Do It Yourself Gifts
Guide to Glass Etching

These glass etching gift ideas are so unique and easy to create! With a little imaginiation, this technique can be applied to any glass surface.

how to etch glass

If you know anything about this craft, you know that the methods can range from easy to difficult...from simply rubbing on an etching cream to sandblasting the surface for the desired effect. I've chosen to illustrate the simplest process possible to make this DIY gift project...after all, you just want to make things pretty without a lot of stress, right?

Etching of Glass

Glass Etching Craft

Etching glass gives it a very distinctive frosted look. You used to have to use complicated tools and tedious design work to actually etch pieces of the glass out of the surface to give it the "etched" look.

With modern day elements that are available in any craft store, etching glass is as simple as applying a liquid or cream, then rinsing it off to reveal a fabulous etched design.

Glass Etching Ideas

Don't limit yourself to the glass etching ideas that you see on this page! You can use this technique on any glass surface around your house, such as:

  • mirrors
  • glass tabletops
  • windows
  • glass Christmas ornaments
  • jewelry boxes with glass doors
  • sliding glass doors
  • clear glass plates, bowls, or cups
  • glass drawer pulls
  • apothecary bottles

Basically, anywhere you want to add a custom detail to glass. Try putting your last initial on your front door for a personalized touch, or writing your children's names on their bathroom mirror.

Glass for Etching

You don't need a special type of glass for can apply this method to any glass surface. You do, however, need to make sure that the surface of the glass is completely clean. If you are trying to use a piece of glass that has debris on it, it will not work. You need a smooth, lint and dirt free surface to create the best results.

Glass Etch Patterns

If you aren't sure what to put on your glass piece, look around you for inspiration. A favorite bedspread or curtain print may give you the idea that you need. Check the internet for clip art or other pictures. Consider adding initials, quotes, or sayings...these can be customized for holidays or special events. Pattern ideas are endless!

Glass Etching Templates

If you still can't decide what to put on your glass piece after all of your searching, check your local craft store for glass etching templates. They come in a wide variety of pictures and letters. Don't see anything you like? You probably know my answer...make your own!

Purchase a plain stencil sheet and a craft knife (an X-acto knife), and make your own stencil. This is an especially great option if you're trying to match a pattern on a plate, or have a very specific design in mind.

Stencils for Glass Etching

Any stencil, template, or gel that is used in glass etching is called the "resist." It's called this because it "resists" the etching cream or liquid, and does not allow it to etch that area.

You can purchase a variety of stencils to put on your glass. At your local craft store, you can find self-adhesive stencils in the glass etching section. The adhesive is important because you do not want the chemical to "bleed" under the stencil and run onto other areas (where you don't want etching). I've found that the self adhesive stencils tend to be a bit expensive, though. If you can afford them, they are the the best solution because they work great at forming around and sticking to your glass.

Another option is to buy stencils from the stencil paint section (that don't have adhesive on the back). Somewhere near it you should see spray or brush on adhesive for stencils. This method works just as well, but costs about half the price! If you choose to go with this technique, make sure that you really coat all the edges of the stencil, and allow the adhesive to fully dry before etching.

Glass Etching Chemical

The chemicals that you use for etching come in a cream or liquid form. The cream form is used to brush on the glass stencil to give the glass an etched design.

If you want to make a "negative space" design, you need to dip your piece in etching liquid. Negative space in glass etching is when you want to frost the entire space where the stencil is not. For example, if you wanted to have a glass that is completely frosted, but has numbers or a picture that is clear, you'd put a solid stencil on the glass piece and dip it in the liquid. When the liquid has dried and you remove the stencil, it will reveal the clear design.

Another way to use a negative space design is to buy resist gel. It can be applied with an applicator bottle or a brush in a freehand manner to create whatever design you want. After the gel dries, etching cream or liquid is applied over the gel.When you rinse the glass piece off, the gel will rinse away leaving behind a clear design on the frosted (or etched) piece.

Glass Etching Process

To put an etched design on a piece of glass using the etching cream method, you'll need:

Glass Etching

  • Glass piece(s)
  • masking, vinyl, or painters tape
  • measuring tape
  • paintbrush
  • craft stick (popsicle stick)
  • etching cream
  • stencil(s)
  • stencil adhesive (optional--if you buy the non-adhesive type of stencils)
  • craft knife (optional--if you decide to make your own stencil)
  • water source


1. Clean your glass piece and make sure that it is dry.

2. Measure where you want your stencil to be on the item. If you are using the self-adhesive stencils, place them on the glass in your pre-measured spot, and put tape around the edges of the stencil (to keep the cream from running off). Use your craft stick to go over the whole stencil to make sure it is stuck evenly.

If you are using a regular stencil, apply the stencil adhesive to the back, and immediately tape the edges to hold it down. Use your craft stick to flatten the stencil and ensure the glue is everywhere on the back (especially around the openings). Let the glue dry.

Etch Glass

3. Apply a thick coat of etching cream with a paintbrush, being careful to not let the cream "pool" around the edges of the design. Follow drying time given on the back of the etching cream bottle.

Make Etched Glass

4. After dry, remove the tape and stencil and rinse glass under water until the adhesive and remaining cream are washed away. The design will look really light to begin with, but will get darker as it dries.

  • Remember to clean your stencils with warm soapy water (or put them in the dishwasher) to use again at a later date.
That's're finished! Wasn't that easy? Your etching is now permanent and food and dishwasher safe!

Below are some examples of glass etching to give you inspiration. Sometimes the etching is a little hard to see, but that is the nature of trying to take a photo of something frosted!

Etched Glass Vases

I centered a flower on the front of this vase. I've also made vases with a lot of little flowers scattered around, and that looks great. Try outlining the flowers with glass paint for an entirely different look!

Make Etched Vase

Etched Martini Glass

Martini glasses are enjoyable to make because you can really have fun with the design! On this glass, I made stripes of bubbles and lines. Palm trees or other bold designs look really cute on martini glasses.

Make Etched Glasses

Wine Glass Etching

Put hearts or sayings on wine glasses for Valentine's Day, or put anniversary year or other theme based designs for any occasion. On this wine glass, I chose to randomly place different sized hearts around it.

Etched Wine Glass

Etched Cocktail Glass

Here I used a green stemmed glass and etched small flowers all around. Perfect to use for an outdoor garden party!

Glass Etching Patterns

Etched Glass Picture Frame

Although I don't have a picture of one here, etching on a glass picture frame looks beautiful! Some unique uses are:

  • Baby gifts - etch the baby's name and date of birth
  • Wedding gifts - a wedding photo of the couple in a frame with their wedding date etched on the glass.
  • Anniversary gift - put a picture of the couple on their wedding day in the frame, and etch the number of years that they've been married or their wedding date.
  • Sympathy - use a photo of the deceased and etch their name and the years that they lived along the edge of the glass (for example: 1920-2008).
  • Pet gift - makes an adorable gift for the pet lover in your life! Use a favorite photo of their pet, and write the pet's name on the glass.

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