Wednesday, November 14, 2012

DIY Etched Glass Mugs {Tutorial}

How to Etch Glass (tutorial) - make your own etched glass mugs!

I've been collecting these glass jars for a while now. I love them! We use them as mugs for everything at our house: water, tea, beer, wine, and even my famous homemade Sangria (that's the beautiful berry-hued beverage in the photo). 

I always thought, they're jelly jars but they have handles on them. Surely I'm supposed to save these and reuse them, right? In fact, I think the only reason I tried the jelly in the first place is because I wanted the jars...but it turns out the jelly was pretty good, so now I have a full set of least. (BTW, if you can't find these jars of jelly in the store, you can buy the empty jars online here, at Amazon of course.)

And I've always wanted to try etching glass, but I was always a little scared by the warnings on the bottle of etching cream. Seriously...the whole side of the bottle is dedicated to hinting that terrible things can happen if you don't follow the warnings. "Call poison control immediately if"...and "seek medical attention immediately when"...and "wear gloves" and "wear goggles" and "use in a well-ventilated area". That's enough to scare off a clumsy dummy like least for a bit.  

I finally got brave and bought a bottle of Armour Etch and tried it, and I'm happy to report that there were no injuries. Now, if you're going to try this at home boys and girls, PLEASE read all the info on the container before using this extremely harsh chemical. And be aware that the chemicals can also etch aluminum sinks and metal faucets, so have a plastic bucket of water ready for clean-up and be careful what you touch with your messy gloves.

NOTE: this is my experience with Armour Etch, and instructions may be different for other brands or products so do your research before you get started! In fact, I'll share my original failed attempt at this project using a different (horrible, awful) product that I urge you to stay away the bottom of the page.

Now that I have those disclaimers out of the's how I etched the glass mugs!

First I printed out my letters on a full sheet label. I printed a few of each in case I made a mistake...which I did. (I know myself so well :) I cut out a square around the letter, and stuck that label square with the letter on it to a piece of contact paper. Then I used an exacto knife to cut around the letter carefully cutting through both the label and the contact paper below it.

(I was originally going to just use the labels themselves as my stencils, but thought better of it after realizing how strong the chemicals are... and since all the instructions I read said to use vinyl or contact paper to resist the cream. I didn't want to risk the cream eating through the paper labels and ruining the there may be a better way to go about making your stencils, but this worked for me!)

I used a fancy paper punch to cut the shape out of the contact paper and cut a square around it to make my frame for the scalloped design. (This is the punch I have).

how to etch glass; make a stencil from vinyl or contact paper

I cleaned the surface of the glass with rubbing alcohol to make sure it was free of oils from my hands that could resist the etching cream, then stuck the contact paper frame on the glass and pressed around all the open edges with my fingernail to get them all stuck down really well to keep the edges of the etched areas sharp. Then I positioned the letter inside it and did the same, careful not to get any fingerprints on the freshly cleaned glass.

how to etch glass - stick vinyl stencils on cleaned glass and smooth down edges well

Now...I put on my HazMat suit and grabbed the etching cream, familiarizing myself with the dangers and directions one more time, and programmed Poison Control's # into my speed dial, making sure I could also use my touchscreen with the rubber gloves on. (I could.) Seriously, it's intimidating. They spend so much room on the bottle telling you how NOT to use the stuff that there's no room left for them to tell you how you ARE supposed to use it. You have to go to the Armour Products website and hunt around for that... (I'll save you a little time: here's where I finally found the info.)

I shook up the bottle of Armour Etch, then using a small paintbrush, I painted thick layer of the cream over the stencil. You should not be able to see through it. 

After 5 minutes, I dunked the mugs in a bucket of water and used my gloved hands to rinse off the etching cream. ( I have read you can scrape off the excess cream and put it back in the bottle to reuse it, but I didn't do that this time.)

Peel off the stencils and dry the glass. The image doesn't really show up at all until the glass is completely dry, so don't be discouraged if it seems there's nothing there at first! It works!

*Make sure you wash the glasses thoroughly before using them to drink from.*

Not bad for a beginner, eh?

By the way, I bought my Armour Etch Glass Etching Cream at Hobby Lobby (about $20 for a 10 oz bottle) and you can probably find it at other craft stores as well as online at Amazon and Delphi Glass (various sizes available). Now, for the stuff I tried first that was a huge failure? Keep reading.

gallery glass etching medium does NOT etch's just a paint!!
gallery glass etching medium does NOT etch's just a paint!!

Gallery Glass Window Etch "Etching Medium" is the first product I bought. I went through the entire process of cutting out stencils, applying the stuff, waiting for it to dry, then I realized none of the instructions I had found online said how long it takes to dry or how to clean up, when to remove the stencils, etc. I started digging around a bit more and finally ended up reading user reviews on Amazon that all say pretty much what I'm about to say.

If you are trying to etch glass, don't use this crap! I bought it because it specifically says on the back, "ETCH windows, glass, etc." That's a big fat lie, I tell you! It's PAINT for crying out loud. Yeah, I'm mad, can you tell?? I don't know why they would call it "etching medium" if it doesn't even etch anything. Stupid stupid stupid!

It peeled off around the edges when I pulled off the stencils, and I ended up scraping off the rest and cleaning it up with Goo-Gone so I didn't ruin the glasses - you know, since it didn't actually etch anything at all - but I HATE having to go back to the store in the middle of a project...and especially not because I was mis-led by a product's description. GRRRRRR. 

Now, that being said...if you feel like painting glass with a milky white paint that dries to give the "look" of etched glass...then by all means, try this stuff. I'm sure it could be used for something. I hope at least this rant of mine will save someone the time, money and frustration of doing the same thing I did! </END RANT>

Ok sorry about that. I do feel a LOT better :) I hope you enjoy this project and will create some fun etched glasses of your own!


  1. That IS intimidating! And you did a great job! That is cool. If I can work up the courage I'll try it!

  2. Super cute!

    I would love for you to share this and link up to my TGIF Link Party! Who knows, you just might be featured next week!

    Hugs, Cathy

  3. Can you reuse the stencils? I need to do 200 glasses and don't want to cut out that many letters!

    1. Hi Kathy!

      For stencils that will hold up better for more uses, I am guessing that using vinyl would be better than contact paper. You should be able to find small sheets of vinyl with the sticky backing at most large craft stores. I am not sure that just one will last for 200 uses but you should be able to get several uses out of each one to still save a ton of time and cutting! The main issue would be the stickiness factor decreasing after each use - you need your stencil to stick really well so you get clean edges. Good luck!


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