How to Create Your Own Glass Engraving

Written by pam raymer-lea
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How to Create Your Own Glass Engraving
Create beautiful glass art by engraving or etching. (laser etched virgo in the glass image by Igor from

The terms "glass engraving" and "glass etching" are often used interchangeably. In reality, they are two very different processes. Both methods of modifying or frosting glass will lead to beautiful patterns, lettered information or both on glass cups, glasses, plates, name plates, awards, jewellery, mirrors and virtually anything made of glass.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Glass product
  • Electric engraving tool or rotary tool
  • Diamond burs
  • Stone burs
  • Rubber burs
  • Newspaper
  • Glass etching pattern
  • Black marker
  • Vinyl resist material
  • Carbon paper
  • Vinyl adhesive
  • Squeegee
  • Craft knife
  • Paintable resist material
  • 2 paintbrushes
  • Solvent for resist material
  • Glass etching cream
  • Sandblaster
  • Air compressor
  • Abrasive media
  • Eye protection
  • Vinyl or rubber gloves
  • Old clothing
  • Rags
  • Cat litter
  • Plastic bag

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  1. 1

    Choose the design or message you would like to reproduce. Use patterns that look good in black and white. Draw your own design, look on the Internet for free clip art, or choose any work that is not copyrighted and transform it into a black and white graphic. Simplify any pattern you use to remove any tiny lines or halftones and fill in any areas to be etched or engraved with a black marker.

    How to Create Your Own Glass Engraving
    Choose a design that is completely black and white, with no greys. (black-and-white background image by Anna Telnova from
  2. 2

    Decide if you would rather etch or engrave your piece of glass. Engrave your glass by using an electric engraving tool or rotary tool on the glass as you would draw with a pencil. Draw freehand or tape a design to the back of the glass and trace it. Use a very steady hand. Mistakes cannot be corrected. Work over a newspaper to catch the ground glass residue. The resulting lines will have a sketch-like quality.

    How to Create Your Own Glass Engraving
    Use a rotarty tool with diamond burs, stone wheels and rubber tips to engrave your glass. (rotary tool image by CraterValley Photo from
  3. 3

    Create a resist for use with etching. Transfer your design to a vinyl sheet using carbon paper, tracing or by using a sheet that can be printed by your computer. Cut away the area you want to be etched using a craft knife. Some vinyls will require an adhesive; others have their own sticky back. Use either of these to bond your vinyl to the glass, using a squeegee to remove any bubbles or wrinkles.

    How to Create Your Own Glass Engraving
    Use a craft knife to cut through your vinyl resist. (careful! image by Josef F Stuefer from
  4. 4

    Consider using a paintable resist instead of a vinyl sheet. Paint over the parts of your design you do not want to become etched using any enamel paint, including nail polish. Scratch parts of the not-quite-dry paint away to clean up any mistakes you have made or to add details. Let the paint dry thoroughly.

    How to Create Your Own Glass Engraving
    Use nail polish as a paintable resist. (purpink nail polish image by NSfotogyrl from
  5. 5

    Etch your work using an acid cream or sand blasting. Wear protective eyewear, gloves and old clothing. Paint acid cream onto your design according to directions and leave it in place for the prescribed amount of time. Remove the cream by washing your work in water. You can also choose to sandblast your piece, which is more expensive and messier. Rent sandblasting equipment and use it outside by pointing the sand spray at the exposed area of your glass.

    How to Create Your Own Glass Engraving
    Sandblasting is an alternative form of etching. (spray image by bright from
  6. 6

    Remove your resist by peeling off any vinyl film and cleaning the residue with the appropriate solvent. Clean paintable resists with their compatible solvent, which is generally acetone or lacquer thinner. Dispose of all solvents and rags responsibly by mixing liquid solvent with an absorbent, such as cat litter, tightly wrapping the dried solvent and rags in a plastic bag and putting it in your regular trash. Thoroughly wash your finished work.

Tips and warnings

  • You can use contact paper as a resist.
  • Paintable resists are best for domed surfaces.
  • Sandblasting equipment is all different. Your rental store will give you directions on how to use their equipment.
  • Use a protective mask and eye protection with all sand blasting equipment and when using a rotary tool on glass.
  • When sandblasting, sand goes everywhere. You can minimise the mess by using an old appliance box to control some of the overspray.
  • Paint products on the market mimic frosted glass and preclude the need to either etch or engrave.
  • Using copyrighted material without permission is against the law.
  • Acids and solvents are corrosive and toxic. Exercise great care when using them. Do not use them around children.

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