Introduction: DIY: Etched Typography Glasses

Good typefaces are art — fabulous, ready-made graphic art at your fingertips.

Etching on glass is one of my favorite ways to showcase beautiful type. It may seem daunting to think of burning graphics onto glass, but you’ll be surprised at how easy it is!

What you’ll need:
  • Frisket film or adhesive stencil vinyl
  • Latex gloves
  • Small paintbrush
  • Craft knife
  • Self-healing cutting mat
  • Glass-etching cream (Armor Etch or Martha Stewart Glass Etching Cream)
  • Wet paper towel
  • Typeface (We used Coquette by Mark Simonson)

Step 1:

Select your font. Be sure to choose one with relatively thick lines if you’re cutting by hand.

Use a graphic design program to reverse the lettering.

Print your design on regular paper and cut around each word, leaving about a half-inch border around it. Tape it to the back of your frisket. You will be looking at your design through the frisket to cut it. If you’re not using a transparent type stencil vinyl, you can tape your design to the paper side of it and cut. Just double check that the lettering is justified correctly when you look at the stencil. (If you’re looking at it from the sticky/paper-backed side, the lettering should appear to be reversed.)

Step 2:

Now you’re ready to cut the stencil. Use a sharp utility knife to cut around the lettering. If you have a Silhouette machine, you can also use it cut these digitally, which is much faster. Turn your stencil as you go to make it easier to get clean cuts around curves and odd angles.

Conserve any letters that have holes in them such as e, a, o, or d. You’ll need the little pieces of vinyl that make up the center hole in each letter — they’re added individually after your stencil is applied. These little bits resist the etching and make sure your letters look like they should.

Step 3:

Now you need to prepare the surface of your glass. Any dirt or grease will resist the etching. I wash the glass with a a grease-cutting dish soap and hot water to make sure the surface is as clean as possible.

Dry the glass completely with a clean dish towel.

Step 4:

Peeling the paper off the back of your sticky stencil material. Let the center stick first. Starting from the center and going outward, gently press your stencil to the glass.

If you just slap the stencil on and press, you’ll end up with creases and wrinkles that could mess up your lettering. If you need to readjust it at this point, you can remove it and place again.

Finish your letters by adding the tiny center cutouts you set aside in step two.

Once you’re happy with the placement and your letter centers have been applied, use a craft stick or the back of a smooth, wooden paintbrush to rub the stencil to the glass. Take extra care to rub the edges of the lettering and any small designs or punctuation. If you see any little pieces of stencil material hanging off your letters, take the sharp tip of your craft knife and cut them off very carefully while applied to the glass. (They can make the edges of your lettering look a little jagged if you leave them on.)

Step 5:

Working quickly with a small brush, paint on a thick layer of etching cream to the entire word. It should look a little globby, but not so much that it will drip.

Make sure you’ve applied it paying special attention to the edges of your letters. Don’t apply the cream to the outside of your stencil. If any etching ream drips or smears outside the stencil, use a wet paper towel right away to wipe it off.

Wait at least 60 seconds for the etching cream to work its magic. Read the instructions for your specific product to make sure you get the wait time right. I often leave this cream on for up to three minutes to make sure the etching is very clear.

If you notice the cream dripping, sweep it back with your brush. If it drips over the stencil before you can catch it, wipe it with a clean, wet paper towel right away, before it etches the outside area.

Step 6:

With your gloves still on and the stencil still attached, rinse your glass in cold water until all of the etching cream has been removed. Peel off your stencil and pat dry.

A huge benefit to decorating glassware by etching is that the glasses are ready to use immediately without waiting or baking. Perfect for a very cool, last-minute gift or party favor.

Comments

author
gtoal (author)2014-01-17

Anyone who has not used Armor Etch before or who has used it but doesn't use safety goggles and rubber or neoprene gloves, please read the definitive comments on safety in the MSDS for Armour Etch: http://cdn.dickblick.com/msds/DBH_60966z.pdf

There are also some comments on safety in https://www.instructables.com/id/Easy-glass-engraving-with-the-Cricut/ and the followup discussion.

This etchant is mainly hydroflouric acid which was the strongest acid my high school chemistry lab was allowed to use and then only by the teacher. I'd be surprised if it's even allowed in schools these days. We were warned that if you get it on your skin it can eat its way down to the bone. Hydroflouric acid is the acid that's so strong it can eat glass - which is why it's used as an etchant and stored in plastic containers. Now, the Armor Etch is somewhat dilute and in a suspension that lowers the risk of serious damage, but it's still a dangerous industrial chemical and ought to be treated with some respect.

I don't want to dissuade people from doing projects like these, but I want to make sure you realise that you need to take more safety precautions than you may be used to for hobby/craft projects.

author
Raitis (author)gtoal2014-01-18

No big deal if you're washing the cream off bare handed though and it doesn't have that much of an immediate effect in general. In example, when my skin contacted 30% hydrogen peroxide it instantly became lighter and I even felt something wrong.

Source: I've had this stuff on my hands.

Anyways, it's better to be safe than sorry (I just don't like working with gloves). Protective glasses on the other hand is a must, despite the tiny chance of this getting in your eyes, you don't want stuff like that there.

author
jdavies88 (author)2014-01-17

My Dremel tool with the engraving cutters works awesome! Quick, easy, and clean! After the glass is etched I switch accessories for some light sanding.

author
OhLeita (author)2014-01-17

Good job~! Whether it's by cream or a $10,000 blasting unit, selecting the right font and spacing/kerning for a name and the type of glass to be used is what makes an object look amazing. Etching is fun!

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author
stevenrterry (author)2014-01-17

I'm going to tackle this project today! Great instructable.

author
thebeatonpath (author)2014-01-16

Glass etching is one of my favorite projects! People also LOVE receiving these as gifts. High dollar look for a low price. So happy to have my cutting machine for these.

author
Lio Volino (author)2014-01-14

Super Nice!!

author
oakback (author)2014-01-13

My brother has been doing glass etching for years. As an alternative, he uses shelf paper, and transfers his designs by tracing over the printed image with carbon paper sandwiched in between. Or if it's a hand-drawn design, he draws right on the shelf paper, as it's already adhered to the glass/mirror surface. I'd imagine it'd be a bit difficult with a curved glass surface, but at least it's alternative for folks who might not have stencil vinyl and healing mat.

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Bio: Fairgoods is an online shop that sells a curated selection of accessories, housewares, apparel, decor, and type — with a focus on goods that use type ... More »
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