Creating Stained Glass Masterpiece from a Photograph

The last post covered some design tips; today, I want to post about turning a photograph into a stained glass panel.  This same technique would work for a mosaic or another craft too - it's all about turning a photo into a simple line drawing that you can work from.

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For this project, I'm going to work with this photo that I took this on vacation in Greece, on the island of Kos.  We were on a guided tour, and stopped in Zia to see the town and have lemonade.  The photo is of my glass of lemonade, with the Aegean Sea and Turkey in the background.  I love the colors in this picture, and it always reminds me of such a great day; I have been wanting to turn this photo into a glass project for a while!

Step 1:  Transform Photo into Line Drawing

Here's my black-and-white, borrrrrring picture!  time to turn that into shiny colorful glass !!

Here's my black-and-white, borrrrrring picture!  time to turn that into shiny colorful glass !!

In your photo editor of choice (I used Picasa), turn the photo into a line drawing - it is the "Pencil Sketch" option in Picasa. Here's my transformed photo:  

 

Step 2:  Trace Significant Features of Your Photo 

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Now, print out that line drawing, and trace the significant features onto a new sheet of paper. I used my light box, shown in the photo to make the tracing easier.  If you don't have a light box, just outline the significant features of your photo with a Sharpie and then you should be able to trace it without the backlighting.

Here's where you get to take some creative license!  Want to move a background element to a different position?  Add a lemon slice on the rim of that glass of lemonade?  (I see a mint leaf on the bottom of that glass, but I wasn't about to attempt turning that into glass - it might end up looking unappetizing! But I still thought it needed a little something-something, so I added a lemon slice!)  Go crazy here!  Pencils have erasers for a reason, you can always 'undo' your changes. 

 

So here is the design I turned my photo into, after some trial and error (this is the final copy, and doesn't show all the eraser marks!).  I moved the glass to the left, deleted Turkey (sorry, Turkey...) from the background, changed/simplified the colors, added my lemon slice, etc.  Now it is an 88-piece stained glass panel.

 

 

Step 3: Choose Glass Colors and Make Your Panel!

For this image, it was really easy for me to choose colors - given the photo, I knew I wanted bright yellow lemonade, a sunny sky, and a red tabletop.  

So, here it is, turned into glass (cut and ground, not yet foiled and soldered).  What do you think?  What would you have done differently?  Would you have changed some of the coloring, kept the background islands, added a flower vase??  The possibilities are endless!  I think it would be awesome if one of my readers reinterpreted this photo for themselves - if you give it a try, please post a pic or link in the comments!

 

And here is the finished piece!  This one went pretty fast, from photo to framed piece ready to hang.

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My Top 3 Stained Glass Design Tips

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.

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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!

First Post - Current Project

My first post, how exciting!  I figured a good topic for a first post would be the project I'm currently working on (and nearly done!).

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I wanted to do something a little different, so I decided on a friendly alien.  In the picture, she has been completed up through the copper foiling step.  

I used little white glass nuggets for the eyes, and later realized that if I had planned the design better, I could have used larger nuggets for the antennae and middle of her belt, which would have added a cool touch.  I'll have to remember that if I make a similar design again..

 

 

What are you working on right now?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments!