I love glass etching. It's really rewarding to turn an old item into something new. I also love that it doesn't make a recyclable item any less recyclable. Some upcycling craft projects take an item that was once recyclable and make it into something that will eventually go into the trash, even if it gets used and enjoyed for some time before then.
This tutorial focuses on taking old jars (I'm using jars that once held peanutbutter and coconut oil) and giving them new purpose with some fun art. You can use this same technique on practically any glass. I have found that some tempered glass doesn't etch well, but otherwise I haven't had any problems. Some ideas for things you can etch: wine bottles, storage jars, drinking glasses, glass ornaments and glass pane in a frame. When you're looking at your options, keep in mind that you'll need to lay a stencil on your item. Anything spherical will be much more difficult than something completely flat. A drinking glass with vertically straight sides is easier to use than a glass that curves, with a bulbous part. Also etching cream works best for small spaces. It won't cover a large area evenly.
I often use glass jars to take some iced tea or iced coffee with me, especially during the summer. I almost always have a pitcher of one or the other in my fridge and I'll fill a jar before heading out to run errands or visit a friend or go for a walk. I thought it'd be cute to etch some designs on to my most used jars for the purpose.
Cheap Paintbrush (one you don't mind sticking in acid)
Extra Fine Tip Permanent Marker
Clear Contact Paper
Disposable Gloves (optional)
Print out the stencils I've provided.
Cut out a piece of clear contact paper that is small enough to fit on your jar and large enough to cover one of the images on the printable. My pieces are x inches.
Tape one piece of contact paper (clear side up, backing side down) over the printable so that the stencil image is centered on it. Using the permanent marker to trace the image. If you can't see it very well, try taping both pieces up to a window and using it like a light box. I like to mark the parts that are black on the printable so that I don't get confused later. This is especially helpful for most complicated stencils. Just put a few scribbles of ink on the inside of spaces that are black on the printable.
Lay the contact paper with the traced image onto your cutting mat. I find it easiest to tape the contact paper to the cutting mat and then move the cutting mat around to get different angles.
Using the craft knife, very carefully cut out everything that shows up black on the printable image. Try very hard to only cut through the clear contact paper, leaving the backing intact. With a sharp craft knife, it takes very, very little pressure. It's ok if you cut all the way through, but it's easier to lay the piece down if you don't.
Remove from the backing all of the pieces that show up black on the printable. You can throw them away.
Tip: Remember that everything that's white on the printable is going to be a part of the stencil, so keep the outline of white spaces intact. It's ok to cut into black spaces.
Unpeel one short side of the contact paper, fold the backing back away from it.
Stick that piece onto the jar. Figure out where you'll want the etching to go and make sure that it's all lined up correctly.
Holding onto the strip of contact paper stuck to the jar, so it's doesn't move, slowly unpeel the backing from the rest of the contact paper. Press down the stencil as you unpeel so that it lays down evenly. If you get to a spot that isn't connected to the rest, help it unpeel and lay down or wait until all of the outline is down and then place it by hand in the right spot.
Once all of the contact paper is on the jar, smooth it out. You can lift up bits and move it a little if you need to. Rub out air pockets. Run your fingers over all the edges of the stencil so that you'll get a clean outline with the etching cream.
If your stencil tore even a little, or you cut into the corners a little, take small pieces of tape and carefully tape over any cuts and tears.
Cover any glass around the stencil with masking tape so that you don't get any etching cream on it. The etching cream will like drip down, so I usually masking beneath stencils, but not above.
If you're using disposable gloves, put them on now. If not, be careful not to get the etching cream on your skin. If you do wash it off immediately. I have gotten some on me and washed it off with no adverse effects. But it is an acid. So be careful.
Using a cheap paintbrush (I like one with a little stiffness to the bristles) coat the exposed glass inside the stencil with etching cream. Use a thick coat. I like to stipple against corners and the outline of the stencil to create a nice solid line, just doing whatever I can to make sure the etching cream gets into even difficult to reach places.
Wait 10 - 20 minutes. The instructions on my container of etching cream says 10 minutes, but I find that the longer I wait the better etch I get.
Wash off the etching cream. I usually let water run over it until the cream stops running off, then peel off the stencil and then wash the jar with soap and water.
After you dry the jar, you should have a beautifully etched image.