Introduction: DIY: Etched Typography Glasses

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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.

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