Glass Etching How-To

So you’re interested in etching something into a glass, eh? A logo of some sorts perhaps? A name? Just some pretty symbols? Do you want a personalized drinking glass, or just to spruce up that old mirror or window? Well it’s not as difficult as it may seem!

Have you picked out what you want engraved on your glass? You should probably do that first. Craft stores carry stencils for just such occasions, but it’s usually just flowers and frilly things that are available. I’ll be describing a simple way to make your own by using plain old scotch tape and an exacto knife. But first, you should ensure your glass object is carefully cleaned.

Next, you can either stick on your premade stencil, or you can take the time to make your own. For a first time, something simple would be best. I’ll be using a snake as my example. To make your own, you should find or create a simple black-and-white representation of your desired image. Remember, the glass will either be etched or not etched, so the item you choose should be easily distinguished as a black silhouette. You can draw this image out on paper, or print it out. Make sure the image not larger than the item you’re etching, as we’ll be tracing it onto the glass.

Now tape or otherwise secure this drawing to underside of the glass. The side we will not be etching. Make sure it is clearly visible through the glass so you can trace over it. If you’re working on a mirror, you could always create the stencil on a plain piece of glass and then transfer it over. On the side we will be etching, cover the area with transparent tape, leaving plenty of room around the desired etch area. Plain old scotch tape is great for this, as it comes off easily once you’re done with it.

The hardest/most tedious part of the process is cutting out your stencil. With an exacto knife, box cutter, or other sharp cutting instrument carefully trace out the stencil, removing the areas of tape where you want the glass etched. Once you think you have everything, remove the image from the back of it and look through the glass to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Remember, the parts not covered by tape will be the parts etched, so be sure everything is cut as desired.

Glass Etching - Step 1 Glass Etching - Step 2

For the actual etching, I used ArmorEtch. They sell it at craft stores, and it appears to be designed to only remove the top layer of the glass, causing that etched effect. Apply the solution to the uncovered bits with a thick brush. Be careful not to go past the taped area, as it would etch there, too. That is why I suggest having a large area of tape around the desired image. Make sure to give it a nice thick coating to ensure full coverage. Avoid getting it on your hands or near your face if possible, as it is very corrosive and will irritate the skin. It also seems to have quite the chemical stench to it, so working in a well ventilated area might be a good idea as well.

Glass Etching - Step 3

Once you have the shape full of the cream, leave it sit for 5 minutes. Be careful with rounded glasses that the cream does not drip down the sides and get onto an uncovered bit of glass. Once the time is up, rinse the glass off, making sure to get all of the chemical off. This will likely also dissolve the adhesive on the tape, making it really easy to wipe off. Dry the glass off, and admire your work!

Glass Etching - Step 4