Art School: Stained Glass Paper Birds

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I love stained glass! It is such a beautiful medium. In particular, I have always loved the stained glass work of Chagall, like these and these. (Just go to Google Images and type in Chagall Stained Glass for more examples.) I took a one day workshop in stained glass, which I really enjoyed, but the tools and studio requirements to make stained glass at home are more than I can manage. Because of that, I am always looking for a way to get a similar effect with materials I have easy access to. Colored tissue paper is a good way to do that.

You can make these in any shape or for holidays (this type of thing is popular for Waldorf festivals, too). These ones are a basic bird shape because, well, I love birds.

finished bird

“Stained Glass” Paper Birds


• Black construction paper
• Colored tissue paper
• White glue; scissors; hole punch; yarn or string
• Clear contact paper

Before you begin with the studio part of this project, check out some gorgeous examples of stained glass, like the Chagall links above. See how vibrant the colors are, how the black leaded border makes the colors pop and the shapes and images stand out, and how the windows glow when the sun lights them from behind. For background on stained glass, here is a good general article with lots of images, too.

Start by drawing a basic bird shape on your black construction paper (I made a pattern out of cardboard so I could make multiples). Then, trace the same shape about 1 inch inside of the outside edge of the bird you just drew, simplifying around the beak.

bird patternbirds cut out

Tear or cut your colored tissue paper into strips.

strips of paper ready

Put a thin line of white glue around the edge of your black paper.

bird with glue

Then arrange the strips of your colored tissue paper so they cover the inside opening, slightly overlapping each piece and making sure each end of the tissue paper adheres to the glue.

staring in progressin progressstained glass paper bird ready to trim

After the whole opening is covered, trim the overhanging tissue.

paper trimmed

Cut a piece of clear contact paper to fit the backside of the bird (the side with the glued down tissue paper), and carefully stick the contact paper to the backside. (You can also make a second black paper frame that you attach to the back side before or in place of the contact paper so both sides look more finished. I am doing these for a workshop next week where time is an issue, so we are are not doing the second paper frame. I have done that way in the past and do like that look a lot.)

applying contact papermap

(Contact paper rolls also make good pretend treasure maps.)

Trim excess contact paper, punch a hole, and attach a string for hanging.finished bird

Hang in a window and enjoy your “stained glass” paper bird!

finished bird2

Here is a printable one page direction sheet for this project, too.


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