Transfers or Transparencies on Glass

There were various patent names for transfers on glass that were a cheap imitation of Stained Glass, amongst which were the patent names,  “Crystograph”, “Glacier”, “Vitremanie”, and “Diaphanie”.

The basic process involved printing a design on a very fine translucent paper that was then applied to the glass. Unfortunately, as the materials used were of marginal quality, only a rare few original examples remain intact today.

The transfers on glass in the examples within the slideshow exhibit the typical signs of ‘crazing’ where the transfer shrinks on the glass causing the appearance of thousands of tiny cracks. Exposure to light was the primary cause of the degradation of this form of glass decoration hence the reason that very few original examples still exist to this day.

The two examples are from Highton Manor at Mansfield in North East Victoria, and St Philips Church at Cowes on Philip Island in Victoria. The origin of these is not known and not considered to be by Ferguson & Urie.

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The North Eastern Ensign, Benalla, Vic, Friday 11th April 1884, page 2s.

“Imitation Stained Glass.

AMONG the many uses of the printing press none is more novel than the production of imitation stained glass. Design’s for any pattern desired are engraved on wood. The blocks of wood are placed on an old fashioned hand press, and then are inked with oiled colors compounded with special reference to the use for which they are intended. Then a sheet of very thin hand-made porous paper is laid on, and a prolonged impression given, in order that the color may thoroughly permeate the paper. Each color is, of course, printed at a separate impression. Having completed the printing process, the different pieces of paper which compose the design are soaked in warm water half an hour, taken out, the water sponged off, and then coated on one side with a thin cement. A similar coat of cement is given the glass to which the paper is to be applied, and then the paper is laid on in place, and varnished over. The plain glass window becomes at once, to all appearances, a window of stained glass. The effects of the lead lines, the irregular pieces of colored glass, the heads of saints and soldiers, the antique, or the modern Japanese designs are all to be had as brilliant in color as any imitation can be expected to be of the genuine glass. The glass thus prepared costs about one-tenth as much as genuine stained glass, and can, when it requires it, be washed without fear of injuring the surface”.

Illustrated Sydney News, NSW, Wednesday 16th April 1873, page 6.



“THIS beautiful art is so simple in its elements that it will not take much space to initiate the reader to its mysteries. The principal purpose to which it is applicable are for the decoration of hall windows, churches, lamp-shades, stair-cases, hand-screens, windows, window-blinds, Chinese lanthorns [sic], and conservatories; but it is equally available for every purpose in which the combination of transparency and ornament enter. Although the chief features of this art is the decoration of glass to the resemblance of stained windows and painted transparencies, it may be used for the adornment of window-blinds, &c., upon muslin or silk.

            The materials required are few and inexpensive, and may be procured from most of our colour shops in town. We will enumerate them:- Glass, muslin or silk, a roller, brushes, designs, one bottle of clearing liquid, prepared gum, one bottle of washable varnish.

            Be sure that the glass is free from imperfections, such as specks or bubbles, and scrupulously cleansed. Of course, if it is already fixed in window frames, you must take it as you find it. Muslin for pictures is preferable to silk, for its cheapness and possession of greater transparency. Whichever may be chosen, observe that it must be tightly stretched upon a frame, and that the muslin be free from coarse threads. Much of the beauty of the work depends on the careful selection of the designs. In experiments, choose simple design, the subject of which must be left to the fancy of the person engaged in the work. The brushes (hog’s hair) will be sufficient for the application of varnish and cement. Starch, mixed with cold water, and boiled, is the best cement that can be used to make the designs adhere to the glass; but gum of size will do if more convenient. The cement must be thinly laid on. The Washable Varnish renders the picture easy to clean, and the clearing liquid is used to destroy the opacity of the paper. It must be applied to the blank side of the paper.

            We will now instruct the reader how to use these materials in the best manner to bring out the enchanting beauties of this art: – Lay the glass flat upon a folded cloth: then cut out the subjects, and placing them upon the blank side of the grounding paper, (the plain side upwards), trace the outline by rubbing on with the finger a small quantity of black lead; after this, cut the paper so that the subject may clearly fit it. We cannot enjoin too much care in these operations. The next process in order will be the fastening of the papers on glass. This is done with a sponge and water; the uncoloured part of the paper must be made quite damp; then put on the glass and the printed sides a thin coating of the cement. Take care that no air bubbles remain between the glass and prints, and also observe that the papers must be kept damp while the operation is carried on, for if the cement is allowed to dry it will destroy the transparency when the clearing liquid is used.

            The cement requires about six hours to dry, when two coatings of the liquid should be applied to the back of the print. As a remedy, if it is not clear, rub on an additional supply of Clearing Liquid on the opaque parts. Let the glass remain for twelve hours, that the paper may dry, after which apply the Washable varnish. There are other methods, but they are inferior to the one we have now laid before the reader, and we pass on to the instructions connected with the operations on MUSLIN or SILK.

            After stretching either material tightly on a frame, take the sheets, laying the plain sides upwards to receive the clearing liquid, which put on with a brush, and when dry, give it another coating. A coating of cement will now be necessary to apply to the coloured side of the paper, taking great care to press it equally with the roller. There is now nothing left to the completion of the transparency but to varnish it. If the picture be misty, again use the clearing liquid.

            Painting upon Glass or Muslin.- For this purpose you will require the following colours:- Raw and burnt sienna, brown pink, Prussian blue, yellow lake, crimson lake, rose madder, French ultramarine, ivory black, burnt umber, gamboge, verdegris. In using these colours, should they work stiffly, work a little turpentine with them. If your painting is on glass, after laying it flat on the print you have chosen to copy, with ivory black and a fine sable pencil trace the outlines, and after it is dry, let the colouring commence. There is but little difference in the operations of painting on glass or muslin. The latter material should have a coating of parchment size after it has been tightly stretched; but the process of colouring is precisely the same as in the process on glass.

            Painting glass and Muslin in Water-colours.- The same colours are used as those previously enumerated, omitting the verdegris. First, see that the glass is free from grease, and if not, wash it with a little gall. If the operations are to be in muslin better apply a thin coating of size before working. Add a little gall to your cake colours after they are diluted with water on the slab, and then proceed as in oil colour. Between each layer of colour, as water-colours quickly dry, give the glass a coating of mastic varnish. After the outline is complete, the glass should be placed on a frame, and supported on both sides by an upright piece of wood. The colours may be heightened by applying others of the same tint; and for the sake of durability, a second sheet of glass should be placed over the work in all departments of this art.

            For using ordinary Engravings on Glass.- The paper they are printed on should contain no size. Damp the plain side of the picture with a sponge, and apply to the other a coating of Washable Varnish; then warm the glass, lay on the print, press with the roller, and place it some distance from the fire to dry. The next process requires great care or the beauty of the engraving will be injured. Damp the print again with water, and rub off the superfluous paper; after this, and when the miniature absorded [sic?], apply the clearing liquid with a camel’s hair brush, and lastly, when it is thoroughly hardened, the washable varnish can be applied, and the work finished.

            Imitation of ground glass may be effected by taking equal quantities of ground white lead and sacrum, and mix with one part of boiled oil and two of turpentine, slightly tinted with yellow or blue. When this is done, take a painter’s clean duster, and gently dab with the ends of the hair, until the work has assumed the uniformity of appearance necessary to its perfection”.


4 comments on “Transfers or Transparencies on Glass

  1. Hello! I have purchased a large quantity of ephemera amongst which are 4 packets of Crystographs imitation stained or painted glass sheets. 3 packets are series 01 depicting birds and 1 packet is series 02 depicting flowers. I am tempted to eBay them but I came across your website and decided to contact you to see if you would be interested in these items. I am unsure of their age but they are very old. The outer covers are worn but the contents are in perfect condition. Maybe you would care to email me. I live in the UK. Thank you.

    • Hi Christine,

      The Crystographs may net you more money on eBay possibly, but bear in mind that because of their nature, the they could no longer be used now as intended in the 1800-1900’s. My interest would only be from a curiosity aspect as I’m not a collector in anyway. But if you forward your expected price I will consider it. Personal email to follow.


      • I purchased a box of chrystographs in the late 1970’s that were supposedly purchased in an auction of Louis Tiffany’s studio glass and stained glass supplies in the mid 1950s. There are a series of four religious crystographs. Jesus with children, the virgin holding the christ child, the virgin standing, and Jesus carrying a lamb. They are in mint condition. I would like to sell them but cannot find much information on them as to their value. Can you offer me any information?

        • Hi Jeff,
          I can’t really help you with this one. Your best bet is to contact a museum, art gallery or auction house to gauge any interest. Alternatively, you could try your luck selling them on eBay or hang on for a while and see if there is any response to your comment in this thread.


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