching, layering with different paint types, taping, incising, and incorporating ceramic decals.

How are stencils useful for stained glass painting? Stencils allow you to easily repeat designs like floral patterns. Change colors as desired without having to re-draw new motifs.

What is an easy way to create defined edges when painting? Block out sections with adhesive vinyls or masking tape before painting. Remove materials after drying for crisp, defined edges.

How can you add texture to painted stained glass? Use irregular tools like crumpled paper or stiff brushes to create wood grain, water ripple and other organic textures. Stipple with a sponge.

What causes cracking and pitting when firing painted glass? Insufficient drying time before firing can cause the paint to crack or pit from the rapid heating. Allow projects to dry thoroughly first.

How can you avoid brush strokes when painting translucent glass?
Apply very thin, translucent coats of paint. The glass illumination helps hide brush strokes. Build up depth by layering.

Why should you use the highest quality brushes? Quality brushes hold their shape better for smooth application. Fraying cheap brushes make consistency harder. Clean promptly.

While learning stained glass painting takes diligence, the rewards outweigh any frustrations. Stick with the fundamentals, embrace quality tools, and experiment intelligently. Perfection comes with practice. Before long, your newfound skills will become second nature. For now, lean in and enjoy the educational journey! Keep creating!