Dollar Store Crafts: “Stained Glass” Beaches


  • Picture Frame (the cheap kind with bendy tabs on the back)
  • A Sharpie
  • Acrylic Paint (in as many colors as you want)
  • Clear Glue
  • White Glue
  • Rubbing Alcohol (and a paper towel or cotton ball)
All these supplies can be purchased at a dollar store. Remember–the cheap frames are better. Glass or acrylic plastic glazing work fine.

Prepare Your Glass

Grab your picture frame and take it apart. You really only need the frame and the glass. The cardboard backing can go and so can any stock photo paper inserts the frame may have come loaded with.

Be careful with the glass, the edges can be sharp.

Mine came with a photo mat that reduced the size of the frame to 4×6 from 5×7. Using this mat I taped it to the glass with some painter’s tape and easily found the center of my frame.

You don’t have to do as I did–you can make your “stained glass” fill out the whole glass if you’d like!

Choose an Image

I found a picture I liked on the internet of a beach scene (you can do whatever you’d like, maybe a Baby Yoda, or a T-Rex?). 

I searched “beach scene” and narrowed it to “line drawings” using the search tools on Google.

But I have no easy access to a printer while I was making this, so I grabbed a scrap piece of paper and traced the inside of my mat to get the right size–if you don’t have a mat you can decide now how big you want the image using a ruler, or you can simply trace the outside of the glass–and then started sketching out what I wanted. You can see that I did this a few times to get it right. There are no wrong answers, keep at it until you like what you see!

Then I flipped my glass over to the “wrong side” and lined it up with my sketch for the next step.

I picked something really simple because simple is a bit better in this situation, You don’t want anything too detailed otherwise that detail will be lost.

Trace Your Image

Once you have your picture selected and everything is as centered as you want it to be on your glass, it’s time to trace!

Take the Sharpie marker and run it over the lines that you want to make for your “stained glass”. Once you’ve traced the lines you can remove whatever aids you had in place and reveal your line work!

"Lead" Your Image

Now’s the time to put down your “lead” for the image. In real stained glass making the lead goes down last, but not here!

First: FLIP YOUR GLASS — you want the sharpie to be on the bottom, otherwise the glue may react with the alcohol in the Sharpie and make the purple/black ink run in yucky ways.

Mix your black acrylic (or whatever color you want for your outline) with some of the white glue–a little color goes a looooong way–and lay the lines down to match your tracing on the other side of the glass. You can use whatever thickness of brush as you wish! 

The glue makes this really thick and uncooperative. So take your time. I dab dots of the glue/paint mixture along all the Sharpie lines.


Trust me here. Let the outlines dry all the way. No cheating. Don’t poke it. Don’t stare at it with intense concentration while wishing it would dry faster. Just leave it somewhere safe and let it dry.

Walk away. Deep breaths. 30 minutes tops.

Take this time to critique your work. Are the lines dark enough for your aesthetic? If not, go over them once more once they’re dry-ish. Then let it all set completely.

Is it dry yet? 

Great! Next step time!


Now that the “lead” lines are TOTALLY DRY. You can begin to fill in the color!

For each section you can add a color (maybe two). Just mix some of the clear glue with the TEENEY-EST TINY-EST bit of color and use a spoon or a paint brush to scoop up some tinted glue and dollop it into the space you want it to go, trying not to drip any into the other sections. Flood each area until its full to each edge with colored glue and then move to the next opening and the next color.

Mix paints together to get the colors you want–add a little bit of white tinted glue to your sky for some impromptu wispy clouds. Make your water purple, your sand red, your sky yellow.

This is your art and you do what you want with it.

There will be messy lines and bubbles, but that’s fine “stained glass” is rarely perfect either. 

Take this opportunity to sign it if you want. Just use some left over black and white glue mix and carefully sign your initials or your full name.


The clear glue seemed to take longer than the white glue, probably because of how MUCH there was. That’s fine. I’m fine. Patience is something I can try.

But seriously, why can’t it dry quicker?

Finishing Touches

Now that its all dry, you can flip it over and use some rubbing alcohol to remove the Sharpie from the other side.

At this time you can put your art back in it’s frame, just bend the tabs over the hold the glass in place. Be gentle, remember it’s glass. Glass can break and glass is sharp.

If you don’t like the frame, you can trace around the edge of the glass with the black and white glue mixture to make a simple “frame.” Also a tip: cover the edges with the glue mix to make them less sharp!

Take the whole thing to a window or a lamp and hold it up. 

Isn’t that awesome?! All for a couple dollars and a few hours. 

This is a great gift for your mom on her birthday or a best friend or a sibling’s graduation. Take some time to be creative and make something to be proud of. And if it doesn’t look great, but don’t worry–it does–you can always peel it all off and start again!

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Teen Librarian at the Valencia Library

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