Introduction: How to Set a Permanent Etch a Sketch (like Pros)

Picture of How to Set a Permanent Etch a Sketch (like Pros)

As an Etch A Sketchist myself, I feel that the worst thing any EAS artist can do for themselves is to get too attached to one of their "Sketch Works". I've seen this happen before and artists have gone insane trying to protect their artwork. Just take a picture of it! Remember, an Etch A Sketch is a toy and we all learned from Toy Story that toys are meant to be played with.

However, I also understand that some of you might want to preserve your drawing out of sentimental reasons. So, here's my method on how to preserve your Etch A Sketch artwork permanently so that it can never be erased again. In here I will show you is how to, safely, open up your EAS and remove the powder and deactivate the knobs, so that your artwork will never be damaged.

Step 1: What You Will Need

Picture of What You Will Need

1) Dremel Tool (with circular saw attachment)
2) Screwdriver set
3) Wedge/ Thick Flathead Screwdriver
4) Pinpoint Tweezers
5) Wire Cutters
6) Epoxy (or any other kind of super adhesive)
7) and of course an Etch A Sketch

Step 2: Remove White Knobs

Picture of Remove White Knobs

First, remove the white horizontal / vertical knobs controlling your Etch A Sketch.  Use the wedge or large flathead screwdriver to simply pry them off.  As leverage, I suggest working away from the EAS's glass screen, as not to break it. 

Note: If possible, try to do this step and step 3 (removing the Red Faceplate) before you begin drawing on your Etch A Sketch.  Believe me, it will make everything so much easier if you do not have to worry about potentially erasing your artwork, when you're trying to open it up. 

Step 3: Carefully Remove Red Faceplate

Picture of Carefully Remove Red Faceplate

Alright, so against the red section and the black section of the Etch A Sketch there's a fine seam connecting the two.  Using the Dremel saw, cut along this line but  try not to cut too deeply or too jaggedly (you're going to be gluing this section back together).  Then, using both the smaller and larger flathead screwdrivers, try and pry off the faceplate without damaging it.

Note: This is the hardest step in taking apart your Etch A Sketch, because the red faceplate is not easy to remove.  If you already started a drawing, it's going to be extremely difficult to preserve your drawing without erasing it, while trying to forcibly remove the faceplate.  My tip- Always keep your Etch A Sketch artwork face upwhen sawing.

Step 4: Begin Your Drawing

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Alright, so now that you've removed the red faceplate it's time to begin drawing your artwork! Just reattach the white knobs to start.
Etch A Sketching may seem like a very difficult and time laborious process (and it is!) but I have a special method for drawing on an Etch A Sketch, that can save you both the time and effort of having to practice beforehand.  I will probably post another Instrucable about my method in the future, so stay posted!

Step 5: Carefully Remove the Glass

Picture of Carefully Remove the Glass

Now that your artwork is complete, it's time to preserve it.  You'll notice that the Etch is encased inside a black housing, which is protected by thin plastic sheet. Easily lift up the plastic cover and remove it. Secondly, you should see that the glass is glued in place with some rubberized cement substance. Use your pinpoint tweezers to remove the glue all around, and then carefully remove the glass keeping the drawing face up. Be very, very, very careful not to break the glass! If you do, the art will be completely ruined.

Step 6: Remove Aluminum Powder

Picture of Remove Aluminum Powder

Now you are left with horribly messy, easily staining, extremely radiant aluminum powder. Quickly throw away the powder away, safely. Then use the wire cutters to cut off the driving strings of the etch to remove the drawing pen and the metal rods. Scrub everything inside with soap and water.  Then you can use a hairdryer or paper towels to completely dry out the inside.  Make sure that there is no water residue left, or it can destroy your artwork!

Note: The back says the powder is "non-toxic".  Not wanting to test this statement, I always use a mask and gloves when cleaning the inside.  Also, to this guy [1], I am not liable for anything you use the aluminum powder for.  Please get rid of the powder as quickly as possible.

Step 7: Glue It Back Together

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Glue everything back up in the order you removed it (Black container, Glass Etch w/ drawing, Plastic Protector, Red Faceplate and Knobs). I suggest Epoxy to hold the glass to the black container, but for everything else, any other kind of strong adhesive will work. 

And now you are finished! I wouldn't suggest doing this too often, as one should not get too attached to an Etch drawing (also the aluminum powder probably isn't the safest material to be exposed to) but good luck with future Sketches!  Also stay posted for my next Etch A Sketch instructable where I will show you how to Etch A Sketch easily!


kcls (author)2010-07-07

Wow! Those are some crazy detailed drawings for an etch-a-sketch! The best I can ever manage is a stick figure or something similar. Hardly worth preserving... Great 'ible, by the way.

Trace II (author)kcls2010-07-07

I've gotten pretty good at stairs...

SHIFT! (author)Trace II2010-07-07

Lol, Yeah stairs are pretty cool too! In fact, this is what I'm planning for my next drawing

DeborahS39 (author)SHIFT!2015-12-17

Funny you should choose that - here's my EscherSketch. Oops. Uploaded twice - sorry! Thanks for the info. I'm thinking of adding 3D line art to some etch-a-sketch drawings to really make them pop. I'd want to at least TRY to fix the frames first. I can't say that I'm dying to try this (I too tried to drain the aluminum powder from the back and have learned how nasty that stuff is), but I may need to do it to do the multi-media experiment!

kcls (author)Trace II2010-07-07

And "Roller Coasters"

Just squiggles all over the screen :P

SHIFT! (author)kcls2010-07-07

Thanks kcls! I;m actually not really an artist or anything, I just really love toys!

CrystalB01 (author)2014-03-19

I can name all the etch and sketch pictures there haha

CrystalB01 (author)2014-03-19

This is like surgery on the the etch and sketch toy

mcmichaelart (author)2012-12-12

wondering how you pop the glass out? i have always done the "hole-drilling method" and am trying this and have picked as much of the glue out as possible and am terrified that im going to break the glass and ruin my artwork!! any help would be awesome :)

SHIFT! (author)mcmichaelart2012-12-12

No problem! The best way to pop off the glass is to use tweezers and an exacts knife to carefully remove as much of the glue as possible from the edges, while keeping your etch face up and on a flat table. After you remove most of the obvious rubber cement/ glue you can take a small flat head screwdriver and pop it off.

I admit disassembly is harder to do once your artwork is finished, but it's still doable.

mcmichaelart (author)SHIFT!2012-12-12

Finished! Thanks so much!

ArtieEtch (author)2012-01-10

Shift! - I want to thank you sincerely for posting this Instructable. I began working with Etch a Sketch as an art medium in Dec 2010, and your instructions have allowed me to preserve my works and basically launch a new career. I've been crediting your Instructable in all of my exhibits and would love to be able to give you due credit by name if you're comfortable giving me your name (though I understand if you'd rather not...). You could e-mail it to me if you prefer: Here are a few examples of my work; my website is

SHIFT! (author)ArtieEtch2012-01-11

These are truly amazing ArtieEtch and your comment made me tear up a bit. Please check your inbox for a full response.

Mr. Potato Head (author)2010-08-25

Interesting project, but reading through the steps it kind of looks like if I did it my Etch-a-Sketch wouldn't work any more. Am I missing something???

SHIFT! (author)Mr. Potato Head2010-08-26

You are correct, the Etch A Sketch wouldn't work anymore. In fact, that's the point of this entire instructable- in order to preserve the drawing, the EAS can not be functional. That's why, even though I devised this method, I rarely use it.

Mr. Potato Head (author)SHIFT!2010-08-26

Oh, now I get it! Speaking of non-functional Etch-a-Sketches, when I was a kid I was shaking mine quite vigorously to clear it and smacked myself in the forehead with it. The glass broke (not sure, they're probably plastic now) and all of the magic dust spilled out on the floor.

technodude92 (author)2010-07-13

So it can still be shaken and nothing will happen?

SHIFT! (author)technodude922010-07-14

Yep! You can shake it and turn the knobs to your heart's content, and the Etch A Sketch art will not be affected!

craftymaven (author)2010-07-14

I moved here to attend grad school, but only finished one year of my masters' at UBC. Met this great guy there (it's his alma mater). 19 years later, we're married with three kids.

craftymaven (author)2010-07-13

That looks like the clock tower at UBC. No?

SHIFT! (author)craftymaven2010-07-13

You got it! Is that your alma mater?

ewfw (author)2010-07-07 --------------------------------------------- Look under Wizard of Oz. Sounds toxic to me.

Questor (author)ewfw2010-07-12

sounds like an allergy to me !

SHIFT! (author)ewfw2010-07-07

Well the box does say the aluminum powder is "non-toxic" but, yeah, I definitely wouldn't breathe it in.

ewfw (author)SHIFT!2010-07-11

I had heard it said that little episode put the gravel in his voice.

riff raff (author)ewfw2010-07-11

Epson lived to be 95; I doubt the aluminum powder was all that problematic for him in the long run.

CyborgGold (author)2010-07-11

Whilst this is surely a good method of keeping your art... could you not just use a rotary tool to cut holes in the back and drain the extra powder before starting your work? The holes/slots could then be cleaned and taped closed with black duct tape for a good appearance. If you stored the aluminum powder properly, you could add powder to the etch-a-sketch and start over in the event of a screw up.

SHIFT! (author)CyborgGold2010-07-12

It's kind of funny that you mention that because before I even tried out my method of complete disassembly, I actually did try to drain the powder from a hole in the back (if you notice the red faceplate on my first page, you can actually see a square hole where I tried to remove the powder). The problems I found with that method were for a these reasons 1) Draining the powder from the hole isn't as easy as it sounds in theory. True, you would get a lot of it out, but it would be extremely difficult to drain out every single excess powder, which will definitely prove destructive to your artwork when its completed. A lot of the powder inside the EAS is actually friction fitted and can never be completely removed without proper cleansing. 2) In case you messed up when creating your artwork, you'd have a very very very difficult time being able to erase anything, with the metal fillings drained out. You'd have to drain them back in and then drain them back out in order to erase. True, you could drill the hole in the back afterwords, but then you'd have to be worried about the powder flying against the glass when drilling. 3) You'd still be left with the knobs & pencil in full control in this case. Let's say they got caught on something or accidentally got turned, you'd be left with a horrendous streak across your artwork and it would be ruined forever. My method gets rid of the powder and the control mechanism, leaving the drawing perfectly in tact. 4) Finally, in the long run, you'd actually be doing a lot more work for a lot less benefits by simply draining out the powder from a hole. Plus, believe me, its a WHOLE lot messier doing it that way. But anyway, thank you very much for your comment and I certainly did take it into consideration when trying to find my method.

UltraMagnus (author)2010-07-08

the is quite a lot of evidence that aluminium powder causes Alzheimers, so don't breath it. Don't throw it away either though, store it in a bag, and use it to make thermite/thermate.

evvo (author)UltraMagnus2010-07-11

Yes, aluminum powder is bad for you for many reasons, but the link between aluminum exposure and Alzheimers has never been proven. In fact, the Alzheimers Society even says "no causal relationship has yet been proved. As evidence for other causes continues to grow, a possible link with aluminium seems increasingly unlikely"

dave17 (author)evvo2010-07-11

Yes that's right.The one study that started this myth has been thoroughly discredited.NO other studies have found any link,even among people who work with Aluminum all their lives.Sadly,because of the internet people will always live in needless fear of it.

SHIFT! (author)UltraMagnus2010-07-08

I agree with you 1/2 of with that statement. Definitely don't breathe it in, but just throw it away. I don't want to be held liable for whatever you guys use the aluminum for, so just get rid of it!

GoGreenMan (author)2010-07-11

Please show us how you do is!! and let me know when you do post it! thanks and great work

SHIFT! (author)GoGreenMan2010-07-11

Thanks GoGreenMan! If you subscribe to my instructables, I can definitely alert you when my next Etch A Sketch page comes out!

ExtremeYoshiFan (author)2010-07-11

Where can we go to see your artwork, I also want to see your technique as well, give us an instructable on that, I would love it. Do you have a site with pics on it(or even a photobucket)? I would love to see your work.

SHIFT! (author)ExtremeYoshiFan2010-07-11

Certainly ExtremeYoshiFan! All of my Etch A Sketch art pieces are on my Flickr photosite @ And if you subscribe to my instructables, I can update you when I do my next EAS related one.

tubanator-2.0 (author)2010-07-07

this is pretty if only i could draw things on an echt-asketch oh well.also awesome lugia on the last step(at least thats what it looks like to me)

SHIFT! (author)tubanator-2.02010-07-07

Thanks tubanator-2.0! Yeah, it's Lugia, one of my friend's favorite Legendary Pokemon. Drawing on an Etch A Sketch isn't actually as difficult as some people think it is. Like I said, I have a specialized method for making EAS artwork quickly and easily, and will probably post an instructable about it in the future. I mean I just did this image in 2 minutes.

Kasm279 (author)SHIFT!2010-07-11

Heh, i just got Pokemon Silver to go with Crystal that i already had. Ironic that this would be in the newsletter two days after I got the thing xD

Korvost (author)2010-07-11

Be seriously careful when handling the aluminum powder, wear a dust mask. This stuff can seriously mess up your precious lungs.

coswine (author)2010-07-08

Have you considered spraying the back of the glass with some hairspray (or something similar) to permanently fix the drawing? I haven't done this, so I don't know stable the final drawing is over time.

SHIFT! (author)coswine2010-07-08

Hmmmm, haven't thought about that but I don't think it will work. The aluminum powder is pretty much just friction stuck onto the glass, so any kind of air pressure on the glass will most likely destroy the artwork. Really, as long as you just remove the powder and the controllers, your artwork will be preserved forever.

Kaiven (author)2010-07-07

Exciting... waiting for the next 'ible :D

awesome! I'm glad you finally posted some instructables!

Thanks! Yeah, I've been meaning to for a while now, and just wanted to do something easy that I knew how to do. I'll probably add my more complex inventions later on too.

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