Stained glass rainbows (and DIY compass for drawing circles)

Stained glass rainbows (and DIY compass for drawing circles)

How to:

Paper Stained Glass Rainbows

Simple little window decorations, a great kid's craft (once the frame is cut).
Keyword: crafts, duct tape, paper, stained glass, tissue paper


  • hobby knife or x-acto knife whatever you want to call a razor sharp knife
  • pair of scissors
  • pencil (mechanical pencil is ideal for this – or very sharp non mechanical pencil)
  • straight pin
  • ruler
  • duct tape
  • paperclip partially or fully unfolded (optional, can use the straight pin for this)


  • black card weight paper
  • multi coloured tissue paper or cellophane
  • glue stick or glue of your choice
  • sheet of normal printer or copier paper


Plan your rainbow's dimensions

  • Determine your frame's full size: I cut my black card in half, leaving me with 2 pieces that were about 21cm by about 14.5cm
  • I then decided on a bottom margin of 2.5cm and sides that were 2cm each and marked that out on the card
  • I measured the inner frame size, divided by half and made a mark at the centre point of the bottom margin line.
  • Decide how wide you want your rainbow stripes and leading between them and how many stripes you'll have you may do some sketching here, you're welcome to just use my measurements.
    I settled on 2cm for the stripes and 1cm for the leading – you want enough space to be able to add glue for your tissue paper, take in consideration the age of who's doing this craft and delicate motor skills. This was just about right for our ~2.5 year old as long as I did the glue stick work. I could've added another stripe and filled the frame with the final one being partial and mostly in the corners – or maybe that could've just been sky blue.

Make your DIY compass (or if you have a compass, skip this bit)

  • Here's where your leading and stripe measurements come into play.
  • Cut a strip of your plain white (or coloured copier – who am I to say – no one will see this) paper about 8cm wide along the narrow side of the paper.
  • Fold this strip in half and add a strip of duct tape to the back of it – this will reinforce it so it won't rip while you're drawing your rainbow template(s)
  • With a ruler, draw a line down the centre of the non-taped side
  • Starting at least 1cm in from the edge on this line, make a small hole with your pin – that's your anchor point. If you're using a conventional non-mechanical pencil, you may need to make slightly bigger holes.
  • Add your next hole 1-2cm along from that first one – that's the inner edge of your first stripe
  • Now you're marking the width of that first stripe, so make your next hole 1 stripe's width along from that point, if you're following my measurements that'll be 2cm along.
  • The next spot is the edge of the first leading stripe – so make your next hole that measurement's distance from the last (for me – that's 1cm along)
  • Repeat those two steps, marking stripe width and leading width until you've made the hole for the far edge of the last stripe.

Make your rainbow frame

  • Make two if you'd like a final finish on both sides of your stained glass panel.
  • Working on a firm, non slippery surface set your black card down, and centre the hole in your DIY compass over the hole in the centre of the bottom margin in your card
  • Thread your paperclip end or your straightpin through the holes and hold the paperclip or pin perpendicular to your work surface firmly with your non dominant hand. Use the weight of your hand to anchor the black card in place.
  • Poke the pencil lead through the first hole you want to work with and draw the arc from frame border line to frame border.
  • Repeat for each hole you made in your compass.
  • Time to break out your VSK very sharp knife. Cut out each rainbow stripe carefully with your craft knife.

Add your stained glass! (aka the fun bit)

  • Now you get to go wild gluing bits of tissue paper or coloured cellophane into place.
  • If you want to be classy you can glue a second frame over the side where you glued the materials to cover your sins. If you opt not to, if you put the glued side facing in your house, the neighbors see the rainbow no matter the light and you see it when it's bright out.

The Waffle:

I did this during lockdown 1, trying to dream up crafts for a two year old. I figured I’d do different designs, I had a Teddy Bear in mind because some folks were doing Teddy bear hunts – putting bears in windows for kids to count. Our street had lots of artwork up in windows from the kids in all the flats it was lovely. We also had some great political signs from the adults and signs of encouragement for eachother and the NHS. “We’ll get through 2020 together, apart” kind of thing.

Rainbow was a nice simple design to start and once I made the compass and started cutting paper, I ended up making enough frames for us to make one for every household in our immediate family.

It didn’t quite pan out that way, she enjoyed making the first half of a rainbow and then got frustrated that I had control of the glue stick and a rainbow suffered the consequences. Over the months she’s made about 4, 3 survived to be hung in the window.

I might make other designs for now, it’s handy to have all the parts on hand for a bored moment.

The DIY compass came about because I couldn’t find ours and I didn’t want to buy one. I thought about using a string but wanted something repeatable that gave consistent results. Making this strip of paper with holes in it fit the bill perfectly.