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Glass Etching Tips: 5 Ways to Get a Better Etch

Glass etch, tip, deeper glass etch
Lots of Silhouette users use their machines to cut stencils to etch glass. But lots of crafters also struggle with getting a consistent and even etch that doesn't come with bubbles which cause bleeds.  So today as a follow up to my original tutorial on How to Etch Glass 101 I thought I'd share a few tips and tricks that I've picked up along the way to get a better etch.

There are several different brands of etching cream on the market. I use Armor Etch. That's all I know and I am happy with the results I get. Martha Stewart also makes and a glass etching cream and so does Silhouette America. 

1. SHAKE IT! 
No matter what brand you use, before you apply it, you need to make sure you shake that bottle...and then shake some more. Shake until you fear your arm may fall off...and then shake a little more.  Etching cream that's not well mixed can cause major headaches and little etch.

 2. GO FLAT
Even before you apply etching cream you need two important things: a glass surface and a stencil.  A flat surface is ALWAYS going to be easier to work on than a round surface - this is especially true when stenciling with etch cream (or even paint).   It's a lot easier to get your stencil flat on the flat on the flat surface than it is on a round one...even if that round surface is just the curve of a drinking glass.  When the stencil isn't completely flat the edges can buckle slightly and even the smallest little pucker can allow etching cream to bleed underneath and all of the sudden you don't have a crisp line.  For this reason, I tend to stay away from rounded mugs and much prefer something with a flat side such as these mason jar mugs.

 3. SHRINK IT
Glass etch, tip, deeper glass etch
It's not impossible to etch rounded surfaces you just have to make sure that your design is the right size. A design that's too large will cause those buckles, but if you can make a smaller design it will more easily fit on the flat area - even of a rounded surface.  (Am I making any sense here?)

4. ADD SOME PAD
Speaking of designs...one thing I've started doing to ensure that no etch cream gets outside of my stencil line is to make a large border around the design. You can always use painters tape to tape off the edges, but you can skip that step and save yourself some tape and time by adding a little buffer around your design.

I do this in Silhouette Studio by simply drawing a box around my stencil design. Then when I cut my stencil on contact paper or Silhouette Stencil material there's a large enough border that it protects the area of the glass around my design.
Glass etch, tip, deeper glass etch


5. DON'T RUSH IT
Finally, you want to make sure you leave the etching cream on the glass for a few minutes.  Armor Etch's directions say 1 minute, but I have found that a thick layer of etching cream left on for 4-5 minutes gives a better, deeper, and more defined etch.

Glass etch, tip, deeper glass etch, etching cream

What tricks have you found when working with etching cream? Share your tips in the comments below!

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing products through my links, I receive a small commission. That's what helps fund Silhouette School so I can keep buying new Silhouette-related products to show you how to get the most out of your machine! 

Thanks for coming to class today at Silhouette School.  If you like what you see, I'd love for you to pin it!


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15 comments

  1. I had a craft date with a friend last weekend and we tried etching. I had leakage on all my designs but each one got a little better. I found that shapes/designs turned out a lot better than letters for me. Hopefully practice makes perfect. Thank goodness for Dollar Tree!!

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    Replies
    1. I always use Dollar Tree items when I'm testing :)

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  2. Does anyone ever etch with a rotary tool like a dremel or black and decker?

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    1. I used a dremel and a cutout stencil from my silhouette when etching rocks....I think I would break the glass. :) But the dremel diamond bit works great.

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  3. I find that reapplying the etching cream at least twice (sometimes three times if the area to be etched is large) assures there are no holes or bubbles in the design. Holes are those annoying little areas in the etched design that do not etch. I first make sure the stencil is taped solidly to the glass and I use tape to cover a very wide margin around the design. I apply the etching cream. Wait 2 minutes, and then rinse it off with cold water. I apply etching cream again and wait another 2 minutes and rinse with cold water. Check the design. If you see holes, reapply a third time.

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  4. Can you use adhesive vinyl as a stencil, or do you need something more specific?

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    1. I use a commercial grade vinyl purchased online...much much less expensive than cricut vinyl and holds better. Cut my stencils with my cricut. Works wonderfully!

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    2. When you say commercial grade? which Vinyl is that? I was curious about using vinyl to make the stencil

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  5. The problem I have when etching has to do with the vinyl not cutting completely through. Specifically the inside of letters, like the loop on a lower case g, of the inside of a p. I've tried everything I can think of without luck. Different brands of vinyl, bigger font, simpler font, deeper cut, slower, faster, new blade... There is almost always a spot that doesn't cut..

    Any tricks or hints?

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    Replies
    1. I always double cut my vinyl and that seems to make sure there are no spots that aren't cut.

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  6. I have found that if I clean the glass with alcohol first and let it dry, I get a cleaner and deeper etch.

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  7. Hello,
    Can you tell me if you can transfer a photo over the etching cream after it has completely dried?

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  8. I find that Oracal 651 makes the best stencil for etching (and everything actually). It sticks awesome, even if there is a bubble it doesn't pull up. It also comes off easily, especially with hot water, which I used to rinse off the cream. 15 minutes makes a nice etch, esp if you re-dab the design 1/2 way through.

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  9. Hey there, I featured this project in my blog post of 15 DIY wedding gifts to make with a Silhouette! Thanks for the Silhouette inspiration! If you want to check it out, I published the blog post this morning: http://smallstuffcounts.com/diy-wedding-gifts/

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  10. I use good old Contact paper for my stencils - one thing I have found to be helpful in getting it to stick, especially to slightly rounded surfaces, is to place it on the glass to be etched, then turn the hair dryer on it on Low heat, moving it around and gently pressing down the stencil especially on the cut edges, til it feels a bit warm. Not TOO long or TOO hot! It really helps the "sticky" afix itself to the glass.

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