Painting & Drawing
on Glass

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2006-03-27 Rev. 2008-02-11, 2009-06-19

Painting almost always is done on cold glass which afterward may be fired to various temperatures depending on the material.  Reverse painting on glass is a centuries old traditional craft which does not involve firing, but does require the skill of painting the foreground first and working to the background - glass provides a "canvas" with depth. Sites: A B
Drawing on glass is almost always done with a thin stringer of glass and a torch on a hot glass form that has to be returned to the glory hole periodically although drawing-like images may be created with thin painted lines.


Painting on glass has two major divisions depending whether the paint is heated for setting/firing.  If the paint is not fired, then the paints used are like ordinary sign painting enamels.  The glass may be lightly sanded for grip.  Usually the technique is done by reverse painting to take advantage of the transparency of the glass.  Sometimes it is painted on both sides.  Reverse painting on glass requires that the artist think and work in the reverse of painting on canvas or other opaque materials: The foreground items are painted first then the mid-ground is laid on, then the background is painted over all.  For more information go off to Reverse Glass Painting

There are available some modern paints that are fired at the temperature of a household oven or at about 700F.  I know little about either of these, but they are typically front painted and may be applied by stencil or silk screen as well as brush.  They are normally used for decorative items and are baked to increase durability.  Here are a couple of reference pages USING PAINTS THAT DON'T NEED TO BE FIRED IN A KILN

The first of the truly fired glass painting techniques is the antique stained glass.  Here a silver compound is painted on the glass and when fired the compound chemically bonds with the glass and produces a variously dark image ranging from yellow to dark brown.  Traditionally, this is used to provide details on a piece of glass that is producing the color tone for face or hair or clothing.  Once fired, it can not be removed from the glass although additional stain can be added to darken details further.   This process is rarely done today with richer detailing possible with paints like those below.  People doing stained glass today are normally referring to the assembly of colored glass without additional painted details.

Painting on glass in color to be fired is normally done with enamels, which are compounds of colors and components like that of glass, but with more color and fluxes and less silica.  These are similar to copper enameling materials but are formulated to match the expansion of glass.  Many have lead oxide added for more flexibility but like pottery, if these are used on the surface exposed to food or drink, they can't be sold in many places.  Most glass enamels must be fired at high enough temperatures that the glass must be heated to near the annealing point, then flash heated to melt the enamel on the surface without deforming the glass, the temperature then being dropped to the annealing point quickly. 2008-02-11



If drawing is to be done with a fine brush on cold glass, see Painting above. Drawing on glass is a much more complicated process because it involves keeping the glass object hot enough that it does not break without getting it so hot it sags; heating enough to melt the drawing in place without losing the possibly desirable raised effects; and manipulating the glass rod supplying the drawing material and the torch for melting it.  With a proper rig to keep the rod and torch at hand so there is no fumbling and another rig to hold the glass in position without rolling, it might be possible to do it alone, but it is usually done by at least two people, one of whom handles the pipe/punty for stability, location and reheats and the other handling the rod and torch and focusing on the drawing. William Berstein drawing with glass

William Berstein drawing with glass, detailAn example of drawing, in this case with clear glass, by William Bernstein as published in Suzanne Franz book. 2006-03-30

Another example of drawing hot, in this case laying down the trunk and branches of the tree then doing the leaves by touching the melted tip of the cane to the glass and pulling off. Cane used for painting with lines and dabs

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