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Make a lasting impression: Learn how to personalize just about any glass gift with this step-by-step etching guide 

click to enlarge DIY Impress everyone on your list with personalized glass etching; it's easier than you think!

Photos By Jayson Mellom

DIY Impress everyone on your list with personalized glass etching; it's easier than you think!


Subtle frosted logos on wine glasses—the ones we used to get in local tasting rooms—inspired me to try making permanent designs on gifts like spice jars and Christmas tree ornaments.

I'd heard about DIY etching several years ago but hadn't tried it till this fall when I made a set of customized Mason jars as party favors. The process was surprisingly easy, and after etching a few more things, I've picked up some tricks.

Adhesive stencils are the way to go. I can make them with my Cricut die-cutting machine—if that sounds fun but you don't have such a device, check out MakerSpace in SLO. They've got a Silhouette Cameo vinyl cutter, and you don't need a special certification to use it. The helpful folks at MakerSpace said to just bring a black-and-white image of what you want to cut, and their computer software will do the rest. You might also want bring your own sheet of vinyl, which you can find for $1.99 each at Michaels and other craft stores.

If your eyes are crossing at the thought of making your own stencils, don't give up. Michaels has an entire aisle of adhesive stencil designs—just be sure to buy plastic or vinyl decals, not paper or screen ones.

I recommend starting with a relatively small design, especially if you're etching a curved surface—curves present several problems when it comes to keeping the design straight and bubble-free.

Finally, the etching cream can be found at a handful of local stores, including Michaels, Joann, Home Depot, and Walmart. I use Armour Etch, which costs $16 per bottle at Michaels (but you can use a 40 or 50 percent off coupon, available online).

Don't limit yourself to Mason jars and ornaments—wine glasses, tumblers, candle holders, mirrors, plaques, frames—just about anything made of clear glass can be customized.

click to enlarge Gather! - PHOTOS BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • Photos By Jayson Mellom
  • Gather!

1) Gather supplies

All you need to customize your gift is a bottle of etching cream, a brush, gloves, your glass item, and a stencil. I recommend using adhesive stencils (my homemade stencil is the blue one; Martha Stewart's set of stencils are in the package). I recommend doing your project outside—the acid etching cream stinks like vinegar and rotten eggs. Use gloves, wear an apron, lay down some paper or a disposable table cloth, and have paper towels on hand.

click to enlarge Apply! - PHOTOS BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • Photos By Jayson Mellom
  • Apply!

2) Apply stencils

Place the stencil where you want your design to be. Take your time with this step, especially if you've got a curved surface—press and move any bubbles away from the edges of the stencil's design. If you've made your own stencil, make sure you've got a wide area around the edges to prevent the etching cream from spreading beyond what you want etched.

click to enlarge Etch! - PHOTOS BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • Photos By Jayson Mellom
  • Etch!

3) Apply etching cream

Scoop the etching cream onto the exposed glass within the stencil. You need a lot of cream for each design—it must be thickly applied and end up opaque. Carefully set your glass down, and let it sit for two to three minutes. The cream may slowly drip, so if possible, lay your glass down face up—just be careful to not jostle your work surface, lest the glass roll around.

click to enlarge Rinse! - PHOTOS BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • Photos By Jayson Mellom
  • Rinse!

4) Rinse

Keep your gloves on for this step. Rinse the cream from your glass piece; use low pressure from the faucet and be careful not to splash. Use your brush to rub the cream off the surface of the glass. Wash the piece thoroughly and dry with paper towels. Note: You won't be able to see the full effect of the etching until the glass is completely dry.

click to enlarge Remove! - PHOTOS BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • Photos By Jayson Mellom
  • Remove!

5) Remove stencils

You don't need gloves for this step, but you might need tweezers to help get the edges of the stencil material off, especially if you've used adhesive vinyl. If you've used a thicker pre-made stencil, you may need to rinse your glass piece again once the stencil is removed—there was still a little cream hiding in the edges of the ornament I made using a purchased stencil. If you've made an ornament or jar with a lid, be careful to avoid getting water inside—especially the ornaments; it takes a long time to get them completely dry inside.

click to enlarge Admire! - PHOTOS BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • Photos By Jayson Mellom
  • Admire!

6) Admire!

Your glass items are now one-of-a-kind gifts, permanently bearing your custom designs. Δ

Associate Editor Andrea Rooks' etched glasses are always half full. Send crafty optimism to [email protected].

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