French embossing, also known as glass etching, has been popular since the 1800s. The etched glass effects are produced by using acidic, abrasive, or caustic substances to create different designs on the glass surface. The result is a rough, frosted appearance on a transparent glass surface.
There are tons of ways to customize your etched glass without knowing a lot about glass blowing. In order to create an etched glass effect, you’ll need a few materials, some paint, and a little imagination.
How do you paint etched glass? To paint etched glass, you’ll need to choose the right paint and sealant, then prepare it to be painted by thoroughly cleaning the glass surface. After you’ve painted your design or used an etching cream, you’ll need to seal it for long-lasting results.
In this article, we will give you a complete guide on how to get started on painting etched glass.
Choose Your Paint
There are a few types of paint that will work well with etched glass, and the good news is that you don’t need to have a lot of artistic skills to paint etched glass. Let’s take a look at some types of paint that will work well on etched glass.
If you’re looking for a paint that will really make your etched glass project pop, you should go with an enamel-based acrylic paint. These paints are specifically designed to adhere to glass, so you don’t have to worry about them peeling or flaking off over time.
Enamel-based acrylic paint comes in a wide range of eye-catching colors, from vibrant jewel tones to sleek, translucent colors. And because they’re water-based, they’re also very easy to clean up if you happen to make a mistake.
Most types of acrylic paint are also non-toxic, but if you plan on using your glassware for eating or drinking, then you should check if it is food-safe as well.
We recommend this FolkArt Gloss Finish Acrylic Enamel Set for painting etched glass.
If you’re not a skilled painter and don’t love working with paint and paintbrushes, there’s still a way that you can use paint on your etched glass projects – using paint markers like the ZEYAR Oil-Based Paint Markers.
Paint markers are super easy to use – they’re just like regular markers, except that they usually have an oil-based paint instead of regular marker ink. They’re great for creating doodles and outlines, as well as lettering.
The paint usually looks translucent on the glass, but you can also apply several layers to create an opaque, solid color. Oil-based paints are usually super durable and work well with glass, so you don’t have to worry about the durability of the colors either.
However, keep in mind that oil-based paints can contain toxic elements, so paint markers should not be used on food-safe glassware.
For a more simple and vibrant look, you can also use alcohol markers (like Ohuhu Alcohol Markers) on the etched glass to create a watercolor effect.
Alcohol markers usually produce a stained, translucent effect on etched glass, but if you want the colors to be more durable, you can also seal the colors after painting.
Alcohol markers are super easy to use, so you don’t have to be intimidated even if you’re not a glass-painting artist.
Metallic Rub-On Colors
Metallic rub-on colors such as the Craf-T Metallic Rub-On 7 Colors Paint Set usually have a wax base that allows the paint to stick on a non-porous surface like glass.
This is the perfect option if you would like a nice, even, single color that covers the entire surface of the etched glass. This method is also ideal if you are working with stencils.
Although this product is water-based, it is not food-safe and should not be used with glassware that needs to handle food or drinks.
Acrylic paint can cure in the oven. After the paint is completely dry, you can pop it in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees to cure the paint, which will allow the paint to become permanent and prevent flaking and peeling.
If you are using markers and wax-based colors, make sure to use a glass sealant to protect the colors after painting.
A clear, dishwasher-safe glass sealant like Mod Podge is super easy to apply. It creates a durable topcoat that can make your paint layer waterproof and even dishwasher safe, which can prevent the colors from peeling and flaking even after some use.
Although etching cream is not paint, it’s worth mentioning here.
Etching creams like the Armour Etch Glass Etching Cream is a glass medium that can be applied on the surface of the glass using a brush.
Once the medium dries, it will create a frosted-glass effect, similar to the etched glass effect created by sandblasting or other traditional glass etching techniques.
Using an etching cream is the easiest way to create an etched glass effect on almost every non-porous hard surface, like glass, ceramics, and even porcelain. It’s definitely worth having on hand if you want to experiment with painting etched glass.
Once you have your paint of choice, you should also have other supplies to work with your etched glass. Here are some essential supplies that you may need.
The key to successfully painting glass is to have a sparkling clean glass surface. That’s why you will need the following glass cleaning supplies:
- Soap and water to remove any dirt and grease
- A non-streak glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth to remove lint and dust
- Rubbing alcohol to wipe small areas and clean up details.
In addition to your paint or markers, here are some of the painting supplies that you may need to paint your etched glass:
- Stencils to easily create designs if you don’t want to free-hand paint.
- A set of paintbrushes if you are using acrylic paint
- Foam brush to create big washes of paint
- Painter’s tape to cover areas that you don’t want to paint
- Q-tips to clean up small details and edges
How To Paint Etched Glass
Once you have gathered all the necessary supplies, let’s take a look at how to paint etched glass effectively.
To make this tutorial as beginner-friendly as possible, we will provide instructions for painting etched glass using stencils and oil-based paint. However, you can use whatever type of paint that you’d like and free-hand paint if you feel more confident.
Step 1: Clean your glassware
Regardless of the kind of glassware you use, it’s important to clean it thoroughly to create a flawless surface for painting.
Glassware is not very forgiving when it comes to painting, so if there’s any oil or dust left on the surface, the paint may look textured, or it won’t stick very well to the surface.
You can wash your glassware using soap and water to remove all the oil and dirt. Make sure to hand wash in this step because the dishwasher can leave behind residue that may also affect the quality of the paint.
If the glassware is not particularly dirty, you can also use a glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth to wipe away any dirt on the surface. Rubbing alcohol can also be useful for cleaning small surfaces.
Step 2: Create or prepare your stencils
You can easily buy stencils online to create beautiful, crisp designs on your etched glass.
If you love DIYing, you can also create your own stencils using a Cricut machine and a digital design that you love. If you don’t have a Cricut, you can also use a utility knife to cut out your stencil, although this route may take longer, and the design may not look as crisp.
Step 3: Cover the areas that you don’t want to paint
This is where painter’s tape can come in quite handy. You can use painter’s tape to cover areas that you don’t want to paint, such as the rim of the glasses. You can even use painter’s tape to create geometric designs, so no stencils are needed.
If you plan on eating and drinking out of your glassware, it’s important that you don’t get paint on any areas that food and drink may touch. That means the inside of the glass and the rim where your lips may touch the glass.
It’s a good idea to cover these areas entirely with painter’s tape before painting.
If you are using stencils, you can apply the stencils on the glass smoothly and evenly during this step. You can use a squeegee (or even a credit card) to smooth out the stencil to make sure there are no air bubbles or folds on the surface of the stencils.
Step 4: Paint
Once you have applied the stencil and covered the areas that you don’t want to paint, it’s time to use your paint of choice to paint your etched glass.
Regardless of the paint that you use, glass usually requires a few layers of paint to become opaque. If you love the translucent or watercolor effect, you can just apply one layer of paint.
However, if you want the colors to be completely opaque, you can apply 2 – 3 layers to build up the color. Make sure to wait for the first layer to dry completely before applying the next layer. The time it takes for each layer to dry depends on the paint that you use.
If you are using several colors of paint, make sure to let one color dry completely before applying the next color. Otherwise, the colors may bleed together.
Step 5: Seal (Optional)
Sealing is highly recommended if you are using a marker, especially if you plan on washing your glassware regularly. The clear topcoat won’t affect how your final result will look, but it will make the paint more durable and prevent it from peeling from the glass, especially after washing.
Keep in mind that dishwasher-safe sealants like Mod Podge are not food-safe, so you should only apply it on painted areas and avoid areas that will need to touch food and drinks.
Apply your sealant over the painted glass. It’s recommended to apply at least two coats of sealant to achieve the best protection for the paint, so you should wait for the first layer of sealant to dry completely before applying the next layer.
How To Create Etched Glass Effects On Clear Glass
Traditional glass etching uses an abrasive force, such as sandblasting or a chemical-based cream that removes the outer layer of the glass to create a permanent, frosted glass effect on the clear glass.
Using stencils, you can also create etched glass designs by blocking off the areas that you don’t want to etch. This method can create stunning glass designs, but keep in mind that it’s not for glassware that you can use to eat or drink with.
How Does Etching Cream Work?
You can also etch glass at home using an etching cream that uses chemicals to eat away at the surface of the glass. This is a chemical-based acid cream that you can apply directly on clear, uncoated glass. The chemicals will create the etched glass look where it is applied.
This method is usually used for small projects such as etching designs onto wine glasses and vases. However, you will find that it doesn’t work great if you want to create large etched glass effects because it can leave uneven brushstrokes on the surface.
Etching cream can be quite dangerous, so you should always wear protective gloves and a mask to protect yourself from the fumes and the chemicals, which can burn your skin when you come in contact.
You should also work in a well-ventilated area away from any children or pets to minimize the toxic fumes that you and others may inhale.
Once you’ve prepared all of the necessary tools and the etching cream of your choice, let’s get to glass etching!
How To Etch Glass
Follow steps 1 – 3 from the painting process to clean the glass and prepare it for etching using painter’s tape and stencils.
Step 4: Apply the etching cream
Using a paintbrush, apply a liberal amount of etching cream over your stencil. To prevent the appearance of brushstrokes on the surface of the etched glass, make sure to use a dabbing motion rather than brushing the cream on the surface.
Leave the etching cream to take effect, which will take a few minutes. You should read the instructions in the etching cream to see exactly how long you will have to wait, but it’s usually around 5 minutes.
Step 5: Rinse
Still wearing your gloves, you can rinse the glass under warm water to remove the etching cream. When you rinse the glass, make sure to hold the glass in one direction so that the etching cream doesn’t get carried over to other areas of the glass that you don’t want to etch.
If needed, you can gently rub the surface of the glass to remove the etching cream completely.
Step 6: Peel Off The Stencil
Once all of the etching creams are removed, you can peel off your stencil and painter’s tape from the glass.
Step 7: Wash
Carefully wash the glass using soap and water to remove any chemical residue on the surface.
Some etching creams are dishwasher safe, while some are not. You should refer to the label of the product that you are using to see if you can wash your etched glass in the dishwasher or if you need to hand wash it.
Once the glass is sparkling clean, you can paint the etched glass using the instructions above or enjoy your new etched glass as a statement piece in your interior design!