Introduction: DIY Front Surface Mirror

I see there is a lot of laser enthusiasts on this site (including myself), so
I decided to share some of my experience of making front surface mirror.

Original idea belongs to

I used acrylic mirror for my design.
It's not the best solution but it's very easy and safe to work with and quality of mirror would be acceptable for most laser/optic applications.

So if you are interested, check out my materials:

Here's my another, more advanced, method of making FS mirrors using 
Winning Colors Stain Remover.
This safe and reliable method works with any acrylic or glass mirror.

Step 1: 1.

Procedure is simple.

Put on safety glasses and gloves.
Cut piece you need.

Step 2: 2.

Shape it.

Step 3: Remove Protective Paint From Back Side of Mirror

At first use paint remover. I think any kind will work well.
Just one thing to remember. It will dissolve acrylic, so work fast and carefully.
You can use masking tape to protect plastic from contact with paint remover.

Check back side of mirror for scratches, dents, etc...
If reflective coating is damaged from back side, paint remover will go to plastic base and pop mirror foil up.

Next, use acetone to wipe off remains of paint remover and finish cleaning.

Reflective coating is very thin, so handle it accordingly.


Since I've discovered Winning Colors Stain Remover I stopped using any other chemicals.
It's non toxic, environment friendly, water based liquid which will not harm acrylic and your skin. 

Now procedure is even easier:
1. Pour Winning Colors Stain  Remover into proper container.
2. Drop mirror into container. Painted side up.
3. Let it soak for 30 min or more (time may depend on back paint and size of mirror).
4. If paint got loose and started peeling off, remove mirror and put into container filled with tap water or rinse it under water stream. You may use cotton balls and gently swab mirror while it immersed. Optional step is to rinse mirror with steam distilled water in order to remove any particle left from tap water.
5. Pour remaining liquid back into bottle for future use.


mcm1303 made it!(author)2012-05-23

OK, I understand this thread is four years old now but in case anyone is still listening:

How long do these front surface mirrors last? My understanding is if they are made with Silver Nitrate they will oxidize(?) or darken within a short period of time. Is that the case with acrylic mirror?

noahspurrier made it!(author)2016-11-16

I believe that acrylic mirrors are coated in aluminum.

AP+Digital+light made it!(author)2012-05-23

I haven't really noticed any significant changes in performance of my one year old spirograph. I agree that mirror surface could deteriorate after some time but at least it's not critical for simple laser show.

chaydgb made it!(author)2015-04-28

I would never have thought of doing this! In the absence of paint remover, I looked for alternatives, and found that carburettor cleaner also works.

ivelin made it!(author)2014-10-15

Thanks a lot, just as I was contemplating making a silver mirror (which involves a lot of nasty chemicals and is generally quite a job) I bumped into this, 30 minutes later and I have a beautiful mirror for my vintage camera!

sgt_rock made it!(author)2011-12-07

This product is not winners colors stain remover here in the us either. It is winning colours stain remover and is available at home depot.

erniehatt made it!(author)2010-11-16

Hi, has anyone in Australia found a suitable product.
Im looking, will post If I find anything. Ernie

erniehatt made it!(author)2010-11-19

Found Motsenbocker's Lift Off #5 , here in Brisbane

bratan made it!(author)2010-10-06

I don't know if it's acrylic mirror I use, but even the most delicate painter's tape, will strip away pain and mirror finish when I remove it :( Good news is that you don't have to put it on at all. Instead of file I used dremel with sandpaper and it's very good for rounding square off. It melts plastic off, but leaves edges smooth, and it's really much faster than file :)

Vickal89 made it!(author)2010-09-19


Can you tell me which product is similar to this "Winner Colors Stain Remover"? I tried paint thinner (ruins my acryl mirror) or kitchen oil/fat cleaner (doensnt work at all), but it all fails.
I want to avoid to run to the homeworker store thousand times always buying the wrong thing. Can you tell me which features this product must have? Unfortunaly I dont live in US so we dont have "Winner Colors". But I am looking for something similar.

Can I use nail enamel remover for this?

Thank you for your tutorial btw. Its great!

Vickal89 made it!(author)2010-09-19

tried this with fingernail paint remover from my sis. It works, but the paint is pretty persistant, so i have to scratch a little bit with my fingernails. The result is not very satisfiying (OK though, pretty scratchy).

Vickal89 made it!(author)2010-09-20

tried it with round glass mirrors today.

Works pretty well with nail paint remover. Have to scratch though, but the mirror surface is more persistant than on glass than on acryl.

AP+Digital+light made it!(author)2010-09-21

You may need to soak glass mirror longer.
After paint's got loose, wash mirror under stream of water and use cotton swab to clean mirror's surface.
It always needs time to discover proper stuff. Google your local painting/cleaning suppliers and try to find WATER based paint or stain remover.
Water based solution shouldn't dissolve acrylic ind it's much safer to work with. 

bratan made it!(author)2010-08-16

Hi, I'm trying to understand the purpose of this procedure. What exactly are you removing and why? Wouldn't mirror work as is if you just glue it with non-reflective side to the fan? I'm there's a reason for this, I'm just trying to understand what it is :)

AP+Digital+light made it!(author)2010-08-17

The major drawback of regular mirror is that front side of the glass partially reflects light and that forms second ghost image. I remove protective coating from back side of mirror to expose reflective silver coating. Thus I get two sided mirror. Glass side of mirror should be glued to fan i.e. mirror is turned up side down so light is not going trough glass but reflected by top surface of silver coating.

bratan made it!(author)2010-08-18

Thank you! Now it's perfectly clear! You should add this info the original article :)

katzmatt made it!(author)2009-04-14

will this work on a glass mirror?

AP+Digital+light made it!(author)2009-04-14

Partially. You can make front surface mirror from regular glass mirror only problem is to cut it on small pieces and make round shape. I have no means to do that, so for round mirrors I have to use acrylic.

katzmatt made it!(author)2009-04-14

Oh ok and could you reccommeend some other brands or the contence of the super strippa or where you got it and where to get the mirror for cheap because I tried one and it went all the way through sometimes and not far einough other times btw you can find glass cutters at home depot and settle for square or rectangular mirrors

lemursquad made it!(author)2008-12-05

Oh, and acetone will pull off the mirror surface easily. At least it did for me with the mirrored acrylic from Tap Plastics. However if you use Mötsenböcker’s (which is water based), you won't need the acetone. After you strip, rinse the residue off with water and dry with a clean soft rag. Worked like a charm for me.

lemursquad made it!(author)2008-12-05

For the record this works awesome:
1. Mirrored Acrylic from Tap PlasticsTap Plastics
2. Mötsenböcker’s Lift off 5Mötsenböcker’s Lift off 5 Latex Based Paint Remover

Mötsenböcker’s doesn't damage the mirror surface or the acrylic at all. You have to let it sit for awhile though, about 5+ minutes. You shouldn't have to "rub" to get the paint off, if you let it sit long enough, the paint will just float off. Using a synthetic paint brush and LIGHTLY brushing the surface helps speed up the process.

Try it on a practice piece first. It worked flawlessly for me.

fred_dot_u made it!(author)2008-06-21

I was not able to find the specific product noted in this instructable and instead, purchased some "green" citrus smelling stuff. It worked great in removing the paint from the back of the mirror tile I used. The instructions said 30 minutes to ten hours, but the paint was loosened in about ten minutes or less. I then tried to further remove the silver back coating by leaving it on overnight and it only barely started to speckle the silver loose. If you find the "indoor-approved" citrus stuff, it might be a better product, plus it is designed to be washed off with water. The Home Depot has some relatively inexpensive acrylic mirror tiles.

wupme made it!(author)2008-09-09

You can use that Fingernail Stuff that women use to get the color off. Its the same thing, just a lower concentration. Its a bit more expensive in the end, but hell.. you're not gonna make a couple hundred mirrors, right ? :)

porksmash made it!(author)2008-02-28

I tried removing the paint from an acrylic mirror with acetone, but it started removing the mirror finish before all the paint was gone as well! Any more detailed tips?

AP+Digital+light made it!(author)2008-02-29

I thought that video is good explanation. At first use paint remover. It's very strong thing and it will eat paint right away. I think any kind will work well. Just one thing to remember. It will dissolve acrylic, so work fast and carefully. You can use masking tape to protect plastic from contact with paint remover. Check back side of mirror for scratches, dents, etc... If reflective coating is damaged from back side, paint remover will go to plastic base and pop mirror foil up. Next, use acetone to wipe off remains of paint remover and finish cleaning. Reflective coating is very thin, so handle it accordingly.

_soapy_ made it!(author)2008-05-17

Top tip: clean the backing off first, then cut the mirror to size. The silver layer will protect the acrylic underneath for a short time, only damaging the edges. Then you can cut to size carefully to get a perfect bit of mirror.

minorite made it!(author)2008-04-20

thank you for posting this.

Papagiorgio made it!(author)2008-03-27

pardon my ignorance, but is this a one way mirror?

AP+Digital+light made it!(author)2008-03-27

No, it's regular mirror, but since protective coating is removed, both sides of mirror reflects light.

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