How to Create Beautiful Glass Etching Designs

Woman smiling with glass of water in kitchen.
Tara Moore/Stone/Getty Images

Etching glass is a creative at-home craft that can be fairly simple for beginners. Gather the suggested supplies and use these guidelines to make a variety of glass etching designs.

Gather the Supplies to Etch Glass

  • Pattern: You might want to start with a pattern that does not have a lot of small detail. Clip art and coloring books are wonderful sources for simpler patterns.
  • Glass: Any glass object or mirror will do, including jars and drinking glasses. It's best to start practicing on an old jar before trying a window or mirror.
  • Window cleaner: Use this to ensure you always start with a clean surface.
  • Contact paper: Clear or plain contact paper works but white works best. You can also make simple stripes using masking tape.
  • Carbon paper: This is used to trace your pattern onto the contact paper.
  • Utility knife: This is for cutting your pattern out.
  • Etching cream: Find etching cream at your local craft store, or you can buy it online.
  • Foam brush: The foam brush is used to apply etching creme. If you cannot locate any, you can often use paper towels. Read the manufacturer's suggestion for your etching cream to see what is suitable.
  • Latex gloves and protective clothing: Protect your hands from the acid in the etching cream. You will also want eye protection, a long sleeve shirt, and an apron.

Once you have gathered all of your supplies, it's time to begin etching. First, it is important to read the suggestions from the manufacturer on the back of the etching cream you purchased and follow their recommendations.

Step-By-Step Instructions for Glass Etching

  1. Make sure you wear latex gloves and protective clothing and eyewear when working with etching cream. Ensure the area you are working in is well-ventilated and the work surface is covered, as the etching cream is an acid and it will etch anything it comes in contact with.
  2. Clean your glass using window cleaner. Make sure it is dry and free of all dust and lint.
  3. Cut a piece of contact paper at least a few inches larger than your pattern.
  4. Place the contact paper on your glass where you want the etching to be and then smooth out all air bubbles.
  5. Put the carbon paper over the contact paper and then place the pattern over the carbon paper. Consider securing these with a few small pieces of masking tape.
  6. Trace your pattern onto the contact paper. Once done, remove the pattern and carbon paper.
  7. Using a sharp utility knife, cut all the details out of the contact paper. Remove pieces of the contact paper, so only the sections of the glass that you want to be etched are exposed.
  8. Ensure all of the edges of the remaining pieces of contact paper are stuck tightly to the glass.
  9. Next, put on the latex gloves. Use a foam brush to spread a thick layer of etching cream onto the exposed sections of your design (you can also use a paper towel). Be generous with the etching cream. If it is applied too thinly, your pattern could look uneven or streaked.
  10. Set your glass in a safe spot and wait the amount of time required for the brand of etching cream you are using. This usually varies from five to 15 minutes.
  11. After the prescribed amount of time, remove the etching cream. Typically, this is done by running water over it. Read the specific instructions for the brand of etching cream you purchased and follow their instructions.
  12. Once the cream is washed off, you can remove the contact paper to reveal your design. Wash your glass and you are done!