Updated: Apr 23, 2021
One of the first projects I tried out when I received my Cricut Maker was to attempt to create an etched mug for a Christmas gift. It worked shockingly well--so well in fact, that when the Covid pandemic started and me and my roommates found ourselves with some extra time, one of them decided to have me teach them to do etch mugs so that he could make gifts for all his friends. I figure if I can teach him to make etched glass projects, I can teach the internet just as easily.
What you'll need:
Glassware: Something you'd like to apply your design to. I tend to stick with cheaper glasses, often from Dollar Tree or if I catch a sale elsewhere, for this in case I need to try a few times. I've also found that the less curved the glass is the easiest it is, so I recommend something fairly simple for a first project.
Paintbrush: Something you won't be too heartbroken if you have to toss out. I pick artificial bristles for this, personally.
Armour Etch: I get mine from Amazon here.
Stencil Vinyl OR another stencil you can adhere to the glass: I actually like the Cricut brand stencil vinyl because it has a faint grid on it that helps me get the project straight, though it's a little more expensive than Oracal 813 which also works fine. I've also heard of people using contact paper but I have not tried that yet.
Transfer Tape: I know a lot of people use cheaper alternatives, but I have no issues with the Cricut brand transfer tape. Whatever not strong grip transfer tape you like will be fine here.
Next, you'll need to choose a design you like and want to add to a glass. In this tutorial I'll be showing you a project I was already working on for a gift, so I'll be using a My Hero Academia Plus Ultra logo for mine. I don't actually watch the anime, so I have no idea what the context of this image is, I just had another MHA fan pick it for me! I recommend choosing a fairly simple image for your first attempts as the more complicated the design the more challenging it is to get a clean result.
Now you'll want to measure out what size you want the design on the glass. I just take my sewing measuring tape to get an idea of what I want the dimensions to look like, and then go to Cricut Design Space and adjust the image to the correct size. Your image should be Cut, not Print and Cut. Then once you click Make It, you'll want to select the Stencil Vinyl setting and cut!
Now that you have your image cut, you'll need to weed out the part of the design that you want to be etch. This can be a bit confusing, as it's the opposite of what you would weed if you were making a heat transfer or permanent vinyl project.
Once you have the design weeded, use the transfer tape of your choosing and cover the stencil and scrape before peeling it off the mat. I also like to burnish the stencil and tape together after I peel it off the mat to make sure the transfer tape is going to pick up the full stencil, especially if there are any smaller floating pieces. Those sometimes get tricky.
Now is a good time to mark out your glass. If you have multiple designs or you want to make sure the design is at a specific height, go ahead and mark with a Sharpie (I promise it'll come off). I like to hold the stencil vinyl up to the glass before taking off the back to get an idea of what it's going to look like before committing.
Peel off the back of the stencil vinyl and lay it down on the glass. I start from the center of the design and scrape outwards, trying to prevent any bubbles near the edges of the design itself. It's not like permanent vinyl where you must avoid all bubbles, you just need to make sure the outlines are fully adhered. I tend to trace the whole outline of the design with the bent portion of the weeding tool to push it all down both before and after pulling off the transfer tape.
After meticulously pushing down the entire outline of your design (I spend a lot of time on this step!) you get to start the etch. Armour Etch's actual instructions recommend a thin layer of etch cream and only leaving it on for like, five minutes. After having done a few dozen glasses, I've got a few pointers. One, Armour Etch has some little crystal/rock-like pieces in it; try to avoid getting those on your piece and just brush them back off if you do. Two, use a thicker layer of the etch cream and sort of dab it on more so than paint it on to avoid brush strokes. And three, leave the cream on for 12-15 minutes.
Once your timer has gone off and it's time to take off the etch cream, make sure your sink is clear so you don't accidentally etch anything else! You may want to put some gloves on for this part as well. Turn on some lukewarm water in the sink and run the water over the etch, rubbing in gentle circles with your thumb to wipe away the etch cream. It's okay if your stencil comes off at this point, but make sure there is no etch cream left on the glass before peeling away the remaining stencil. This stencil is very unfortunately not recoverable so you'll need one for each glass. The etch is going to look like it disappeared (I panicked on my first one) so dry it off to see your results!
I now find myself wondering how people get professional photos of glass because these are not good and were still super hard to accomplish!