Introduction: Backlit Faux Stained-Glass Picture

About: Software geek, electronics enthusiast, musician, artist ... I enjoy making stuff, and discovering new things!

This instructable is an experimental-prototype for making a back-lit Faux Stained-Glass picture and frame.

Inspired by CADnoob's instructable but lacking any of the materials listed, I decided to improvise and upcycle.

Step 1: Materials/Tools

    • (Damaged) CD Jewel case front (130x125mm)
    • Dry-wipe or Alcohol based pen that can draw on plastic AND be cleaned off!
    • Water based black ink (e.g. Parker Quink)
    • Syringe with blunt needle
    • PVA (white) glue
    • Washing up liquid
    • Acrylic paint
    • White paper
    • Wood for boxing around: 25mm or wider, to cover 2 x 120mm and 2 x 130mm lengths
    • Small wood blocks (corner supports) 10mm square - cut from square dowel/stick.
    • Plastic/Card sheet for back (about 130x125mm)
    • Silver foil
    • Spray-mount adhesive
    • Matchsticks (4)
    • Small self-tap screws (6)
    • Copper wire (hanging hook)
    • Sellotape/Painters tape
    • Wood stain/brushes
    • Clear lacquer
    • Dremel/mini drill


    • On-off (toggle/latching) switch
    • White LEDs (1-4)
    • Battery boxes (1xAAA) (2)

    Joule Thief:

    • 1 x Electrolytic 4.7uF/16V or higher
    • 1 x 4.7K resistor
    • 1 x 470pf (0.47nF) capacitor
    • 1 x 2N4400 or 2N4401 transistor
    • 1 x 1N5822 diode
    • 1 x Custom transformer (small toroid/choke, enamelled copper/magnet wire)

    Step 2: Transfer Picture to "glass"

    I call this piece "Avon don't collect their catalogues".

    The picture is cut to exactly fit into the "booklet" retainer in the CD case, and slid into place on the inside, then padded from behind to hold it firmly.

    On the outside, I traced all the key lines I want to use onto the plastic using a CD-R marker.

    Step 3: Joined Up Th-inking

    Genuine stained glass panels don't usually? ever? have isolated areas of colour, e.g. around eyes, lips, which is what we are going to end up with here. This is because of the way pieces of glass are cut and joined with the lead strips, it's hard to embed one colour isolated within another. I rarely see a piece of glass set into lead surrounded by continuous glass -- like a bullseye/target design.

    So, some additional lines are added to join these impossible features along shading-contour lines, so no isolated glass areas exist.

    Step 4: Leading

    I tried two ways to lead and colour this.

    Attempt One: Paint the leaded lines thinly with black acrylic paint (brushed), and then directly paint in areas between (brushed)

    You can see the results above. It seems that brushed will always look like it's been brushed on ... even with multiple coats.

    Attempt Two: Paint the leaded lines thickly with actual depth (piped on), and then flood the remaining area with water and mix the paint in.

    This is harder to do, but looks much more like glass, with varying thickness.

    To do the leading :-

    I mixed up my own "leading paint" in a small container using a generous blob of PVA glue, with a few drops of black ink mixed in. Both are water based, and it doesn't take much ink to turn the PVA black.

    This was then loaded into a syringe, and a blunt needle fitted. You can get these for refilling inkjet cartridges, or maybe a pharmacy.

    With the reference picture removed, and the CD case "face down" (so sketching is now on the bottom face, painting on the upper face, which will become the inside), pipe along all of the "leading lines", gently squeezing on the syringe. It's like piping icing onto a cake ...

    Also pipe a waterproof border around to retain the paint later, as there are holes and gaps at the edge of the plastic.

    The trick here is to deposit a thick (deep) enough line that it will provide a waterproof dam when colouring is done.

    Leave the "leading" to dry. For a day or more.

    Step 5: Colouring

    This step requires a very horizontal surface, where it won't get disturbed.

    Due to the nice retaining walls made by the thickness of the PVA glue, I was able to flood each cell with water, and then dab/mix in acrylic paint for zero-brushstrokes. Important trick here: Add a few drops of washing up liquid to the water you use, to help the water to flow and wet the plastic, otherwise it beads up!

    Working one cell/colour at a time, and never working on a cell directly next to a wet one (!), each "cell" is flooded with water (using a brush to transfer small amounts until full), then use the brush to dab in, and move about, the paint to get a thin even wash of acrylic paint.

    Let these colours dry before filling in missing cells. Working on neighbouring wet cells may cause a colour bleed if you make a tiny error.

    When the paint is finally dry, I glued a piece of white copier paper to the back, to act as a diffuser so that the panel could not be seen through. Any areas unpainted will show up as full white.

    So now you have a leaded-glass effect picture, on the back of the plastic, where it is protected from damage, and looks really glossy from the front.

    Step 6: Boxing

    Of course you could frame or hang this directly, but I added some backlighting, which requires some protection.

    The box is a simple wooden box that exactly fits around the CD case (minus the two hinge pieces, if they are still attached, cut them off and sand them smooth!)

    Dimensions are cut to exactly fit, so the left and right pieces are 125mm (the exact height of the case), with the top and bottom being 130mm + twice thickness of the wood to overlap the sides, top and bottom.

    I used the CD case as a template to keep the size correct and square.

    These pieces of wood are sellotaped together at the corners, and filled with glue. The tape pulls the wood in under slight tension, and the CD case keeps everything square. Put it somewhere flat, weight it, and wait!

    Step 7: Box-back

    Once the glue is dry, I added four small wood corner blocks. These are dual purpose. They strengthen the corners, and also provide an attachment point for a back panel. They also support the CD plastic pushed in from the other side.

    So they are triple purpose ... their three main purposes are ... shall I go out and come in again?

    The back panel is cut from a scrap plastic sheet (although card or thin wood would work too), and it needs to tightly fit into the recessed space.

    The inside of the back panel has a layer of kitchen foil attached. This will act as a reflector/diffusor for the backlight. The foil was textured by placing it on a textured plastic surface, and gently rubbing it, to further randomise the surface. There's no need to press it down hard when spray-mounting it, otherwise the texture will disappear again.

    Finally: I added 4 matchsticks to provide support for the back panel -- these are just glued in place.

    Step 8: Holes

    Before finishing the box up, some holes are needed.

    I drilled two small holes in the top, centred, and close to the back, to provide a hanging point.

    The hook is shaped from some thick copper wire, threaded through, and the legs splayed out to retain it.

    For the power switch in the bottom face, I used a tiny toggle switch and cut a square hole to tightly fit the switch.

    Note: I also rounded all the outer corners on the box to neaten them up, using an abrasive block to rough-shape them, then sandpaper to smooth them off.

    Step 9: Stain and Finish

    While busy making and staining a custom frame for another project I coated the entire frame with three coats of mahogany wood stain -- the original wood (pine) is very pale and needed three coats to build sufficient darkness.

    Once the stain was fully dried, it was lightly sanded to remove any bits, and then coated with a couple of clear lacquer coats, sprayed, to protect it and make it shiny.

    Step 10: Joule Thief Backlight

    It's not hard to find variations on the Joule Thief -- a simple oscillator circuit to raise dead batteries back to usable life, so I won't go into the full theory of operation. In this case, I'm using it to raise 2 (questionable) cells to be able to light white LEDs.

    The circuit shown above will work on one or two cells, AA or AAA size -- here I'm using 2 x AAA cells.

    The diode should be a 1N5822 (or other low voltage drop Schottky diode), but I used a regular 1N5401 power diode as I had some spare.

    The custom transformer is really easy to wind. On some projects, I've got lucky and found a small toroidal filter choke/inductor from a power supply which has about 15-20 turns of "thick" wire already on, and just added a secondary winding of 15-20 turns, continuing the wind direction.

    In this case, I'm using a bare toroid core salvaged from a Compact Fluorescent bulb. The same number of turns are wound on the primary and secondary, starting at "A" with the thicker (current carrying) wire, and stopping at "B" to change down to thinner wire to "C". Keep winding in the SAME direction, otherwise it won't work correctly.

    The current in the primary isn't very high, but I used the thicker grade wire (about 28 SWG?) to wind it. The secondary is only a signal-feedback winding, and is wound with some 38-40? SWG wire.

    I tested the circuit on solderless breadboard to make sure it worked, before building it onto a tiny scrap of Tri-pad board.

    Step 11: LED Mounting and Wiring

    For the backlight, I'm facing the LEDs away from the picture, and pointing them at the back reflector. This helps cut down on the "hotspot" effect from the LEDs.

    Additionally, the LEDs have been scuffed with a sanding block to add a frosted effect to the ends.

    The LED legs are bent and splayed a short distance from the LED, as shown, to use the legs as supports.

    The LEDs are all wired in parallel, same polarity of legs together, using fine insulated wire. These are taped to the back of the diffusing paper. Make sure they are all the same way round, otherwise some won't light.

    Step 12: Electronics Mounted

    I used two separate AAA battery boxes to balance the weight, either side of the hanging hook. These were screwed into place with tiny self tap screws (just visible), and joined in series.

    The power switch is placed in line with the battery positive, to the circuit (orange wire).

    The LED drive wires (orange, grey) are connected to one of the LEDS, and the circuit board is held in place by dots of glue on the incoming and outgoing wires, spaced away from the front (causes shadows) and from the back (metal foil = short circuit).

    Note I added a small area of insulating-but-clear Scotch Magic Tape here so the back cover would not touch the board!

    Finally, the back panel is drilled into the wood blocks, to provide pilot holes for the small self-tap screws.

    Step 13: Done!

    The finished panel -- lit and unlit.

    The backlight is more even in real life (by eye) than it appears on camera.

    It makes a usable emergency night-light (for navigating in complete darkness), but also looks pretty too!