The perfect snow day or rainy day activity! If this long winter makes you feel like you’re stuck inside a white and grey world, try making these colorful creations for your windows and you’ll brighten up any room with loads of sunny color! We call them “stained glass,” because just like the real thing, their true beauty and vibrancy magically comes alive when the sunlight shines through them.
These are so easy and creative and can engage everyone at all different skill levels, from preschoolers to teens and adults. The basic idea is to place bits of colored tissue paper between layers of wax paper, then heat the wax paper with a hot iron to melt the layers together, trapping the colors. So anyone can create whatever their imagination (and attention span J) can muster! Most households will have the 5 basic ingredients: tissue paper, waxed paper, scissors, glue stick and an iron – all the other materials can be useful and/or will enhance your artwork, but are not essential, which is GREAT!
Level of Difficulty: Easy – For ages 4+ with adult supervision. If you have any questions, please click on Contact Us on our website and we will respond as quickly as possible. Note: Adult supervision required – this craft includes the use of an iron.
Estimated Completion time: Approximately 30-60 minutes depending upon the complexity of your design.
List of Materials you will need:
– Work Mat – a plastic placemat or pizza box top or a large piece of heavy poster board – needs to be thin and firm and larger than your artwork
– Tissue Paper in Assorted Colors
– Glue Stick (or craft glue)
– Towel – smooth, flat, cotton fabric more than twice the size of your artwork
– Iron & Ironing Board
– “Coloring Book” Version:
– A page torn from a coloring book
– Masking or Clear Tape
– Optional for either Version:
– 2 Large Frame Mats for each picture
– Double-stick Tape or Hot Glue Gun
– Black Marker and/or Pencil
Step 1: Before you begin you’ll want to create a clear area to work and put a “placemat” at each person’s workspace. This can be a firm plastic placemat or the top of a pizza box or a large piece of poster board…you just need a thin but firm flat “tray” to work on so that you can easily transport your paper art to the ironing board without everything falling apart.
Step 2: Cut 2 equal sized pieces of wax paper. If you’re planning on framing your artwork with frame mats, your wax paper needs to be larger than the opening in the mats, but smaller than the outside dimensions of the mats. If using 11” x 14” mats with a 7.5” x 9.25” opening, cut the wax paper to approximately 10” x 13.” (You can find a pack of 4 white mats for $4.99 at your local craft store – perfect!!). Lay one piece of the wax paper on your placemat. Set the other piece aside for later.
Step 3: Remember that your wax paper is larger than your final artwork and so try to create your artwork in the center area, in this case the central area is 7” x 9.” For little ones you can mark this area with tape or pencil so they know where to work.
Step 4: Cut your tissue paper in small shapes: squares, triangles, circles, feathers, hearts, long strips, letters, whatever shape you can imagine. Use the cut shapes to create your picture on the wax paper. In the beginning do not use any glue, just move the pieces around until you are pleased with the effect. It is important to remember that you should not completely cover the wax paper with the tissue paper. There needs to be some areas where the wax paper will show thru so that it can meld with the top layer of wax paper when your artwork is complete. Plus lots of white space can be pleasing to the eye and make the colors around it “pop”.
Here are some design ideas to get you started – these are all Tissue Paper Stained Glass pieces as they look on the window with the sunlight shining through!
Impressionist – Create the likeness of a simple object with rough shapes, such as a flower. It clearly gives the “impression” of a flower but it’s not “perfect” or photographic.
Mandala – This is a circular pattern of shapes. Place a circle or diamond or snowflake in the center of your page. Then add like shapes symmetrically around the center, working outward.
Abstract – Just cut random shapes and colors and play with the layout to create an image that is pleasing to you.
Typography – Words make great art! Typography is the art of the shape and form of letters. Use fun colors and style to write your favorite name or word.
Step 5: Once your artwork is complete or you have a good idea of what you want to create, you can begin to glue the pieces in place. Tissue paper is so delicate that it can rip if you try to spread glue on it, so it’s best to put the glue on the wax paper and then place the tissue paper on the glue. You don’t need a lot because the wax will also serve to set the pieces. Also, if you have pieces of tissue paper that overlap each other you need to have glue between the tissue layers.
Step 6: When your artwork is complete, carefully cover it with the second piece of wax paper and carry the entire wax paper “sandwich” on your tray/placemat to the ironing board.
Step 7: Preheat your iron to a medium-high setting (the Wool setting is recommended). (Note: Adult supervision is required for this step) While this is heating up, lay the cotton towel on the ironing board so that half is on the board and the other half is hanging off the side. Carefully slide your artwork onto the towel and adjust any pieces that may have shifted during the move. Make sure the top layer of wax paper is aligned with the bottom layer and then fold the loose half of the towel over your wax paper “sandwich.” The towel will protect both the ironing board and your iron from any wax, and also protects the paper from burning.
Step 8: When the iron is hot, start at the left edge and with constant pressure push across to the right edge. Move VERY slowly across the surface of the towel over the full length of your artwork. You can take 15-20 seconds to slowly push from one side to the other, never lifting the iron – this will push any air bubbles out as you go and will melt the layers of wax together. Your iron is not likely large enough to cover the entire width of the picture, so start again on the left side, pushing to the right, until all areas have been covered.
Step 9: When you’ve ironed the full surface of the artwork, pull back the top layer of towel to check how well the wax has melted. If there are areas that seem loose, then replace the towel and iron that area again. When it’s done, remember to unplug the iron and set your artwork aside to cool. (Only takes a minute or so.)
Step 10: Your artwork can be taped directly to the window or you can frame it with two frame mats. To do so, use double-sided tape or a hot glue gun.
(Note: Adult supervision is required for using a hot glue gun.)
Lay one mat face down on the table. Position the artwork on the mat and glue or tape it in place. Apply more tape or glue and place the second mat right side up, aligning the edges with the mat below. These make great gifts for friends or grandparents and the beauty of the frame is that it can sit on the windowsill without marking up the windows.
Coloring Book Version:
Step 1 – Coloring Book Version: This version uses coloring books pages as a guide for creating your artwork. Find a favorite image in a coloring book and carefully cut the page from the book. (You can also photocopy the page if you don’t want to rip pages from your coloring book.) For very young children, choose images that are very basic without much detail. The older the child, the more detail can be shown in the picture, though it’s important to remember and understand the limitation for tiny details when working with cut paper.
Step 2: Lay a piece of wax paper on your placemat and center your coloring book page FACE DOWN on the wax paper. Gently tape the two pieces together at the corners, (to be removed later). Then flip this over so that the coloring book image is now FACE UP below the wax paper. If the edges of your wax paper roll up, just lay a ruler along the rolled edge to keep it flat.
Step 3: Begin cutting and gluing paper in place, guided by the lines of your image. You don’t have to cut pieces exactly to the size and shape of the image, just approximate, unless you want to. Cut the shapes out and glue in place. Remember to keep some areas uncovered by the tissue paper so that the two layers of wax paper can melt together. When you’re done with your picture, but before you iron it, remove the coloring book page.
Step 4: In a few areas of this bird picture the detail was too small for cut paper, thus in order to maintain the detail use a black marker to create the little lines. (See the area on the eye of the green parrot to the left). Another option would be to use a printed paper, like the two little lovebirds on the right. Here a blue and white snowflake-print tissue paper that had come with a gift was re-used! The pattern creates a great texture on the birds that you wouldn’t recognize as snowflakes unless you look closely.
EXPERIMENT and Have FUN!!
We would love to see what you create! Show us on Facebook.
To download the PDF or save this activity, click here.
If you enjoyed the Tissue Paper Stained Glass project, you may enjoy this paper making kit!
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