Leaded stained glass is the medium used in most churches. In leaded glass windows, pieces of glass are cut out and then put together with strips of lead to form designs. Windows with any amount of detail should be made from leaded glass. Traditional stained glass window designs feature richly detailed subject matter framed with borderwork, which itself can be simple or richly detailed.
Painted Stained Glass
Transparent colored glass is painted to provide the finer details. Biblical scenes are commonly represented, although windows displaying only symbols may also use the same symmetrical borderwork as windows depicting human figures. Stained glass has been made with painted transparent colored glass since the Middle Ages.
Opalescent Stained Glass
Many older churches used opalescent glass. This is the American contribution to the art form. A glass recipe developed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, opalescent glass is not transparent, but still allows light to come through, creating a softer glowing look. As in traditional painted stained glass, borderwork frames the window, and medallions of painted glass scenes or symbols may be set in a center field of background glass. Sometimes the designs simply feature Victorian scrollwork and jewels with no central figures, scenes, or medallions.
Layered "Tiffany" Stained Glass
A style developed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, layered stained glass uses layers of opalescent and transparent glass to create details and color variations. Rather than painting the glass, much of the detail is provided by variations and textures already present in the glass. Only the fine details of faces, hands, and feet are painted. A more recent approach developed by Joy Stained Glass Studio layers painted glass behind opalescent and clear textured glass to achieve more definition, while preserving the soft subtle variations of Tiffany's original style. Like opalescent stained glass windows, layered stained glass has a softer glow than traditional painted stained glass.