How to Etch Glass

Three Methods:Etching with CreamEtching by SandblastingMaking an Etched Vase or Jar

Glass can be etched in two ways. It can be etched using a special cream or, for the more advanced craftsperson, it can be etched using sandblasting. If working with glass is new to you, you may wish to try the cream method first, then progress to the sandblasting method once you feel more confident.

Method 1
Etching with Cream

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    Cut the adhesive plastic sheet. Measure the side or area of the glass object and cut enough plastic sheet to cover this side or area.
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    Decide on which part of the glass will carry the etched design. Cut out the shape of the area the design will sit inside (for example, a circle, square or other geometrical shape) from the center of the plastic sheet. Keep the cut-out piece, this will be reused shortly.
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    Remove the adhesive backing of the large leftover piece of plastic sheet and stick it precisely to cover the glass. The cut-out area must align exactly with where you want to apply the design.
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    Trace over the design using tracing paper. If you're confident enough, you can skip the tracing paper and draw straight onto the plastic adhesive cut-out. Otherwise, transfer the design from the tracing paper onto the adhesive plastic cut-out.
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    Place the cut-out on the cutting mat. Using the craft knife, cut around the outline of the design. Discard the pieces that are cut away.
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    Stick the design in the center of the geometric shape you've already stuck on the glass. Run your thumbnail over the edges to smooth down.
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    Apply the etching cream. Use smooth strokes to apply, and brush on thickly.
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    Leave the cream on the glass for the time recommended by the manufacturer. Rinse off with water.
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    Peel off the adhesive plastic from the glass. The remaining design should now be etched into the glass.

Method 2
Etching by Sandblasting

Sandblasting provides more variation of textures that can be achieved on the glass surface. Depending on the object and your level of experience, you may find you have more control over depth and appearance using this method.

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    Choose a resist. The pattern is the part of the glass that will be etched by the sandblasting, while the surrounding area is covered by the resist to protect it from being blasted. Contact paper or very wide strong clear vinyl adhesive tape make a good form of resist. Some people also use wax but that can be very tricky unless you're experienced.
    • Whatever you choose, make sure its adhesive is strong, so that it won't peel off when being sandblasted.
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    Choose a stencil pattern for the glass. For example, a leaf and berries. Draw the design on paper.
    • In some cases, pre-made adhesive designs on adhesive backing can be purchased from craft stores or glass blasting suppliers. You may need a small craft knife to help you pull out the unwanted parts of the stencil design.
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    Transfer the design to the adhesive resist. Either trace the design on with carbon paper or spray adhesive onto the back of the design and stick it direct to the contact paper (and cut through both the design paper and the contact paper).
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    Stick the design onto the glass at the exact place where you want it to show. The glass must be covered well, so that it won't lift and spoil the design.
    • You may need to tape around the edges of the stencil to ensure that it stays firmly in place and to protect surrounding glass, such as if you're blasting a window. Use wide tape and add as much as you think is needed to protect the surrounding area from blasting.
    • Flat surfaces are easiest, such as windows, photo frame glass, etc. Jars, drinking glasses and other curved surfaces will be trickier.
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    Put on safety equipment. Always wear safety goggles, a respirator mask, and gloves before sandblasting. Glass dust can cause serious damage to the eyes and lungs if you are unprotected.
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    Get ready to sandblast.
    • Depending on what the object is, you may wish to use a sandblasting cabinet, into which you can place small glass items such as a jar or drinking glass. If you do use this, place the glass in the sandblasting cabinet and check all of the controls and get ready to blast.
    • For larger glass pieces, such as windows, these will need to be sandblasted in place. In this case, use the tape method explained above to protect the surrounding glass.
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    Blast until the design has been etched in place. When blasting, hold the blaster upright over the glass and don't place the blaster too close to the glass.
    • Take care not to angle the blaster during sandblasting, or there is a risk of the resist lifting and ruining the design.
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    Rinse the glass under water before touching, or wipe down with a disposable damp rag if the glass cannot be moved. This cleaning will remove glass dust and any debris.
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    Remove the resist from the glass. Use warm soapy water to remove any remaining adhesive. Allow the glass to dry.
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    Admire your handiwork. A beautifully etched design will now be evident on the glass.

Method 3
Making an Etched Vase or Jar

To help get you started with etching, this project has been provided. Note that it uses etching cream.

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    Select a suitable vase or jar for etching. If this is your first try, use a cheap one so that you can practice.
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    Cut the sheet of adhesive plastic large enough to cover the vase or jar.
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    Choose a geometric shape for the center of the design. A circle or oval are good choices, or perhaps a square or triangle. Draw this shape into the middle of the adhesive plastic, then cut out with a sharp knife. Stick the sheet onto the vase or jar, carefully placing the geometric hole in the central position.
    • Keep the cut out adhesive plastic shape for use next.
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    Draw a pattern design smaller than than the cut-out shape. Cut the shape out.
    • Ideas for the shape include flowers, symbols, letters, animals, sun or moon, etc. Keep the design very simple; use stencil books or webpage designs for inspiration.
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    Trace the design onto the plastic adhesive piece you cut out of the geometric shape earlier. Then carefully cut out this shape from the plastic using a sharp craft knife. Go slowly, as this needs to be well defined.
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    Affix the design in the center of the geometric shape's hole on the jar or vase. Smooth out any edge bubbles or ripples so that it sits entirely flat against the glass.
    • A thumbnail run over the edges will flatten out air bubbles nicely.
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    Spread the etching cream onto the bare glass portion of the design. This will be the glass that goes from the edge of the design to the edge of the geometric shape.
    • Apply thickly with a flat brush or sponge brush. Use smooth strokes.
    • Follow any additional instructions provided with the etching cream.
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    Leave the etching cream on for the time specified by the manufacturer. Then rinse off with water.
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    Peel the adhesive stencil off the vase or jar. You should be left with a pretty design inside a geometric shape. Well done!


  • It's highly recommended that you get lessons from an experienced glass etcher before using the sandblasting method; it can be tricky and it can also be easy to break the glass.
  • If tape or adhesive product is hard to remove from the glass, use something like orange oil based cleaners or eucalyptus oil to wipe the adhesive clear from the glass.
  • Etched glass usually looks best from the other side. If using words, spell them backwards, to allow you to look from the best side.


  • Wear a mask when sandblasting, to protect your respiratory system from small particles of glass. Eye protection is also highly recommended.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area when working with etching cream.

Things You'll Need

Etching cream:

  • Etching cream
  • Flat brush or sponge brush for etching cream
  • Paper towel or clean rags for wiping
  • Sheet adhesive plastic or similar adhesive product
  • Tracing paper
  • Pencil
  • Knife


  • Mini handheld sandblaster/glass etcher
  • Goggles, gloves and mask safety gear
  • Rags for wiping
  • Soapy water

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Glass and Stained Glass Projects