How to Make your Own Fake Stained Glass Windows

by - Monday, August 12, 2013

For Medieval Week at Camp Galileo, I wanted to decorate my room like a Gothic cathedral. In general, I really hated this theme, because I found it to be pretty misogynistic, so I wanted to make something with a different focus. Also, something that was just  pretty. My inspiration were the windows at Reims and Chartres cathedral: 

Medieval religious architecture is all about two things- height and light. The churches were designed to absolutely dwarf the people inside and to make them look upward. New architectural developments, especially flying buttresses, made it possible for these buildings to not only be tall, but to feature huge panes of stained glass which are often loaded with religious iconography.

My classroom was also really tall and bright, so I thought this kind of architectural feature could really shine in the space. I cut the religious iconography for obvious reasons, and instead tried to focus on color and a design that would highlight how tall the room was.

 This project is a little time consuming, but it is also very low cost. To make it, you need:

1 piece of black paper per plane (you need to measure to decide how many you need- I had 8 for mine). Make sure it is black, because it needs to block the light. It is about 99 cents per sheet.
An Exacto knife
Thin black tape (Again! Black is important)
A sharpie
Measuring tape or a yardstick
Sheets of tissue paper- You can just buy the stuff people put in gift bags at target. They even have groupings of tissues for like 5 bucks. I used leftover wedding tissue paper (haunted for the rest of my life!) and blue and green that I bought in a pack. If you want to be historically accurate, lean toward blues and greens which they made the most.

 First, you need to make the points for the tops. These points were important for guiding the eye upwards, basically like an arrow up to the ceiling. Find the center of your sheet with the measuring tape and mark it off. From there, draw a light diagonal line from the point to the corner. Then, you need to put a little more curve on it and cut it out. Once you have one side done, use it as the stencil for all of the other top parts. This way, they should all be about symmetrical.

Important! Most of these posters have stickers on them. Make sure to draw your design on that side, so the part showing will be really clean. Also, even if you make a mistake, just draw a line over it, don't turn the paper over it.

 Once you have all the pieces you need to fit the space where you will put them (did I mention measure?), be sure to lay them all out so you can see the big picture. Once you are pleased with the shape, you can start drawing in your design with the sharpie.

No matter what, try to have at least a one inch border around the outside. Have all of your lines be about that thickness. It is only poster paper, so you need to have it hold up. You can make the design as complicated as you would like, though this step is the hardest and longest, so beware.

If you want to do my diamond pattern, these are the steps:

First, draw out your one inch border around the outside. Once you have that, decide the dimensions of your diamonds. Mine were 6 inches tall and 4 inches wide. To get that stretching to the ceiling effect, you want them to be tall and thin. Measuring the width of your paper so it works out is also important.

Draw your markings out, starting from the bottom on the wide part. measure out four inch widths and then one inch lines. Do this the whole way across. Then, at the midpoint of each 4 inch width, measure up 3 inches. Your first drawings will be triangles.

For the next bunch, you can measure up from the bottom. Repeat this until the whole paper is filled with diamonds drawn out.

After the sheet is all drawn out, have a wonderful 2nd person who you love very much get started on cutting it out with an exacto knife. Once a full sheet is cut out, you can just use it as a template and trace it on the other black sheets. You should only measure the diamonds once. 

Remember- cut on something that can take the beating from a knife. You can't tell from this picture, but we cut on old coloring books. 

Once you are done tracing (and cutting if you don't have a buddy) cut out a bigger diamond from the black paper. I used the scraps from the points. You want it to be a little less than an inch taller and wider than the diamonds being cut out. You will use this over and over as a stencil for the tissue paper. 

In this picture, the diamond cut out of the sheet is on the bottom, and the new bigger template is on top.

 Trace the stencil on the tissue paper you have. You need even more than you think, so I would estimate and then overshoot it. You can cut the paper out with scissors, and it still works pretty well. By the time you are done, you should have a huge pile of these little window diamonds.

Finally, use the black tape to tape these to the back of the window panes. Be sure to use a lot of tape, because when it hangs you don't want them to droop. Use painters tape or black tape to tape them onto the windows and blamo! You have some real gothic fancypantsness.

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