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How to Make a Paper Stained Glass Window Transparency Suncatcher
What are Window Transparencies?
Growing up, my cousins always seemed to create the coolest things. Cards, gifts, wrapping paper, and decorations were always handmade at their house. Window transparencies were one of the ways they would decorate. Window transparencies look like faux stained glass, but they are made from paper. This makes them must faster, less expensive, and they are faster, and safer to create! They are just as beautiful as stained glass, though, and perfectly kid-friendly. You can make them for any time of year - transparency stars are particularly beautiful at Christmas and the bright colors are well-suited to spring and summer, too.
I like using the matte finish Mod Podge for this project.
Supplies Needed for a Faux Stained Glass Suncatcher
Chances are good you already have everything you need to make a window transparency right at home! You need:
- Two sheets of paper, poster board, or cardstock.
- Tissue paper - bright colors are more fun!
- Mod Podge or white glue.
- A paintbrush.
Design your Suncatcher
The first thing you must do is design your suncatcher. You can make one in basically any shape at all. I chose to draw a flower that's sort of a mix between a lotus and a pond lily flower, but you can pick whatever you would like. You are more than welcome to save the scan of my drawing shown below and print it out for your own personal use. You can also use a stencil, draw something freehand, or print a piece of clip art from your computer or the Internet. I do not recommend anything with lots of tiny detail because it won't show up well - choose an image with clear, long lines for best results.
To make your transparency more durable, draw or print your design on poster board or card stock. I used a pale green card stock for one side of my frame and white card stock for the other side for demonstration purposes, but you can use any combination of colors you would like.
Create the Frame
After drawing or printing your design of choice, cut it out carefully.
Next, turn the design into a frame by cutting it out again. You can either retrace the design 1/2"-1" inside the original, or you can just freehand it with scissors. I had no trouble skipping straight to the cutting without redrawing the design.
If you make the frame thinner than .5", it may become unstable and difficult to work with. If you make it more than 1", it can quickly become too bulky and cause your design to loose detail.
After you have one side of your frame cut, trace the inside and outside of the design on a second sheet of card stock or poster board. After tracing the design, cut out the second side of your frame.
After your frames are ready, cut a piece of lightly-colored tissue paper so it is slightly larger than your design. It doesn't matter if the paper sticks out a little - you can trim it down later. After you have your sheet of tissue paper ready, carefully coat one side of one frame with a layer of Mod Podge and press it in place on the tissue paper, as shown below.
If you want to make several transparencies, it may be easier to buy pre-cut tissue paper.
Create the Faux Stained Glass
Now you're ready to get creating! Cut or rip your colorful tissue papers into pieces. You can make the pieces as large or small as you'd like, but I find pieces that are about 1" square work best for me. I cut about three dozen pieces for my design, but you may need more or less, depending on how big your pieces and actual frame are.
You can coat the individual squares with Mod Podge, but tissue paper is fragile. I prefer to coat the tissue paper frame backing, instead. Use a foam brush or your fingers to coat a patch of the backing and carefully smooth a tissue square in place. Repeat this process, adding extra Mod Podge on parts of previously-applied tissue squares as needed, until your frame is full!
It is somewhat tempting to just coat the entire thing with Mod Podge and then apply all the squares, but this does not work well. Unless your frame has only straight sides and right angles, the tissue pieces will need to overlap at some point, and I like making my pieces overlap for extra color. This means you need to work one piece at a time.
Finishing the Window Transparency
For added durability, I suggest applying one final coat of Mod Podge to the transparency's entire surface to make sure all the little pieces of tissue paper are held in place. Whether you chose to do this or not, make sure to allow the transparency time to dry before your proceed. You don't want to accidentally glue it to your window!
After everything is dry, coat one side of your second frame piece with Mod Podge and position it on top of your creation. You should create a sort of tissue paper sandwich with the decorated layer of paper protected between the two parts of the frame.
To make sure everything stays flat and dries in place, press the transparency until it is dry. I suggest using a cookie sheet or baking tray with a couple of books on top. Don't just put the books straight on the transparency because they may become glued in place! Metal is much easier to pull free from a bit of Mod Podge than your favorite book.
After everything is dry, cut any excess tissue paper away, use clear tape to place it in a window, and enjoy.
Faux Stained Glass
Window transparencies are a great quick, easy, and inexpensive way to decorate for any occasion. Basically any simple design can be turned in to a window transparency, so there's no need to limit yourself to my basic flower! Some of the best window transparencies I've seen included:
- A shamrock
- An Easter egg
- A cross (great for several different occasions!)
- A star
- A leaf
- A pumpkin
- A Christmas tree
The possibilities are pretty much endless, and storing your transparency flat inside a book, folder, or notebook makes it easy to reuse the same transparency year after year.
Have you ever made a window transparency before? Have you even seen a window transparency before? What other great designs can you think of?