How to Etch Glass

Add some flair to your glassware with acid etching. A simple, relatively safe gel, available from several manufacturers, frosts the surface of glass in just a minute or two of exposure. By applying a stencil to the glass you can control exactly where the etching works and where it doesn't. The same companies that sell the etching solution sell a wide assortment of stencils, or you can cut your own, as shown here.

Fast and easy acid etching enhances stemware. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Things You'll Need

  • Glass

  • Stencil

  • Spray adhesive

  • Clear contact paper

  • Scissors

  • Hobby knife

  • Cutting board

  • Masking tape

  • Etching solution

  • Brush

  • Protective gloves

  • Safety glasses

  • Popsicle stick

  • Newsprint or newspaper

Materials

Step 1

Supplies and tools for glass etching. (Image: Jeff Farris)

This project involves two main steps, cutting the stencil and then etching the glass. Please see the last slide for an itemized list of tools and materials.

Step 2

Place the pattern on the stencil material. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Cut out the stencil pattern. Spray the back of the cut-out pattern with spray adhesive. Stick the pattern to the clear side of a section of contact paper at least 1/2 inch larger than the pattern in each direction.

Step 3

Cut out the pattern. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Set the pattern on a cutting board so that you don't cut your table or countertop. Using a new, sharp blade and enough pressure to cut through both the pattern and the contact paper, carefully cut along the edge of the pattern with a hobby knife. Keep in mind that the sections of the pattern you remove are the ones that will be etched.

Step 4

Burnish the stencil for a complete seal. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Remove the pattern from the front of the stencil and the backing paper from the back. Align the stencil and adhere it to your glass item, making sure to avoid wrinkles in the stencil material as you work around the curve of the glass. Burnish the stencil onto the glass with a popsicle stick. The edges of the stencil need to be securely sealed to the glass.

Step 5

Protect the area beyond the stencil with masking tape. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Surround the stencil with masking tape to keep the etching solution from spreading beyond the stencil borders. Use masking tape to repair any damaged sections of the stencil.

Step 6

Apply a thick coat of etching solution. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Protect your work table with old newspaper. Don your safety glasses and protective gloves. Shake the etching solution vigorously. Brush it on thick enough that you cannot see the pattern.

Step 7

Rinse solution off after recommended interval. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Leave the solution on the glass per manufacturer's directions, typically 1 or 2 minutes. Longer exposure will etch the glass deeper, but it can seep under the stencil if your edges aren't sealed perfectly. Rinse the solution off under running water.

Step 8

Remove stencil and clean with glass cleaner. (Image: Jeff Farris)

Remove the masking tape and stencil. Clean the glass with glass cleaner and a paper towel.

Step 9

Enjoy your etched glass! (Image: Jeff Farris)

Make sure your glass is completely free of etching solution and stencil material.

Tip

For duplicates, reusable stencil material is available at most craft stores.

Warning

Follow manufacturer's directions, wear protective glasses and gloves and avoid direct contact with the etching solution.