Glass etching is a fun way to decorate the surface of glassware, like wine glasses, mason jars, and mugs. The process is easier than you think – thanks to Armour Etch glass etching cream and vinyl stencils cut with a Cricut cutting machine.
Have you ever wanted to etch a custom design onto glass? In this step-by-step tutorial, I’ll show you the easy way to make glass etching stencils with Cricut stencil vinyl. I’ll also share my tips and tricks so your project will turn out great – even if you’ve never etched glass before!
Glass etching is a very popular DIY project. You can use glass etching to create personalized drinking glasses, etched wine glasses, monogrammed baking dishes, and more.
The glass etching process is easy, fun, and inexpensive! This article will show you how to use the Armour Etch Cream and Cricut vinyl stencils to create a beautiful etched glass project. Follow these instructions, and you’ll be able to create your own etched glass in no time!
New to Cricut? Be sure to read this beginner’s guide: What is a Cricut Machine, and What Can it Do?
What is Glass Etching?
Etching is the process of using acid or an abrasive (like sandpaper) to scratch designs into the surface of a material.
There are a few ways to etch glass, but the easiest way to etch glass at home is to use glass etching cream. The etching cream contains acids that remove very small amounts of glass from the surface of the object, which creates a slightly rough surface and the characteristic “frosted” quality.
To create custom designs, you can apply the etching cream over a vinyl stencil. The cream will only contact the glass through the cut-out areas of the stencil. This allows you to create any design you wish – even patterns and lettering.
For about using Cricut to create stencils, read: How to Make a Stencil with Cricut
Best Glass Etching Cream
For DIY glass etching projects, the most popular glass etching cream is Armour Etch.
Armour Etch has an acid-based formula that chemically etches the design into the surface. The etching cream starts to work as soon as you apply it to the glass. And most importantly, it creates permanent results. That’s right; you can wash etched glassware in the dishwasher without worrying about your design washing off.
Why You’ll Love Glass Etching
Here are a few reasons why you’ll love etching glass with the help of your Cricut cutting machine.
Dishwasher Safe Results: Etched glassware is easy to take care of. You can even wash it in the dishwasher. Unlike vinyl, you don’t have to worry about your design peeling off or needing special care.
Instant Gratification: Fast-acting etching cream means you can complete this whole project, from start to finish, in under an hour.
Custom Gifts: You can use this glass etching method to create personalized glassware, beer mugs, labeled jars, decorative picture frames, and more. Etched glass items make great gifts that your friends and family will love.
How to Etch Glass
Here are the basic steps we’ll follow to create a custom etched glass design with Cricut:
- Prepare the stencil image in Cricut Design Space
- Cut the vinyl stencil with the Cricut machine
- Clean the glass object
- Apply the vinyl stencil to the glass.
- Apply the glass etching cream.
Keep reading for the full tutorial. We’ll break down each step with lots of details and pictures so that you can get great results.
Glass Etching Supplies
Here are the tools and materials you’ll need to etch glass.
- Etching Cream – In this tutorial, I’ll be using Armour Etching Cream, which is available at most craft stores or on Amazon.
- Glass – You can use a wine glass, a glass bottle, a glass vase, or a glass candle holder. Most types of colored glass will work. Some kinds of Pyrex will also work.
- Isopropyl Alcohol or another glass cleaner
- Cricut Machine – I’ll be using a Cricut Maker, but you can also use a Cricut Explore or a Cricut Joy.
- Vinyl to make the stencil – I prefer to use permanent vinyl for this project. You could also use Cricut Stencil Vinyl. But, since it’s a little stiffer, it’s harder to curved around round glassware.
- Transfer Tape (optional) – You will need transfer tape if your stencil has more than one piece.
- Scraper or burnishing tool
- Masking Tape – I like to tape off the rest of the glass to protect it from the etching cream.
- Gloves – Keep those hands protected!
- Small paintbrush
Note: You don’t necessarily need a Cricut or Silhouette machine to do this project. It just makes the work of cutting a stencil so much easier. If you don’t have a Cricut, you can buy a premade glass etching stencil. Or, you can cut your own stencil from vinyl with an X-acto knife and a steady hand – it will just take a little longer.
Glass Etching Instructions
Follow these simple steps to etch glass with glass etching cream and a Cricut vinyl stencil.
Step 1: Prepare the stencil image.
The first step in this project to do is to select the image you’d like to etch. You can choose a pre-made design from the Cricut Access Libary, upload a new SVG file, or create your own design in Cricut Design Space.
What makes a good glass etching stencil?
In general, smaller, simpler images will be easier to apply to curved glassware. Measure your glassware to see what size stencil you can fit in the space.
Also, you cannot reuse glass etching stencils. So, if you want to etch multiple glasses, you will need to cut multiple stencils.
Option 1: Search Cricut Access
You can search the vast library of images in Cricut Access for glass etching ideas. To find suitable stencil images, use the search term “stencil.”
When you are looking for images, remember that simpler images will be easier to etch.
Option 2: Upload your own image
You can also upload your own glass etching stencil SVG to Cricut Design Space. Etsy is a great place to look to find cool SVG images.
To get the free floral SVG images I used in this tutorial, sign up in the box below.
Option 3: Design a Stencil in Cricut Design Space
The third option is to design a custom stencil image in Cricut Design Space. You can create a stencil of a monogram, some lettering, a shape, or any combination of those elements.
I like to leave an ample border around the edges of the stencil to protect the glass from accidental etching.
Remember to keep all pieces of your stencil image connected if you want to cut the stencil vinyl as one solid piece. Otherwise, you will need to use Transfer Tape to apply the stencil to the glassware.
Step 2: Cut the vinyl stencil with a Cricut
Once you’ve finalized the stencil image, you can cut it from vinyl with a Cricut cutting machine.
First, place the vinyl onto a LightGrip or StandardGrip Cricut cutting mat. I like to press the stencil vinyl with a brayer tool to ensure it is well-adhered to the mat.
Next, press the Load button to load the mat into the machine.
Then, go back to Cricut Design Space, and send the cut file to your Cricut machine.
To start the cut:
- Click the green “Make it” in the top-right corner.
- On the next Prepare screen, check that your design looks correct. If so, click Continue.
- On the next Make screen, click Browse All Materials and select Vinyl. Note: If you have a Cricut Explore Air 1 or 2, turn the Smart Dial to Custom so that you can use the Browse All Materials menu.
After that, you are ready to cut the vinyl. Double-check that the Fine-Point blade is loaded into your Cricut machine, and click the flashing Go button to cut the design.
Once the Cricut has finished cutting, unload the mat.
Then, remove the vinyl from the cutting mat. I like to place the mat face down on a clean work surface and peel the mat away from the vinyl (instead of peeling the vinyl off the mat). This method prevents the vinyl from curling or tearing.
After that, weed the vinyl. Remove the inner stencil pieces from the vinyl using a weeding tool or tweezer. Think of it like “reverse weeding” – you need to remove all of the design areas you want to get etched.
Remember: the pieces you remove from the stencil are the areas where the etching cream will etch the glass. The vinyl that remains will protect the glass from getting etched.
Step 3: Prepare the glass surface.
Before etching, wash your surface to remove dust and fingerprints. Any dirt, lint, or oils that remain on the glass can prevent the etching cream from etching evenly. It’s best to use a glass cleaner or isopropyl alcohol.
Step 4: Apply the vinyl stencil to the glass.
In most cases, you will want to use transfer tape to help you apply the vinyl stencil to the surface of the glassware. I recommend a low-tack transfer tape for this project, like Cricut standard transfer tape (not StrongGrip!)
To use Transfer Tape:
- Cut a piece of Transfer Tape that is the same size as your stencil. Remove the transfer tape liner. Place the transfer tape, adhesive side down, onto the vinyl design. Lightly burnish the transfer tape onto the vinyl.
- Slowly peel away the vinyl backing at a 45-degree angle.
- Then, carefully place the transfer tape with the vinyl onto your glass.
- Use a Cricut scraper tool or an old gift card to adhere the vinyl to the glass. Use the tool to eliminate air bubbles and wrinkles. Smooth down the edges of the stencil, paying particular attention to the interior edges of the design.
Note: If you apply the vinyl to curved glassware, you might have a few wrinkles that won’t burnish smooth. As long as the edges of the vinyl are smooth and well-adhered – air bubbles and wrinkles shouldn’t affect your glass etching.
Then, protect the rest of the glass. Cover any exposed glass around the stencil with masking or painter’s tape to protect it from the etching cream.
Step 5: Apply the etching cream.
Safety Instructions: Because etching cream can irritate the skin, you should wear gloves and protective eyewear to protect your hands and eyes. Armour Etch etching cream doesn’t have strong fumes, but it’s still a good idea to work in a well-ventilated area. Also, Armour Etch recommends that you work at room temperature (above 70 degrees) for best results.
Have an old rag or a paper towel handy in case of spills. And be ready to rinse the glassware with running water when the etching cream has worked its magic.
Stir the etching cream. Now, my bottle of Armour Etch says to “shake” the cream before applying it to the glass. But the cream is way too thick for shaking to do much of anything. So, I used a wooden skewer to stir the cream to make sure it was well mixed.
Then, use a small paintbrush to apply a thick, even layer of etching cream to all open areas of the stencil. Use a patting or dabbing motion rather than a scrubbing motion so you don’t get cream under the edges of the stencil. Be careful not to get any etching cream outside of the masking tape border.
Let the etching cream sit on the surface of the glass for 1-3 minutes. (I found that waiting 3 minutes gave me the best, brightest etching results.) Use the paintbrush to move the cream around the surface to prevent “hot spots” or brushstrokes.
When the time has elapsed, rinse off the etching cream under cool water. If possible, rinse the etching cream in a stainless steel sink, as the cream will etch the glossy glaze of ceramic surfaces.
After all the etching cream has been rinsed away, remove the masking tape and vinyl stencil. Rinse the glass again, just in case any etching cream got under the edges of the stencil. Clean the glassware with glass cleaner, and dry. Don’t forget to wash your brush, too!
And there you go, your etching glassware is complete! See how easy that was to make gorgeous, gift-worthy glassware?
Here are some frequently asked questions about how to etch glass.
How long should I leave etching cream on glass?
Armour Etch recommends waiting anywhere from 1 minute to three minutes, depending on the specific formula. Read the back of the package for specific instructions.
What should I use to apply etching cream?
A small craft paintbrush is the best tool for applying a thick layer of etching cream evenly across all open areas in the stencil. Load the brush, and apply the etching cream with a patting or dabbing motion.
What materials does etching cream work on?
Glass etching cream works on most glass surfaces.
- tempered glass
- colored glass
- glazed ceramics – choose an item with a smooth, glossy surface
However, it won’t work on coated glass or glass with high leaded content.
What happens if you leave the etching cream on too long?
Leaving the etching cream on longer than directed will not necessarily result in a brighter etching. Instead, leaving the etching cream on too long can result in scorched glass, a weakened stencil, and a blurry design.
Can you use Cricut Stencil Vinyl for Glass Etching?
Yes, you can make glass etching stencils with Cricut Stencil Vinyl. But, since Cricut Stencil vinyl is thicker than regular vinyl, it may be more challenging to apply to curved surfaces. So, keep that in mind when designing your stencil.
More Cricut Tutorials
If you love crafting with Cricut, you may be interested in these related articles:
- How to Make a Stencil with Cricut
- How to Make Shirts with Cricut Iron-On Vinyl
- How to Make Reverse Canvas Wall Art with Cricut
- How to Make Stickers with Cricut “Print then Cut”
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- Cricut scraper tool
- small paintbrush
- Prepare the stencil image. You can choose a pre-made design from the Cricut Access Libary, upload a new SVG file, or create your own design in Cricut Design Space.
- Cut the vinyl stencil with a Cricut cutting machine, or by hand. Place vinyl on a cutting mat and load it into the machine. Send the image file to the machine, and press GO to start the cut. When the cut it finished, unload the machine. Weed the vinyl stencil.
- Clean the surface of the glassware.
- Apply the vinyl stencil to the glass using transfer tape. Use a Cricut scraper tool or an old gift card to adhere the vinyl to the glass, smoothing out any air bubbles or wrinkles. Cover any exposed glass around the stencil with masking tape.
- Use a small paintbrush to apply a thick, even layer of etching cream to all open areas of the stencil. Wait 1-3 minutes, following the package instructions. When the time has elapsed, rinse off the etching cream and remove the vinyl stencil.
See the post above for more details and answers to your Frequently Asked Questions.
Sarah Stearns is an artist, maker, and blogger at sarahmaker.com
Her work has been featured in Scientific American, Good Housekeeping, Vox, Apartment Therapy, and more.
Sarah lives and works in North Carolina with her husband and young kids.