Michigan Makers
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Michigan Makers

Experiments in Making: Etching

We all like the look and feel of etched glass. Michigan Makers has been trying to explore this as part of a Maker class at the University of Michigan.

Following are the steps for you to get going with this very nifty craft.

Things you need:

  • Some form of Glass — We bought some cheap glass from a nearby thrift store. Flat glass is easier to work with compared to curved glass.
  • Vinyl sheet (contact paper)/ Masking tape — This completely depends on your design. It basically helps to etch the design you want to make.
  • Etching cream — We bought the biggest bottle of Armour Etch. Find it here.
  • Brushes — Any kind is fine but foam brushes work great.


Step 1: Throughly wash your glass with soap and dry to make sure there is no dust or marks.

Areas with dust or finger marks do not etch well.

Step 2: Choose the design you would like to make.

You could use a Silhouette cameo to cut a pattern on vinyl, make it on vinyl by hand using a xacto knife or simply use masking tape based on the pattern you choose. Masking tape works great to make patterns with straight lines.

Here, I made a leaf pattern by hand using a xacto knife.

For ways to use Masking tape, see below.

Step 3: Stick the design on the glass surface.

While sticking, make sure to leave no air gaps/bubbles in the design. Etching cream can reach those cracks and spoil the design, so be careful with this step. You can always peel the vinyl and stick it again.

Here, I made the pattern several times and stuck it all over the glass to cover it.

Step 4: Apply the etching cream on the area you would like to etch.

Be liberal with the etching cream, so that no spot gets missed. If possible, move the brush in different directions to make sure it reaches all corners. After applying, wait for a minute or two to wash the cream. Leaving it for a longer time has no affect.

Use gloves while applying the cream. It’s a chemical and hence can cause burns.

Leaving the etching cream for a longer time does not improve the etching, so you can always wash it after applying for maximum 2 to 3 minutes.

Step 5: Wash the cream

Keep the glass under water to wash off the cream. Make sure to see if it has etched the pattern. If you feel, you missed a portion, you can always go and apply the cream the same way before.

You could also use a soft sponge to remove off the cream under water. Make sure to not touch the sponge over the un-etched areas.

After removing the cream, you should see a frosty look in the etched area.

It usually is not very clear when wet, so dry it using a paper or hand towel if in doubt.

Step 6: Peel off all the vinyl or tape

Once the glass is washed and dried, inspect it carefully for any spots that missed etching.

If everything looks good, you’re all set to remove the stencil and enjoy the beauty of the etched glass.

Doing patterns with Masking tape:

You can create fun patterns just using masking tape. Create circles of varying width or a swirl. You could etch the entire area to just leave the band or use two parallel strips to etch pattern in between them. You could also cut circles out of it to do polka dot patterns.

The creativity is endless!

What we’ve been etching so far…

For any questions or feedback, drop a comment below.



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