Stained glass software comes of age

The last time we wrote about using computers for stained glass design was 1998. In terms of technology, three years is practically an eternity, so it may not surprise you that in 2001 stained glass design software has truly come of age.

If you haven't explored the advantages of working with patterns on a computer, maybe you should. The age-old challenge (burden?) of resizing a pattern to fit your needs becomes child's play on screen. Need that 18-inch design to fit a 21-inch space? A few mouse-clicks and you're there. Got a square design and a rectangular slot? No sweat. Other design changes are almost as simple. By moving design lines around or deleting them altogether you can smooth out difficult cuts or simplify complicated patterns. You can even take elements from one pattern and put them in another! Say you had a box-top with a central heart design, but need one with a bird theme. If your computer pattern collection includes any pattern with a bird you like, your computer can copy that bird, and put it in place of the heart on the box-top pattern. With this kind of power, you could take a tree from one pattern, a bird from another, flowers from another still and create your own "custom" design without having drawn anything more complicated than connecting lines.

Another great advantage to computers is the ability to experiment with different color schemes without wasting glass. If your pattern calls for dark purple flower petals, but you want to try pink test it out onscreen. Don't like it? Hey, no problem not an inch of glass was cut. Computer software even allows you to put actual images of art glass into your patterns to see just what your finished project might look like. Check it out with opals. Then try it with textured cathedrals. It takes the guesswork out of choosing glass and lets you see the results of any glass and color combination you dare to imagine.

So how do these patterns get into your computer in the first place? Good question. If the design you want to use isn't already available in digital form (ready to use on the computer), then you can scan it. A scanner is as simple to use as a photocopier, and they've become so cheap and commonplace that they're often included with computer purchases.

If all this sounds good to you, keep reading. We've been reviewing a copy of the new Glass Eye 2000, and we're pretty impressed. This is design software that has been created from scratch with glass crafters in mind. Michael Wilk, president/owner of Dragonfly Software, has devoted serious time and energy to building what he thinks is the best design product a glass crafter could ask for.

One of the most widely used and fun features of Glass Eye 2000 is the glass library. Glass images from seven major manufacturers are included make that integrated into the program itself. The search and sort capabilities are slick, making it easy for you to find just the right glass for every project. If you know you're using a Waterglass? palette, set the library to display only Waterglass choices. If you're imagining a light blue opal in a pattern and your supplier only carries Spectrum and Kokomo products a few clicks and you instantly see what's available to you. But there's plenty more and here's where Michael Wilk's understanding of stained glass crafter's needs makes such a difference.

There are thoughtful features like automatic piece labeling (top to bottom, by color or both), and a versatile materials and cost estimator that tells you how much of each glass you'll need and how much it'll cost. The program lets you set your pattern line thickness to precisely match the leading you'll be using. And since Glass Eye 2000 comes with extensive pattern and bevel libraries, you can jump right into using the program just as soon as you install it on your computer. Start by exploring the included 340 patterns and just playing with glass choices to your heart's desire. Then try dabbling in design by adding bevels to existing patterns or, choose a pretty bevel cluster and build a simple design around it. You'll be surprised at how creative you really are!

There's a lot to appreciate in the program even without wading too deeply into the drawing features. But if you do try your hand at creative design, you'll see that Glass Eye 2000 has basic drawing tools that are uniquely geared toward glass work. The program was engineered to recognize that creating individual pieces or shapes of glass is its goal. In other drawing programs, the focus is on lines rather than shapes, so even if it seems as though the lines you've drawn have created a shape, the software might not agree, and thus won't fill the space with color. In Glass Eye 2000, what looks like a shape is a shape and you fill it with color or glass imagery just like you'd expect.

Glass Eye 2000 has benefits for all levels of glass crafters. Anyone can have fun using the glass images and the pattern library. With a scanner, you can transfer any pattern into your computer for editing, resizing, making glass choices or all of the above. For the professional, realistic project renderings make your client presentations polished and impressive. And when you get the hang of drawing digitally, time-saving computer efficiency will be a boon to productivity. Oh, and since clients are notorious for making changes to your designs, the materials list and cost calculator can help you quickly adjust your bottom line as your client considers each "little" revision!

Well, what more could you possibly ask for? How about a free 30-day trial? It's worth it. Try the full version for a month and see what you think. Just for trying it out, you'll get to keep the pattern library and resizing features. If you decide to purchase, you can choose from the Standard or Professional versions depending on your budget and your needs. For more information or to download your free trial version visit the Dragonfly website:

THE SCORE is published quarterly by Spectrum Glass Company, Inc., P. O. Box 646, Woodinville WA 98702.

© Spectrum Glass Company