Glass Painting
Including Etched Glass, Plastic, Mosaic and Ceramic Sundials
By John L. Carmichael (author) and Dave Bell (webmaster)
(For optimum viewing, set "View to Full Screen".)
Website last updated 11 April, 2009

Home, Image Archive, Design & Construction, References, Commissioning a Sundial

Design & Construction/
Glass Painting
Window Design and Assembly Steps
Window Location
Designing the Sundial Face Pattern
Gnomon Types
Gnomon Design and Attachment
Sundial Pattern Testing
Materials and Tools
Glass Painting
Glass Joining Techniques
Mosaic and Ceramic Sundial Assembly Methods
Glossaries for Sundials and Stained Glass


  After the glass has been cut and shaped but before window assembly, artisans mix their paint on a glass palette using a palette knife then paint the individual glass pieces with common art paintbrushes, air brush or silkscreen to add details such as shading, numerals, faces, folds of clothing and other artwork that can't be made with glass panes or lead lines. They also intentionally paint parts of the window to keep light from shining through. Painting is usually done on the interior side of the glass which helps protect it from damage by the sun and weather.

To transfer painted details from the pattern to a piece of glass, attach a translucent paper, velum or Mylar print of the pattern to the back side of the glass using tape or glue stick, then place the piece on top of a light box or glass easel so that the light shines through the pattern on the bottom side of the glass. Then paint onto the glass the image that shines through. Usually, dark colored line tracings are painted first to delineate borders, then coloring and matting (shading) is done. Matting is done by applying more paint or by removing existing paint. After painting and before window assembly, the individual pieces of glass are kiln-fired to fuse the paint permanently to the surface of the glass, giving the paint great durability and longevity. Multiple applications and firings of enamels and stains are common and can produce interesting lighting effects. You can gently clean a kiln fired painted window without fear that the paint will rub off. Even so, after a couple hundred years, it may rub off if it's rubbed and cleaned excessively, since the layer of paint is thin.

For a description of glass paints see Paints and Stains: in the Materials and Tools section of this page. If you want more information on glass painting, I highly recommend this excellent book: The Art of Glass Painting by Albinas Elskus, 1980, The Glass Press, Pennsylvania

Stained glass sundial makers have a funny old tradition of painting an image of a fly somewhere on the sundial face! In an article he wrote for The Connoisseur (Stained Glass Sundials, April 1930), historian John A. Knowles says that flies were a common feature of British and Swiss glass in the seventeenth century. There are even examples of spiders and their webs. Knowles shares the following delectable and useful tidbit of information on the ubiquitous flies:

"The fly or bee was purely a glass painter's joke; and the amusement consisted in seeing people try to knock it off. Sometimes the legs of the fly were painted on one side of the glass and the body on the other, the difference between the two plane surfaces of the glass giving an extraordinary life-like effect of projection, and one, moreover, very easily produced."

For some other examples, see the Technical Info page, particularly Dials 19, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 40, 44, 56, 58, 61, 62, 64, 67, 79, 94, 96, 103, and 104

Valid HTML 4.01!

Spam Harvester Protection Network
provided by Unspam