Wilson learned stained glass making in an apprenticeship with James Ballantyne, and by studying under Herbert Hendrie. In 1932 he was awarded a Carnegie Travelling Scholarship by the Royal Scottish Academy, which he used to study at Edinburgh College of Art under Adam Bruce Thomson and to travel in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. In these travels he made pen and ink drawings of the Italian city of Venice, and the Spanish cities of Madrid, Granada, Ronda, and Toledo. He studied printmaking under Adam Bruce Thomson. In watercolour he belonged to the Edinburgh School. He studied further at the Royal College of Art, London, producing etchings and engravings of subjects such as 'Loch Scavaig, Skye' in the 1930s. Some of his works have been on display at The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh. He also competed in the art competitions at the 1948 Summer Olympics.
Wilson taught stained glass making at Edinburgh College of Art. He started his own studio in 1937, making stained glass windows for Canterbury Cathedral and a number of Scottish Churches. He slowly became blind through diabetes. As well as religious stained glass, he made secular pieces such as "The Irish Jig" which was originally fitted in his Edinburgh home.
Wilson made the 'exceptional' windows at the Morningside North parish church, Edinburgh, now a community building. An excellent detailed account of the windows he made for Greenbank Parish Church, Edinburgh is available. In 1951 he completed the East window of St Andrew's church in Stamford Hill, as a replacement for the original which had been blown by a V1 during the blitz.  He made the East window for Ardwell church, and in 1953, the East windows for St Machar's Cathedral, Aberdeen which depict the Nativity, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and Christ surrounded by the Scottish saints, and a window for Dunino church, Fife. He made 16 windows between 1952 and 1961 for Brechin Cathedral, Angus, Scotland. He is responsible for four windows in the chapel of the University of St Andrews, though given his increasing blindness the final two may have been partly the work of his assistants.
St Teresa's Dumfries. He made windows in 1958 in the newly completed St Teresa's Church, Dumfries, the window in the Baptistry showing Our Lord being baptised by St John the Baptist and the window outside the Baptistry depicting St Joseph as a carpenter at his workbench with the boy Jesus.
Wilson's largest surviving set of windows is at Craigiebuckler church, Aberdeen. The windows form a single scheme covering the Old Testament and the New Testament of the Bible. One of his last windows is his 1965 stained glass image of St Columba in the Abbey Church, Iona.
Honours and awards
The University of St Andrews describes Wilson as "one of Scotland's great artists, a master of the arts of printmaking, painting and stained glass". Bourne Fine Art note that "in all he did, his style was very distinctive".
- Royal Academy of Arts: William Wilson. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- Bourne Fine Art: William Wilson Biography. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- Eric Liddell Centre: Stained Glass. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- Bourne Fine Art: William Wilson: Venice. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- Wilson's fine drawing of the Spanish city of Toledo. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- British Council: Visual Arts Collection: William Wilson. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- Wilson - Master Printer Retrieved 16 September 2015]
- Gjerde, Arild; Jeroen Heijmans; Bill Mallon; Hilary Evans (June 2016). "William Wilson Bio, Stats, and Results". Olympics. Sports Reference.com. Retrieved 26 February 2017.
- National Galleries Scotland: "The Irish Jig". Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- Guide to the Stained Glass Windows in Greenbank Parish Church, Edinburgh Retrieved 11 November 2015.
- Cherry, Bridget and Pevsner, Nikolaus (2002). The Buildings of England – London 4: North. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p. 534. ISBN 9780300096538.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Ardwell Church: Church Details Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- "Guide to the Cathedral Church of St Machar". Retrieved 24 February 2017.
- Dunino church, Fife. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- Brechin Cathedral. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- University of St Andrews: The Stained Glass of William Wilson. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- "St Teresa's Church, Dumfries Church Architecture". http://www.stteresaschurch.com/parish/church-architecture. 23 January 2019. Retrieved 23 January 2019. External link in
- Craigiebuckler Church, Aberdeen. . Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- Iona: Abbey Church. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- National Galleries Scotland: William Wilson. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- Scran database: Scottish Fishermen, William Wilson. Scran ID: 000-000-478-599-C. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- London Gazette. 8902, 31 December 1960.
- Guichard, Kenneth (1977). British Etchers 1850-1940, Robin Garton, London.
- Moody, Rona H.(2006). Images of broken light: William Wilson (1905 - 1972), The Journal of Stained Glass Vol XXX pp 140 – 150, London, ISBN 0-9540457-6-9