A Look At Age-Old Glass Painting Techniques

Feb 7, 2022

A Look At Age-Old Glass Painting Techniques

Although its popularity may have dwindled over time, the intricate glass work was one of the most popular forms of painting in ancient times, especially in Europe and the Middle-east. The mix of interesting glass painting techniques that were used in decorative glass walls of some popular medieval buildings and places of worship still attracts millions of tourists every year. The architecture of ancient times was complemented by complex and sophisticated glass painting techniques, some of which are as follows.

The Age-Old Traditional Technique

Most modern-day glass painting techniques are only a slight variation to old-fashioned techniques. One of the oldest and most popular traditional glass painting techniques used metallic salts to colour the glass into different shades. The fragments of these metallic salts were then used to assemble mosaic-like designs (Gothic Style).

To bring out designs through painting, glass fragments were put into desired shapes and patterns using lead strips that were curved and soldered together. These designs were test-painted on a whitewashed table. Paper was an expensive commodity back then so people used whitewashed tables to test paint instead. Back then, this was the traditional glass painting technique used by decorative glass companies and manufacturers for almost all types of glass artwork.

Addition Of Details 

The traditional glass painting techniques then expanded with the introduction of paints that could be used in glasswork. This allowed decorative glass manufacturers to add more painted details to the coloured base of the glass. Different shades of black and brown were mainly used for this detailing technique.

The sophisticated details were mostly added by paint brushes, but some artists preferred to continue using sticks and quills to smear the lines and to create a more coarse and rugged effect.  While this technique is still alive in the decorative glass industry, it has gone through different alterations and is now done in more than just two shades of colours.

The 14th And 16th Century Techniques 

In the 14th-century, many innovative painting techniques were introduced which revolutionized medieval glass painting artistry. One example is when a badger hair brush was used to soften the paint and to produce a stippled effect by bouncing the dry brush onto the wet paint.

Another is the silver stain technique that is still very popular today. A silver stain is applied to the outer surface of the glass, which is then baked. After the baking process is done, the colour applied to the outer surface changes to any shade between pale yellow and deep orange, depending on the temperature and the thickness of the application.

In the 16th century the kind of paint we now use called “enamels” took over the glass painting industry. As enamels can be directly applied to the glass, it allowed artists more freedom to experiment and gave them the ability to create sophisticated artworks. For complex designs, these enamels were applied in layers and fired several times.

The techniques in the 16th century resembled easel and panel painting. Artists used newer techniques to enhance the texture of artwork and gave priority to the use of more pale colours. All the techniques during this time focused on heavily painting white glass with sophisticated details.

And with technological advancements gradually taking over all glass industries, these ancient glass painting techniques that were mostly used in churches, and tourist sites shifted to being used in home and commercial spaces.  In present times many glass painting techniques are also automated mainly to incorporate more intricate details and create a flawless finish.