I'm starting a series of posts about tips about how to make stained glass that I've learned while working on my projects; hopefully they will be helpful to those just starting out. These lists aren't meant to cover everything, and if you have additional tips, please share in the comments!
Today's entry will focus on designing your piece - there are a few things you can do upfront while you're laying out your design, to make things easier in the cutting step to follow.
Of course, you can always find a pattern in a design book, and I definitely recommend that as a way to get started - but I've always been more interested in creating my own designs. For me, my first two pieces, done in a class, were from patterns, but my first 'real' panel was a stained glass transom for our house - so it needed to be a custom size and work in our house number.
Tip 1: Simplicity of Design
My number one tip is to keep it simple simple simple, especially at first. Think coloring book drawing for a small child simple! The more details, the more pieces and the more complexity. And the simpler the drawing, the easier it will be to spot those difficult or impossible to cut areas.
Tip 2: Clip Art is Your Friend
For those that are artistically challenged, like me, here is my secret: when I have an idea of something I want to create, my first stop is to look at free clip art images online. I will look for one or two that I can resize and put together to fit my purposes. This step usually involves printing and photocopying the images at different enlargements and putting them together. Often I also need to simplify the pictures - removing details and softening lines to make it easier to turn into glass.
Then once I have the arrangement I want, next step is to decide how to turn it into pieces of glass and determine where the solder lines will fall. This will be different for every image, but try to break up the picture in places where it makes sense.
Tip 3: Background Lines are Important in your Glass Piece!
For the background of your piece, consider where the solder lines will be and if they should be straight, wavy, or organized in some way that will strengthen the design.
Stained Glass Background Example 1
In the picture to the right, I have the lines radiating from Alyssa Alien's head for emphasis. I did it that way to make her seem more powerful - and conveniently for me, those lines lined up with the best places to work around her antennae and planet :)
Stained Glass Background Example 2 - Sky and Water
Here's another example - in this one, I decided on wavy lines for most of the sky but straight lines radiating from top of the lighthouse. In general, I tend to use wavy lines for sky, water, earth backgrounds.
Stained Glass Background Example 3 - Symmetry
Finally, I wanted this circular piece to be totally symmetrical so I made sure the background solder lines would be in the exact same spot for each flower.
I love symmetrical designs, and having the background also be symmetrical is pleasing to the eye!
So in summary -- keep things simple, look for free clip art, and make sure your background flows with the rest of the piece - those are my top 3 tips! Not so hard at all :)
I'll add more posts about my design process later on - my next post will talk about turning a photograph into a stained glass panel. For now though, do you have any tips or ideas to share? Add them in the comments!