Freehand Glass Etching




About: A caterer and adventurer looking for things to do! I like to crochet, cook, build stuff with wood, garden, do art projects etc. I also just bought my first house, so there's LOTS of projects to do!

I am making personalized shot glasses for each of my friends this year (or coffee cups for those who don't partake). This is a bit different from standard etching in that it does not use a stencil: for small curved glasses like these, stencils don't quite stick.

I also included basic instructions for custom stenciling, just in case...

So, while the manufacturer recommends glass etching products for stencils it's possible to use it like paint. The wine glasses I did last year were hugely popular, so I hope these are a success too.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools

You will need:
1 jar of Armour Etch (from most craft stores, possibly from a hardware store?)
1 (or more) glasses or any object made out of glass
1 paintbrush

And since etching cream is really nasty and caustic:
1 pair of gloves
eye protection

If you want to stencil your design you'll want some vinyl contact paper. Make sure it's sticky enough, but even then you may have trouble getting it to cling to a rounded surface. You can also use plastic stickers to create a 'negative' image, e.g., a frosted glass with non-frosted polka dots.

This is a project for adults, in fact, you have to have an ID to even BUY this stuff.
Your product might be different from mine, so read all of the directions that come with it!

Step 2: Wash and Begin

Clean and dry all of your glassware thoroughly.

Use the brush to draw your design, or the first stage of your design.
With larger designs, you will need to stagger the painting so that all of the areas are etched evenly.


If you are using a stencil, apply it at this point...
Or apply a solid sheet of vinyl and use a fine blade to cut out your design. Smooth out any bubbles, as they will leave gaps in your design.
Fill in the open areas with cream, and brush it back and forth evenly.

Step 3: Wait Wait Wait....

After the first stage of etching cream has been applied, set it aside for about 7 minutes. Paint your next glass, or check your email, just don't let the glass etching cream get all over!

After 7 minutes, come back and wash and dry your glass.

Step 4: Paint in As Many Stages As You Need

Finish as many parts of your design in as many stages as you need. I used 2 stages, one for the flower, and one for the branches.

Glass etching is fast, and fairly inexpensive!



    • Make It Fly Challenge

      Make It Fly Challenge
    • Stone Concrete and Cement Contest

      Stone Concrete and Cement Contest
    • Spicy Challenge

      Spicy Challenge

    95 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Beautiful! I cannot paint to save my life, but I can probably manage a stencil. I'll have to get some cheap glasses to practice on.Thanks for the lovely idea!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    It is NOT cheap ! n I want to do a LOT of glass windows, so it'll cost a lot ! Me and you can start a company, have them make it in China, and get rich ! Anyway, I wonder if muriatic acid would do anything?

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago

    Muriatic acid won't do anything. That's why it's kept in glass bottles :)


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Having just used Armour Etch cream less than 1/2 hour ago I wish I had read the comments regarding safety prior to using. Having worked in the plating industry about 27 years ago I worked with big barrels of HF acid and received no special safety instructions...I guess that's because everyone else who worked doing what I did was undocumented...but that's another topic. What bothers me now is that I got a little of the HF in my mouth when I was spitting on a rag to wipe acid off an area of the glass where I didn't want it. I wiped it out right away, but all the talk of dissolving bones and death has me a bit concerned at the moment. If I'm still alive tomorrow I'll repost to let you know how it went. That area of my mouth IS burning a bit at present.... But I am writing to say I use shelf paper for my stencils and I found a local printer who will "print" stencils for me. I just send over my designs (in vector, not raster format), she prints them on the shelf paper I provide, and voila! Really cheap stencils of my own really cool designs. I didn't have the patience for the exacto knife method. I don't share the opinion that the Armour Cream is inexpensive. Eleven dollars for 3 ounces doesn't fit the criteria for me. I found this web page when I was searching to see if Hydrochloric Acid would etch glass, because I do have a bottle of HCL laying around....but alas it sounds like it wont....and secondly to figure out how to make my own acid etch cream...which alas again, it doesn't seem like anyone has any suggestions on. Well, if the HF I came in contact with does it's trick, maybe all of my curiousity will be moot.

    8 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Ah, yes, one should always have a bottle of a bottle of Hydrochloric Acid with in one's reach! Perhaps you could store it next to the chocolate chips. You guys crack me up. You are all so clever. I so admire all of you!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    hello d.,
    you said you were gonna repost to let us know you're ok, but i can't see your name anywhere - are you ok?



    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Wilderness, et. al.

    A year has passed and I think I'm dissolving bones that I can discern.  I probably just lost track of my uname and password and was too lazy to reset it.....

    In any case, the project I was working on - etching the glass on some bathroom windows I had made - turned out beautifully.  The windows are pretty large and people who are more experienced using the acid etching process probably would have done smaller sections at a time, I'm ok with seeing some of the brushstrokes - it adds to the handmade ambiance.

    Let's see if I can find a few photos of the finished windows installed....

    2 Etched Glass Windows Exterior.jpgEtched glass closeup.jpgEtched glass closeup 2.jpgetched win ext without trim.jpgEtched Window in dark room.jpgEtched window in unfinished bathroom.jpgOne etched glass window installed_interior.jpg

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    You probably find that because your mouth is lined with mucous membrane and the contact time was very short, that you did no damage. It's why your stomach is lined with the stuff to protect it from the HCl in there. Admittedly the HF is pretty nasty stuff.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    glad to hear it!

    thanks for the photos - the window looks look very smart




    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    When I bought it it was really cheap. because of vandalism they have raised prices and kept it under lock and key.

    Call your dr. or local advice nurse re. the chemical burn. Your workplace should have a number to call if the exposure occurred there. Otherwise your insurance co. should have an advice line. Here is some in depth info.

    Can't really emphasize safety enough, hope you're OK!

    What a great gift your friends are going to receive. Your Instructable is really put together so well. Thanks for sharing your idea :0)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Just a note, Armour Etch also etches polished agate slabs, no pics because I sold the slab.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    So you don't have to have the "special stencils" for amor etch to work right?? I have 2 lanterns that have the outline of dragon flies that I washed to get the dust off and the paint came off, that I thought was etched in :( So I am trying to use armor etch to fix them.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nice job. Will this technique work on laptop cases? I'm trying to etch a laptop but can't find any products for it. thanks for your help.

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Laser engraving works well for that... with the laser you can precisely control the location and depth of the etch... and this will vary with different materials. There is an example on my web page... I did ED409 on my laptop one day.


    It's unlikely, and this technique requires lots of water, so it's probably not the best idea for electronics. Though I'm not sure if you mean a removable case (like a hard case). You can work up a design and have it laser etched by your local engraver instead. (Look for people who do trophy engraving and the like). It'll probably cost you less than the engraving cream at this point.