Stained Glass Window Film: Types, Benefits & How to DIY

The beauty of stained glass was once only available to the rich and powerful. The color and artistry of such picturesque panels found in churches, cathedrals, and other significant buildings were designed to draw attention, respect and awe. Today, the same beauty and aesthetic qualities are available to everyone for only a fraction of the cost. Stained glass films allow homeowners with an eye for the ornate and the refined to enrich a plain window or door pane with the stylish adornment and appearance of real stained glass. Manufactured as thin decorative sheeting, stained glass film is an easy to use home ornamentation that is as simple as hanging wallpaper, and in some respects, even easier.

Decorative window films are available in many forms including sheets that cover entire windows, or as decals that accent a pane, just like stenciling accents a wall. Produced in seemingly endless colors, patterns and designs, window films can be found to fit any requirement or theme, from the introduction of spring colors for a kitchen, to the fairytale setting of dancing bears for a child’s room. There are also replicas of stained glass art from around the world, mosaics, abstracts and geometric designs. Simple designs such as sheets that give the appearance of frosted or etched glass are also available. Decals can turn any window into a piece of art in addition to serving a functional purpose such as blocking UV rays, blocking an unsightly view, or providing privacy.

There are two common types of faux stained glass. One type is static cling film which is easy to apply and remove. This film is simply peeled from its backing and then applied to a glass surface. Caution should be taken to clean the window thoroughly before applying the film. Make sure the surface is free of dust particles, paint or other raised particles as they can cause unsightly bubbles to form under it. Next, align the pattern prior to allowing it to touch the glass, as the static cling adheres immediately. Finally, use a smooth, straight edge or squeegee to press out any air bubbles that appear.

The second type of stained glass film is known as wet film. The only supplies required are scissors, a squeegee, and soapy water. A spray bottle for the soapy water is optional. Wet both the window surface and the film and then press the film against the glass. Once aligned, press the water and any bubbles out with the squeegee. The film can be trimmed to size before or after installation. If trimming after, be sure to use a sharp razor. Press firmly down on the cut edges to ensure they adhere properly. Wet film tends to be easier to apply because of the ability to slide it around into position prior to pressing the water/bubbles out.

There are also adhesive films, but they are much less practical as they are not reusable and can leave residue that is difficult to remove. All types of films can be cut to fit a particular size or shape of glass.

Benefits and Types

Privacy window films, such as colored and frosted varieties, can offer occupants privacy or hide an unattractive view. They can also save energy (insulating), reduce heat and filter UV rays. Front doors, bathroom windows and shower doors benefit particularly well from frosted, translucent, opaque, and one way films with mirror finishes. There is no need to worry as steam and moisture have no effect on window films. All but the opaque type allow light transmission but block wandering eyes. Privacy films obscure visibility 24 hours a day, whether or not the lights are on inside or the sun is shining outside.

Window films can bring color to a room in two ways. It directly accents the window or door with its artistic design, and if it has a textured or beveled surface, it can refract light onto surrounding walls, “painting” them with color.

As a cheap energy conservation option, window films can be put up seasonally. Specially made and tinted films can minimize heat gain in the summer by blocking infrared light, and help retain heat in the winter. They can also reduce or eliminate sun glare and control light levels. Owners interested in protecting furniture and collectibles will benefit from a specialty film’s ability to block harmful UV rays that can damage expensive or antique furniture.

Stained glass window films are a stylish way to bring a fresh new look to any room at any time. They are inexpensive and non-permanent, so they can be changes for seasons, holidays, or just to alter the decor or mood of a room.

How to Make Faux Stained Glass

Even though there is a huge selection of window films available that offer an almost unlimited array of patterns and designs to choose from, some people want to add their own personal, creative and unique touch to their windows. Creating a one of a kind stained glass creation is as easy as tracing a picture.

The first step in making faux stained glass is measuring the dimensions of the window for the project. Based on these measurements, a mock up (or traceable design) is then created. A sketch can also be copied from a stained glass pattern book. The sketch should be mirrored, meaning that that the design pattern is horizontally opposite the way it will appear on the glass. This mirror image is necessary because the faux stained glass will be painted on the side facing inside, so it will appear as intended when viewed from the outside. Once the sketch is completed, it is positioned and taped to the exterior of the pane and then traced over on the inside. Another option is to use an erasable marker and draw on the outside of the window.

The next step is the application of the fake lead channels to which create the outlines of the design that are made of real lead used in authentic stained glass. Special products known as liquid lead can be used and applied directly from the tube to outline the design. Follow the directions on the tube and allow the appropriate time for it to dry. Glass paints, such as acrylics and lacquers can also be used to create this outline. For the best results, a consistent color such as black or grey should be used for the entire outline.

Once the simulated lead outline is applied and has had adequate time to dry, colors can be applied. Use paints made specifically for glass such as acrylic and lacquer. For more sophisticated styles, specialty paints can be used to create frosted, etched, and crystal glass effects. Glass paint can be applied by brush or air brush, depending on the desired outcome. Because of glass’ non-porous surface, mistakes are easily corrected. Redo mistakes by letting the paint dry and simply scraping it off with a razor.

Practice painting techniques on a piece of glass or plastic before starting the actual project. This allows the do-it-yourself individual get a feel for the brush or airbrush, the appropriate application thickness and the working dry-time of the product, which is important to know to prevent sags and snags on the skin of drying paint.

Stained glass window films are an easy to use home decor product and should be considered by anyone who wants to add a splash of color or a touch of elegance to any window or glass door without gouging their wallet.