How to Etch Glass: Beginner’s Guide

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If you’ve ever wondered how to etch glass, stay tuned to learn all my pro tips! You’ll love making unique DIY gifts for friends using this glass etching technique. I’m also sharing mistakes to avoid based on my years of experience.

Glass candle holder with etched glass design on the sides with lit candle inside.

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Glass Etching: Everything You Need to Know

I first tried etching glass in this Christmas craft YouTube video and was completely wowed! It’s a great technique for personalizing DIY gifts and upgrading plain glassware.

Unlike using temporary or permanent vinyl, glass etching leaves a permanent design on glassware that is dishwasher safe and food safe. If you need gifts for weddings or birthdays, a personalized set of etched glass tumblers or jars is always a good idea.

Etched glass objects (goblet, candleholder, vase) made using a Cricut and glass etching cream.

However, there are a few mistakes you’ll want to avoid. I share five common pitfalls in my YouTube video on How to Etch Glass.

How to Etch Glass: Beginner’s Guide

To etch glass, you can use a cutting machine like a Cricut Maker, Cricut Explore, or Silhouette Cameo machine to create your stencil, or you can buy a pre-made stencil online.

Many craft stores like Michael’s and Hobby Lobby also carry adhesive stencils. (You’ll find several options below.)

Watch This Tutorial (<1 min)

Glass Etching Supplies

Armour Etch etching cream shown with etched glass objects, paintbrush, and protective gloves.

For your convenience, I’ve grouped all of these items in my Amazon shop so you can browse them together. If you don’t have a cutting machine, check out these great stencils for glass etching instead.


Engraving Glass with a Laser Cutter

Did you know you can also engrave glass with a laser cutting machine? Click the button below to learn more.

Step 1: Clean the glassware

Use a small cotton ball or paper towel with rubbing alcohol or glass cleaner to wipe the surface of the glass, removing any dust, dirt, or fingerprints.

Step 2: Apply the stencil design

I suggest finding a stenciled design to use for glass etching. You can buy one of the reusable adhesive stencils below or create a design in Cricut Design Space. I have instructions for making a stencil with Cricut at the end of this post.

Applying an adhesive stencil with a heart pattern to a glass jar.
Applying adhesive stencil to glass cookie jar

Shop for Glass Etching Stencils

When you apply the stencil, make sure there are no air bubbles. Use a brayer or scraper tool to ensure that the stencil adheres without any gaps.

Curved surfaces can often cause bubbles in a stencil, so it’s best to start with flat surfaces if you’re a beginner. Use painter’s tape or masking tape to prevent the etching cream from bleeding past the stencil.

Step 3: Apply etching cream

Before you begin working, just remember to have your safety gear ready. You want to prevent the etching cream from making contact with your skin or eyes and have good ventilation in your workspace with a water source nearby. Always wear gloves to avoid skin contact.

Safety First

Always use appropriate safety gear (gloves, eyewear, mask) when working with etching cream. Etching cream is an acid that can cause severe burns, so you’ll want to take the necessary precautions.

You can use newspaper or cardboard to protect your work surface from any spills as well.

Etching glass cookie jar with Armour Etch etching cream.
Applying etching cream to glass cookie jar

Begin by stirring the glass etching cream with a popsicle stick or paint stir stick. Then apply a fairly thick layer of Armour Etch Cream inside your stencil with a bristle brush.

A bristle brush gave me the best results as opposed to a foam brush.

Step 4: Rinse off the etching cream

The instructions on the etching cream say to leave the cream on for one minute before rinsing it off with water in a sink. I’ve left it anywhere from 3 minutes to 15-20 minutes, so results may vary depending on the glass object.

Many reviews on Amazon suggest longer wait times, but you can decide for yourself.

Rinse your brush immediately, whether or not you decide to wait on the etching cream.

Step 5: Remove the stencil

After rinsing off the cream, you can peel off the stencil and reveal the fruit of your labor!

Peeling adhesive stencil off glass cookie jar to reveal etched glass.
Removing adhesive stencil from glass jar

I think this treat jar from Dollar Tree looks so sweet for a Valentine’s Day gift or teacher gift.

Etched glass treat jar shown with Armour Etch etching cream, stencil, and paintbrush.

For another great beginner project, try choosing a simple monogram to etch a wine glass (like the one in the next section). It’s a lovely gift for a newly engaged or married couple.

How to Make a Stencil with Cricut

If you decide to create a stencil using a Cricut, I suggest using this stencil vinyl for the best results.

The other supplies you’ll need for Cricut glass etching include a cutting mat, transfer tape, and a weeding tool.

I highly recommend you watch my video tutorial on etching glass with Cricut as you go through these steps to see me create a design from start to finish.

Step 1: Find a Cricut Stencil Template (optional)

Cricut Design Space has a great selection of templates you can use to help you resize any cut file. Below I’m showing the water goblet template.

Selecting water goblet template in Cricut Design Space

This template will not cut on your vinyl. It’s just there to help you plan your design. (Always make sure the measurements roughly match your glassware, though.)

Step 2: Resize and prep your design in Cricut Design Space

With Cricut Access, you can select any design you like or upload an SVG file on your computer. I have several designs in my Cricut shop that work well for glass etching too.

After resizing your design, create a rectangle as a “frame” around it to make it easier to weed the vinyl later. Here I’m creating labels for spice jars and monograms for stemless goblets.

Designing monograms and spice jar labels in Cricut Design Space for glass etching.
Formatting designs in Cricut Design Space

Step 3: Attach all layers

Since we’re cutting our design out of one piece of vinyl, we’ll need to attach all layers so they are cut together.

Attaching images in Cricut Design Space.
Attaching layers in Cricut Design Space

Step 4: Cut your design

Once all layers are in place, click the green “Make” button and send the design to your machine. You can use stencil vinyl as your material.

Load your cutting mat with the vinyl face-up. (There’s no need to mirror the image when applying a stencil to the front of glassware.) You can also use smart material if your machine is compatible.

Step 5: Weed your design and apply it to the glass

For glass etching, remove the parts of the design that you WANT to show up. Here I’m removing the letters from my monogram stencil design.

Weeding stencil vinyl with monogram design to apply to glass for glass etching.
Weeding stencil vinyl monogram design

Once the design is weeded, use transfer tape to “pick up the design” and apply it to your glassware, as shown below.

Removing transfer tape from stencil vinyl to prepare glass goblet for glass etching.
Removing transfer tape from stencil vinyl

Then continue with the steps earlier in this post to apply etching cream!

I love how these goblets turned out. They will make a perfect gift for Father’s Day or Mother’s Day!

Two glass goblets with etched glass monograms in a gift box.

The spice jars turned out adorable too. If you want to make a great homemade gift, I have a tutorial on how to dry herbs that you can package in your DIY etched glass jars.

Spice jars with labels made with glass etching.

More Glass Etching Techniques

If you don’t own a cutting machine, you can get creative by masking off parts of your glass with painter’s tape or cutting vinyl by hand with scissors or a craft knife.

Glass Dollar Tree vase with painter's tape grid for glass etching, shown with Armour Etch.

As you can see with the vase above, I’ve masked off small sections with painter’s tape to create a modern geometric design. Just remember that etching cream is not recommended for large sections greater than 1 x 1 inch, per the manufacturer’s instructions. See the FAQs for more details.

Glass Plate Etching?

When etching a glass plate, mirror your stencil image and apply the stencil to the back of the plate. This will ensure that food will not stain the porous etched parts of the plate.

Plate with the phrase "Dear Santa, I Can Explain" etched on top.
Etched glass plate made with Cricut stencil

Pin it for later!

Etched glass candle holder with votive candle. Text overlay reads "How to Etch Glass".

Now that you’re a pro at etching glass, what will you etch next? I’d love for you to tag me on Instagram and show me your projects!

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  1. What happens if I spill etching cream outside of my design?

    If you accidentally spill some etching cream outside of your intended area, use a damp sponge or paper towel to quickly wipe off the etching cream.

  2. What happens if you leave etching cream too long?

    If you leave etching cream on glass for a prolonged period, you risk damaging the glass and/or stencil, which could result in blurry images. The optimal time for etching based on experience is 10-20 minutes.

  3. How do I clean etched glass?

    Glass cleaners like Windex work well for etched glass. You can treat it just as you would any other glassware. If you’re concerned about the dishwasher damaging your glassware, you can always wash your items by hand.

  4. How long does etched glass last?

    Etched glass will last as long as any other glassware. Over time, the glass itself may show normal scratches, but the etching is permanent.

  5. Can you etch any type of glass?

    Most glass objects like mason jars, mirrors, windows, and vases can be etched with Armour Etch. However, certain Pyrex products and colored glass may not work with etching cream. Some Pyrex is fortified with a heating process or plastic coating that does not allow etchants to work, according to Armour Etch. You can test a small dot to determine if your Pyrex piece is compatible. Etching cream is also not recommended for acrylic or plastics.

  6. Can you use Armour Etch over large areas of glass?

    The manufacturer does not recommend applying Armour Etch over large areas. It is best to apply the etching cream to small sections of glass no more than 1 inch by 1 inch. Since etching cream begins acting immediately, applying the cream to large areas may show brush strokes more prominently and lead to inconsistent results.

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