Saturday, July 21, 2012

Glass Etching Photo-Tutorial

I love learning new skills, and thanks to Pinterest I’ve been finding lots of new things to try lately! One of my most recent attempts was learning to etch glass. I kept seeing all these cool pictures on Pinterest of different pieces of glass that people had etched so beautifully, and I faithfully pinned them to my “DIY Ideas” board. However, I figured it was something that was probably either challenging, time consuming, expensive, or all of the above, so I never really looked into what it took. One day I finally decided to see what it was all about. I couldn’t believe how simple it was! The next day I made a trip to Hobby Lobby for supplies, and set about this new experiment. My first try was a huge success!! I had a glass bottle (actually an empty salad dressing bottle) that I always keep full of olive oil, so I etched “Olive Oil” onto the side. I LOVED it!!! It was so pretty and looked so professional. I spent hours after that walking around my house looking at everything glass I could find, imagining all the possibilities…cups, mugs, plates, candlesticks, windows, mirrors, you name it! Fortunately my common sense kicked in and I didn’t go crazy with the etching. ☺ However, I do REALLY enjoy it, and want to help you see how easy it really is. 
If I can do it, so can you!! ☺

Here are the supplies you will need: Something glass to etch, a paper pattern of what you want to etch (for words/names I just find a font I like in Microsoft Word, and print it out on regular printer paper. If you don’t have any fonts you like, just search online for free font download sites and pick a font you do like. I do this often!!), clear contact paper (I picked up a roll at Walmart), an X-Acto knife or something similar, a pair of scissors, a foam brush, and glass etching cream (the brand I use is Armour Etch and I got it at Hobby Lobby…it’s a bit expensive - $19.99 for a 10oz bottle - but I printed a 40% off coupon off of Hobby Lobby’s website, and you CAN reuse this cream, so if you want to do a lot of projects it’s really not too bad).

For this tutorial I'll be etching a last name on the side of a glass bread pan. One of my early projects was to put my name on the side of my glass 9x13” pan…at our church we have a potluck lunch every Sunday and we also bring meals to families with new babies, so my pans are out and about. Often! ☺ I’ve always written my name on the bottom of the pan with a marker, but it rubs off eventually. This is a permanent (and much classier!) alternative! I've also done sets of glass pans with a couple's last name etched on them as wedding gifts. I would like to add here that on the bottle of etching cream I use it says it will not etch some Pyrex. However, I’ve done a couple of Pyrex pans with great results. Maybe yours are different than the ones I worked with, so just be aware of that. ☺ 

Cut your pattern (in this case, the last name I'll be etching) out of your sheet of paper, and cut out 2 slightly larger pieces of contact paper. Bigger is better when it comes to cutting out the contact paper, because if you don’t leave enough space around your stencil it’s really easy to get cream off it and onto the glass and leave spots where you don’t want them. Not that I would know or anything.

Peel the paper backing off of one piece of contact paper and apply it to your glass piece. Be careful to get it on smoothly. Work out any bubbles or wrinkles in this bottom layer, as they can mess up your pattern later on. 

Lay your pattern on the contact paper-covered glass, and move it around until it’s where you want your etching. Peel the paper backing off the second piece of contact paper, and use it to hold the paper pattern in place on the glass (I’m sorry about the smudges on my pattern…when I was peeling the backing off the 2nd piece of contact paper it got away from me and stuck to the pattern where I didn’t want it. When I peeled it off some of the ink came up too ☺ )

Now carefully use your X-Acto knife to cut around each edge of the pattern. Press firmly enough to get through your 3 layers, but not so hard that your scratch the glass or break the tip off your knife. ☺ This is the longest and most painstaking part of the process. Just take it slow and easy…I’ve found it’s easier to do letters like “o” or “p” or any that have a closed circle by cutting out the middle first, and THEN cutting around the outside of the letter. 

This is after I finished cutting around all the letters! Obviously if you use a fancier font it’s going to be a little more complicated to cut out vs. just using a blockier font, but I like the way the end product looks when I use a fancy font so I’m willing to spend a little more time working on it. ☺

Gently peel off the top layer of contact paper and your paper pattern. I made the mistake once of using packing tape to hold down my pattern, and after about 2 hours of painstakingly cutting out LOTS of little swirls and curls (it was a very complicated project!!) I pulled off the packing tape and the bottom layer of contact paper came up with it. ☹ Talk about discouraging!! 

Gently peel off the pattern you’ve cut out of the bottom layer of contact paper. Go slowly and carefully to make sure any small pieces that need to stay on the glass (the inside of the letter “o” for instance) don’t come off with the rest of the letter.

I use the tip of my X-Acto knife to help peel up the contact paper that needs to come off, and then pull it off gently with my fingers. 

After you’ve peeled off everything you cut out, you’re left with a nice stencil for your etching cream!! Check it carefully to make sure all the cut edges are firmly pressed down to the glass so the cream won’t get under them and spoil your design. 

I’d like to point out that this etching cream is NOT something to handle carelessly!!! Just take a second and read the warnings on the bottle. ☺ Please, please, PLEASE use caution when handling this cream!!! Don’t get it on anything you don’t want etched, including YOURSELF!!

Use the foam brush to CAREFULLY apply the etching cream to the contact paper stencil. Make sure each letter is completely covered with a fair amount of cream. 

Once you have your stencil fully covered, let it sit for a few minutes. When I first started I let it sit for 10 minutes, but as I’ve gone on the time has gotten shorter and shorter and I honestly don’t see any difference between the things that sat for 10 minutes and the things that sat for 3. (I’d like to point out that the white stuff on the floor is just dried flakes that fell off the lid of the etching cream. No damage was done ☺ )

I heard that you can reuse etching cream, and since it was rather pricey I decided to try it. It’s worked just as well for me! Use the foam brush to carefully wipe the majority of the cream off the glass and scrape it back into the bottle. 

Once you finish wiping off most of the cream, run the whole thing under warm water until all the cream is gone. Dry with a soft cloth. 

Now peel off that last layer of contact paper and you’re done!!! Make sure to get all the little pieces like the insides of the letters…they like to stay when the bigger piece of contact paper comes off. ☺

 Voila! Etched glass!! 

This process is PERMANENT so make sure you spell all words correctly and take the time to make sure everything is exactly the way you want it before you apply the etching cream. Now, go enjoy your new skill!!!