DIY Glass Engravings - How to etch glass using silkscreens and etching cream

Ever wanted to give someone a custom glass as a gift? Perhaps a set of engraved wine glasses as a wedding gift, or a customized pint glass for Father’s Day, or even a whole set of drinking glasses for your book club with your favorite quotes on them. The options are endless, but did you know that this is something you can make yourself?

In this week’s blog post I’ll be tackling glass etching using our reusable silk screen stencils and etching cream. I’ll be testing out two different brands of etching cream (Etchall and Cadence) AND I’ll be testing out how many times I can reuse a single stencil before the etching cream “eats it up”. Plus I’ll be sharing some tips and tricks you don’t want to miss out on. So if you want to create your own customized glasses, keep on reading :)

Getting Ready

Before I get into any details, let me briefly explain my testing experiment with you.

There were 3 questions on my mind:

  1. How many times can I reuse a single stencil using Etchall reusable etching creme?
  2. How many times can I reuse a single stencil using Cadence Magic Glass etching cream?
  3. Which brand works better overall?

To find out, I bought these cute little glass jars I found in a local convenience store. Then using part of a design I already had, (Made with Love Kitchen Silkscreen), I made two identical silkscreen stencils - one for each brand of etching cream. Add onto that two brands of etching cream, gloves, a little spoon, an old plastic card, and a blue and a red whiteboard marker to mark the jars so I knew which side was stenciled with what brand. And I was ready to go!

Etching Creams, jars, silkscreen stencils and markers - let's test out Etchall and Cadence!

I started out with 8 jars, intending to stencil every jar twice on opposite sides. On one side would be stenciled using Etchall and it’s corresponding stencil. The other side would be stenciled with Cadence using the other stencil. 

In the end I had to get more jars, but more on that later. Let’s first have a look at the difference between the two brands.

Etchall vs. Cadence

There are many different brands of etching cream out there, but not all are suitable to be used with silkscreens. Some brands are simply too strong and will eat up your precious stencils quite quickly (Armour Etch is one of them). So it’s important to know which brand of etching cream will work best. 

For my experiment I decided to test what I had on hand, which was Etchall reusable etching creme and Cadence Magic Glass. Overall both work well in combination with silkscreen stencils, but let’s look at the stats, shall we?


Etchall reusable etching creme

Cadence Magic Glass

Price 

$24.99 (about 20.77 Euros)

(via Etchall website, shipping not included)

$8.41 / 6.99 Euros

(on our web shop, shipping not included)

Bottle content

118 ml / 4 US fl. Oz.

59 ml / 2 US fl. Oz.

Reusable

Yes

No

Waiting time

15 minutes

2 minutes

Etching result

Good

Good

Can be used on other surfaces

Yes

No


As you can see, both have pros and cons. 

Etchall is more expensive and the etching process takes significantly longer than with Cadence (especially if you only have one stencil to work with!). However, it’s reusable, so it’ll last way longer. And you can use it to etch other surfaces besides glass, mirrors, and windows. I haven’t tested it (yet), but it says you can use it on porcelain, slate, and marble as well. 

Cadence on the other hand works a lot faster and is less expensive (on the short term), but it does go down the drain after that first use. When I was testing I generally applied the Cadence etching cream first on one jar and then let it sit. By the time I had applied the Etchall creme to the other jar, my Cadence jar would be ready to be rinsed off, cleaned and dried - done! Then I was left waiting for the Cadence stencil to dry (it does have to be cleaned and dried in between uses) and for the Etchall creme to cure. Hence how the afternoon of testing turned into a two day kind of ordeal…

Do note though, that I only had one stencil for each brand available, so waiting in between uses was inevitable. I would imagine you could easily work out a smooth system for both brands using a small number of stencils and a few alarms set on your phone. What that magic number is, I don’t know (yet).

Which brings me to the final question.

One stencil - how many etchings???

Close-up of stencils, etching creams, and jars

I don’t know. That’s right, I said it:

I still don’t know!

I was expecting to get about 8 etchings out of each stencil, which was perfect as the jars I got came in an 8 pack. But the stencils were fine after 8 etchings (and 8 washes). So I went back to the shop the next day and bought another 8 pack of jars. Guess what, the stencils are still holding up after another 8 etchings. And that goes for both brands of etching creams.

By now, both stencils have been through 16 washes, which is what I think is starting to wear on them. After about the first 8 washes, they started to want to curl up before the transparent carrier sheet was applied again. They’re not big, so they’re more likely to curl up after that many uses. And I stretched the Etchall stencil on the side a bit when I was trying to peel it off the glass jar early on in the process. No big deal as the design didn’t get stretched, but now the stretched side won’t stay on the carrier sheet and so the adhesive on that spot dries out quickly.

I don’t know how many more etchings I’d be able to get out of them, but I’ve run out of jars, time, and patience for now. 

All in all, 16 etchings for one stencil is not a bad result at all. 

16 jars etched on both sides

A recent customer of ours got about 8 etchings out of one stencil (she did nearly 50 etchings!). Her stencils were more detailed, though. And even though she thinks she’s still able to get some more out of some of them, she was having trouble with the adhesive not working anymore. As I was doing my testing, I noticed that if I left my stencils out in the sun for too long, the adhesive would also dry out. A quick fix to this is to breathe onto the back of the stencil right before you stick it onto your surface. The moisture of your breath will be just enough to re-activate the adhesive. Alternatively, you could dab the back of your stencil with a damp cloth after you take the clear carrier sheet off. 

To get the most out of your stencils when etching I would also suggest a different approach to cleaning your stencils. Usually, I suggest running it under warm (not hot) water and gently rubbing the front of the stencil with your fingers to remove any paint. In the case of etching, however, you rinse it off the cream while the stencil is still on the glass surface. So, rub it gently, while wearing gloves, while it’s on the glass. Then take off the stencil and simply hold it first adhesive side up under some gently running water (not full blast). Then flip it over, right side facing you, and rinse it that way. No rubbing needed, just let the water do the job. (Videos on how to clean your stencils after etching will be posted soon).

The Take-Away

"Made with Love" etched into the glass jar ;)

Both Etchall and Cadence did great. I got 16 etchings out of each stencil with these brands. 

I would highly recommend using more than one stencil if you’re planning to etch more than 3 glasses (or if you’re just very impatient) because you do need to wait for the stencils to dry in between etchings. 

Also, which brand to go with depends on your purpose/preference. 

If you’re planning to do a bunch of etchings just one time, a single project, then go with Cadence. It’s quicker and with a couple of duplicate stencils you can churn out a decent amount of customized glasses.

If you’re a dedicated crafter, however, who will be etching again and again (and perhaps on different surfaces too), go with Etchall. Just do yourself a favor and have duplicate stencils and a system set up, so you don’t forget about your etching projects and let them sit for longer than 15 minutes. I accidentally lost track of time a couple of times, but note that letting them sit for 25 minutes instead of 15 once or twice won’t do any damage to the stencils.

How to etch with etching cream and stencils

Later on this week I will post a short, but detailed story on the process of etching with etching cream and I'll provide an instructional video on it as well. One for etching with Etchall and one for etching with Cadence. So there's more to come on that soon!

In the meanwhile, click here for a short video that shows you how I used the silkscreen stencil and Etchall etching creme to customize a jar.

Hope you liked this post and as always, let me know if you have any questions!

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